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Jaguars’ Monday presser: ‘Football is not a hard game’

Doug Pederson speaks to the media following the Jacksonville Jaguars’ win over the Carolina Panthers

Syndication: Florida Times-Union Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

Doug Pederson faced the media on Monday following the Jacksonville Jaguars’ convincing 26-0 victory over the Carolina Panthers on New Year’s Eve. He began by running through some injury updates, beginning with the status of quarterback Trevor Lawrence:

“Beginning with Trevor [Lawrence], he is progressing. He was in today, getting his treatment and rehab, all of that. It’s kind of day-to-day right now, so we’ll see how he is on Wednesday. We’ll see what his limitations or whatever it might be, but he is definitely improving. I would expect Zay [Jones] to potentially get more practice time this week and hopefully he’s in a position by the end of the week to play in this game, so we’ll see where he’s at. Christian [Kirk], I’ll get more information, he’s doing well. He’s doing really well. Yes, I would say there’s a potential to activate his window come Wednesday. We’ll see where he’s at there in a couple of days, which would be positive if he could do something this week. We’ll wait and see. Then, Jamal [Agnew], unfortunately Jamal has a little fracture in his lower leg. He’s going to be out. He’ll be missed the remainder of the season. Unfortunate injury yesterday.”

Lawrence missed the game on Sunday due to the AC joint sprain he suffered against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the week before. Pederson was asked if there was any setback in his QB’s rehab as he aims to return for the crucial Week 18 game against the Tennessee Titans:

“No, he didn’t have a setback. He just wasn’t there as far as throwing the football at the end of the week, so it just kind of kept him inside. He did come out for some of the team stuff, and was around for that, but just wanted to give him extra time in the training room before he came out.”

The Jaguars have suffered with a litany of injuries throughout the season, and with Agnew seemingly done for the year, it is crucial the team sees progress in terms of the return of both Christian Kirk and Zay Jones. Pederson was optimistic:

“Yeah, it was definitely a bad injury for him and bad for our offense. He’s in a position right now to maybe help us this week and we’ll see where he’s at. If we go ahead and open his window on Wednesday and get him out there, see what he can do. You definitely want your best players on the field this time of year and he’s one of those players for us.”

Pederson acknowledged that negotiating the lengthy injury list has been challenging - but with the playoffs on the horizon, he was also pleased to see people getting healthy again at such a crucial jucture:

“I do think that things are beginning, guys are getting healthy which is good this time of year. Especially with the opportunity we have this weekend. It’s good to have these guys back in the lineup. On the flipside too, it is unfortunate that Jamal [Agnew] is going to be missed, not only offensively but also in the kicking game right there. I think the challenge really is just getting guys like Tyson [Campbell] and if Christian [Kirk] has a chance to play, they’ve had four games of not playing. It’s just that rust and getting back into the game shape and the speed of the game a little bit. That’s kind of the challenge, how are you going to get him into your offense or defense and incorporate them into your game plan. Overall, it’s a good time to get these guys healthy.”

Improvement

Sunday’s win saw the Jaguars end a four game losing skid that put the team’s grasp on the AFC South in serious jeopardy. Pederson was asked about the confidence such a crucial victory could give his team:

“I think it can give a team a lot of confidence. It’s what we needed. We needed something to go right for us, and it did. It wasn’t a pretty win; I don’t think there’s any win or any loss that’s pretty or ugly. The fact that we got the win and the way we did it, I’m proud of the guys. It can definitely spark your team at this time.”

For Pederson, the win finally justified the consistency and work that the coaching staff and roster had been delivering the past month or so, with little in the way to show for it:

“Yeah, football is not a hard game, not a complicated game. Sometimes we as coaches and players complicate things a little bit too much. I think if you just focus on the basics and that’s just it; you don’t turn the ball over, you don’t have a lot of penalties or pre-snap penalties on an offense. You make open field tackles, you’re in the right position, you control the line of scrimmage on both sides. You run the ball effectively enough in the game to control the game. I just think those are recipes for any football team. Obviously for ours and where we are, you can win games that way in this league. There are games when you’re going to have to put the ball in the air 35-plus times, something like that to win because there’s teams that can score every time they touch the football. I think it’s proof to our players that we take care of our business, then you have a chance to win games.”

There was a noticeable difference in performance on Sunday, something that Josh Allen put down to one of the best weeks of practice this year. Pederson agreed with his star pass rusher:

“I thought it was one of our better weeks last week. I put a lot of that too, on the coaches, the individual coaches. Preparing their players for practice and getting them ready for the game. The players have a lot of pride, and they take that stuff to heart. They understand that they need to practice better and eliminate some of the mistakes. If you can do it in practice, then chances are you’re going to eliminate the mistakes in game. It was a good week and this week we’ve got to have just the same type of focus and intensity, be intentional with everything that we’re doing.”

Potential suspension

Sunday saw the return of left tackle Cam Robinson to the lineup following his own lengthy spell on the sidelines with injury. He didn’t quite make it through the whole game; ejected after a scuffle with Panthers defensive lineman Derrick Brown in the 4th quarter. Pederson expects to hear this week if there will be any further punishment for his blindside protector:

“First thing, we have not heard anything yet from the league on the Cam and I’m assuming that he’ll definitely hear something this week, pretty quickly on that. It was good to have Cam back, he brings a level of excitement, enthusiasm and physicality to the offensive line. I think too, there was some rust with him, much like Tyson [Campbell], getting back out there. There were some plays that just weren’t Cam-like type of plays. He battled through it and for the most part, played a big part. As far as plays to the right, I think sometimes you go in and when you look at the run game, you think who is better on the backside cutoff blocks as opposed to the front side and things of that nature go into your run game a little bit. He does a nice job with his athleticism to cut people off on the backside. It’s just the nature of how the run game went yesterday, and week-to-week as to who will have the hot hand either the left side or the right side.”

Whilst Pederson was happy with the performance on Sunday, and happy with the intensity from his players, he was keen to emphasize composure during heated moments:

“Yeah, it can definitely be a boost. Players know they’ve got to control their emotions out there and things are getting a little testy. Obviously, the game was kind of one-sided at that point. There was some pushing and shoving. You just got to control your emotions, obviously the ejection came because he threw the helmet, and he threw the helmet about 20 yards. You just can’t do that, and he understands that. He’ll pay for it out of the pocketbook I’m assuming, and it won’t happen again.”

An improved performance on the offensive line saw an uptick in the Jaguars’ ground game, something desperately missing through the team’s losing streak. Pederson was pleased to see the rushing attack re-establish itself:

“Yeah, that was right there at the beginning of the third. I think it was the first drive in the third quarter, he [Travis Etienne Jr.] had that big run for the touchdown. That was a little bit of a halftime adjustment and what we had seen from the first half from Carolina defensively. How we can maybe utilize some of the perimeter runs and Travis is really good at that. Again, that’s just the thing, when you stick to the run game, it may not be pretty. I think we had 27 or 28 yards in the first half. It’s not pretty, but things begin to open up in the second half and you get those longer runs that really help and spark your offense. It’s something that sometimes as coaches we get a little impatient with the run game, but it was a great example of us sticking with it yesterday.

With the much needed victory in Week 17, the Jaguars simply need to beat the Tennessee Titans on Sunday to win the division and book their place in the postseason. Whilst he acknowledged it could have been wrapped up earlier, Pederson was grateful for the opportunity to make it back to back playoff trips:

“We’re just fortunate and blessed to be in this position at the end of the year. It’s always been our goal as you know to be in the conversation and to play in these meaningful games this late in the year. We could’ve done better in a few games here recently and we wouldn’t be in this situation, but we are. We embrace it and we own it, we’re looking forward to the opportunity Sunday.”