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Jaguars' Thursday Presser: ‘Protect the football’

Jaguars coordinators Press Taylor and Mike Caldwell address the media before departing to Tennessee, in what the team is viewing as a playoff matchup.

Jacksonville Jaguars Training Camp Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Jacksonville Jaguars OC Press Taylor and DC Mike Caldwell both concluded their weekly press availability on Thursday, as the (9-7) Jaguars look to again clinch the AFC South - ensuring a playoff birth and wildcard home game, by defeating the hated (5-11) Tennessee Titans in a week 18 matchup.

Coming off a dominant 26-0 victory over the Carolina Panthers (2-14), spirits are optimistically high for the hometeam entering a potential must-win game, potentially led by the backup QB.

Turnovers:

Jaguars’ offensive coordinator Press Taylor first took the podium to recap last week's performance of backup quarterback CJ Beathard, to provide additional insight on the gameplan, and to also discuss the upcoming matchup.

I think our guys have a lot of belief in C.J., but it’s one thing to say that from what you’ve seen in preparation and practice and preseason and things like that. For him to go out, execute the gameplan, lead our team to a win, protect the football; I think that just increases everybody’s level of respect and trust in him and what he’s capable of.

I believe most Jaguar fans would agree that holding onto the football was a huge boost for the Jaguars' offense and defense versus the Panthers. The team ended Sunday's matchup with zero turnovers surrendered, with one interception forced.

Over the past month, turnovers have played a major hand in Jacksonville starting recent games slowly.

  • versus Cleveland Browns - opening six drives - zero points (five punts, interception)
  • versus Baltimore Ravens - opening five drives - zero points (punt, two missed field goals, fumble, goalline turnover on downs)
  • versus Tampa Bay Buccaneers - opening six drives - zero points (punt, two interceptions, missed field goal, fumble)
  • versus Carolina Panthers - opening six drives - 16 points (two punts, three field goals made, none missed, touchdown, and zero turnovers)

This season Jacksonville is 3-1 in zero turnover games (and potentially could be 4-0 had Brandon McManus made his final field goal versus the Cincinnati Bengals). Whether CJ Beathard or Trevor Lawrence is the starting quarterback on Sunday, playing turnover-free will likely be the theme of the day.

Speaking of ball security, rookie DB Antonio Johnson is blossoming into a ball hawk before our very eyes, securing his third turnover on the year in limited snaps.

Coach Caldwell took a few moments to comment on the in-season growth and versatility of the rookie, who's slowly begun to see an increase in snaps at nickelback as of late.

He had a little bit of injuries coming early on in the season, now he’s really starting to show what he can do. As a rookie, you always have to earn your stripes and he’s earned them. Then, given the opportunity to play, he’s gone out there and he’s continued to earn those stripes. We look up and he’s making interceptions, making sacks. He’s a guy that’s a playmaker for us and the more guys we can throw out there that can make a play, the better we are.

Coach Caldwell later continued...

I think it’s really good for us because we can rotate guys. We can Tre [CB Tre Herndon] in on third down, Antonio on first down, vice versa. It just depends on what the calls are and who we’re playing against. He’s a guy that the game is not too big for as a rookie, he’s a playmaker. You want that. You want guys that when they’re thrown out there, the lights don’t get too bright for you. You go out there and you perform just like you perform in practice. He’s making plays, he’ll continue to make plays, we’re happy for him. That position, I think with Tre and with Antonio, we have a group that solidified that spot and they’re making plays for us.

Injuries Impacting Gameplan:

With Johnson continuing to rise to his presented opportunities on defense, the staff continues to gauge how to best plan around the team injuries and depth players, as discussed by Coach Taylor.

It's a challenge in some way, but the expectation is in the next man up. We expect a lot from the young guys even as they get in there. Now, it’s not fair to them to expect to put them in the situations we’re going to put the veteran players, the players that have played a lot in this system or in the league, it’s not fair to us to put the young guys in that situation. We do everything we can to manage it the best we can. We have a pretty good feel for who could go at some point in time. There may be a lot of times where you build a plan just saying this guy can’t play. It’s easier to plug a good player into a plan that’s built without them as opposed to here’s a plan for these really good players and all the sudden they don’t make it on gameday and you’re trying to shuffle and put young guys in situations they haven’t been in. I would say we probably take that approach, but we’ll always continue to build it for who we know is available and then build the pieces around as we get going.

The Jaguars may be one step closer to getting one or multiple of those "really good" veteran players back from injury, as Christian Kirk's 21-day practice window was opened by the team on Wednesday and Zay Jones has been a limited practice participant this week. Coach Taylor later specifically mentioned Kirk in discussing the trust he's built with the staff and quarterbacks.

I think the big part is the chemistry he’s built with the quarterback, the trust he has from the coaching stuff and from Trevor [QB Trevor Lawrence] as well, the quarterbacks as well, just because he’s done it for a long time. He’s proven his worth in this league, he’s a dynamic playmaker for us, he’s a mismatch problem for us. He’s a guy we can put in a number of roles, whether we intended to or not. As the game goes, there’s a lot of times Christian just takes the next spot if somebody missed a rep, was out, whatever it may be because he knows the system so well, he knows the expectation, he knows the details of everything we’re asking to do. He’s certainly a very valuable piece for our offense.

On the defensive side of the ball, CB Tyson Campbell continues to put more distance between his earlier season injuries, increasing his confidence. Campbell finished Sunday with 8 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, and one pass defensed.

Coach Caldwell touched on Campbell's play:

I think just getting back and getting his body right, it’s hard for your mind to be in the right spot if your body is not where it is. I think his body feels better and his mind is in the right spot. He went out there, he played good and he’ll get better this week and continue to get better. Tyson is a guy, just like all of us, if something good happens, we accept it, we move on. If something bad happens, we accept it, we get back to work and we move on. That’s just the way we are around here and after a win or after a loss, it’s always good to get back to work because just after the shutout, I had a bunch of things that we needed to get better at. That’s the way we go about it. When we win or lose, we come back, go back to work, and understand that the job is not done yet. We have to go out there again and continue to get better.

One Game Playoff vs Tennessee:

With Sunday's game being a win and in matchup, it is for all intents a playoff game versus a divisional rival. Coach Taylor noted the team's expectation of a hard, physical game this coming Sunday.

You’re going to get everybody’s best shot, playing a team like Tennessee, you know what they’re going to be. They’re going to be tough, hardnosed, physical, smart. Great respect for Coach Vrabel [Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel], the way he’s built his program, the way they play. They certainly have our attention, our respect and we don’t expect them to lay down or anything.

Coach Caldwell also stated something similar for his defense.

Tennessee, they’re a physical, run-first team with quarterbacks that can throw the ball in the right spots. We understand that coming in here, knowing Tennessee, they’re going to be running the ball, they’re going to be making the game physical and we understand that. We know it’s a big challenge for us. [Derrick Henry is] a guy that has done it for a long time in this league and he’s done it at a high level. He continues to do it at a high level.

The Jaguars DC also advised that his defense will have to be alert for anything when facing Tennessee.

At the end of the day, we understand what type of game it’s going to be. I think they’re leading the league or in the last seven weeks with gadget plays. We understand they’re going to go out there and do a little bit of that. We’ll be ready for it.

He later continued...

We’re expecting to get their best shot and we’ll be ready for them.

Injuries:

The biggest update from the Titans is Tennessee QB Will Levis practicing in a limited fashion on Thursday.

For Jacksonville, Ezra Cleveland and Walker Little both had full practices, and Zay Jones, Christian Kirk, and Zay Jones all had limited practices.