AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Denard Robinson carried the ball 22 times for 127 yards and a touchdown in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 24-6 victory over Cleveland last Sunday.

He might have more touches in Sunday’s game against Miami. Or fewer.

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch isn’t yet sure how the carries will be split with Toby Gerhart expected to make his return for a foot injury. Robinson could get the bulk of the work again, or it could be the Gerhart show. Rookie Storm Johnson could get more work.

"I think we’ll continue to mix and match a little bit," Fisch said Wednesday. "I don’t know exactly how that will all play out yet."

Gerhart practiced Wednesday on a limited basis after being held out of the last two games in order to give his right foot time to heal. He first injured the foot in the season opener against Philadelphia and aggravated the injury against Pittsburgh on Oct. 5. The Jaguars signed him to a three-year, $10.5 million contract in March to be the team’s No. 1 back, but the injury and offensive line struggles have limited him to 123 yards and 2.6 yards per carry in five games.

The Jaguars started Johnson against Tennessee on Oct. 12 and he gained just 21 yards on 10 carries; Robinson rushed for 22 yards on five carries. That production, plus the continued improvement Robinson has shown throughout the season in his transition from college quarterback to running back, earned him the start against the Browns.

"He showed that he is understanding the run game better," Fisch said. "He is understanding the stretch and cut, he’s understanding the stretch and bounce and understanding when you’re running outside zone, what’s your reads? Even earlier in the season, maybe we missed a read because we were too fast to the hole and the block didn’t develop quick enough. I think he’s understanding that and he’s understanding when he’s running inside he’s got to run with lower pad level and continue to protect the football."

Robinson averaged 5.8 yards per carry against the Browns in the most work he’s received in his career. He had never carried the ball more than nine times in any game, so Robinson was the most sore he’s been in his two-year NFL career on Monday.

"Got in the cold tub yesterday, stretched out a little bit, so I felt pretty good," Robinson said.

The former Michigan quarterback isn’t dwelling on his performance, though. He didn’t even revel in it on Sunday night.

"You’ve got to move forward," he said. "Right after the game I really wanted to move forward and watch film and try to break it down to see things I could have worked on. There was a couple plays I left out on the football field. I want to get better so I’ve got to make it happen this week."

Robinson and the running game will face a much tougher defense this Sunday. The Dolphins have the league’s fourth-ranked total defense and are ranked 10th against the rush. That doesn’t change Fisch’s commitment to run the ball because the passing game is predicated on play-action. How they split the carries, however, is still undetermined.

"I’m not ready to say that one yet," Fisch said. "It depends on how he [Robinson] is carrying the ball, I guess. I will take 22 for 120. If he wants to do that again, I’m all in."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars guard Zane Beadles played with Peyton Manning for two seasons in Denver, so he did take a moment on Sunday night to send Manning a congratulatory text message after Manning broke Brett Favre's record for most touchdown passes in NFL history.

Not only is Beadles glad he got to spend time as Manning's teammate, he's also grateful because he says Manning helped his career.

"I learned so much playing with him and playing in Denver as far as how to approach teams and how to attack defenses, and just learned a lot about football in general and watching him work and prepare and things like that," Beadles said. "He epitomizes what it means to be a pro. Like I said, ultimate respect and very happy for him."

Beadles said that Manning's preparation level is every bit as intense as advertised and he benefited from playing with a quarterback like that.

"I had a great experience there and a great time there and I think playing with him made me a better player, so I appreciate that," Beadles said.

 
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars rookie receiver Allen Robinson knew his first touchdown catch would come eventually.

Robinson
He had just hoped it would have been a lot sooner.

But he finally got it in last Sunday’s 24-6 victory over Cleveland, and he hopes it’s going to open the floodgates for not only him but the rest of the offense to find the end zone a lot more.

"Just to get that first one out of the way, it’s always good to kind of break that ice and just to continue to improve and keep rolling," Robinson said.

Robinson, who leads the Jaguars with 34 catches and 371 yards receiving, certainly made his first TD catch count. He caught an 11-yard pass from Blake Bortles, broke the tackle of cornerback Buster Skrine at the 20-yard line and scored to put the Jaguars ahead 7-6 with 27 seconds remaining in the first half. The Jaguars never trailed after that.

Robinson’s celebration for his first NFL touchdown was pretty low key. Just a small dance in the back corner of the end zone that lasted only a few seconds.

"I know me and [Allen] Hurns had talked about it a little bit," Robinson said. "I was surprised Hurns didn’t do it on his first 9touchdown). I was just able to do that on mine."

The Film Don't Lie: Jaguars

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
11:00
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A weekly look at what the Jaguars must fix:

Playing a rookie quarterback means dealing with a lot of mistakes as he goes through the learning process, but the Jacksonville Jaguars need Blake Bortles to start cutting down on his interceptions beginning with Sunday's home game against the Miami Dolphins.

Bortles has thrown 10 interceptions in the five games in which he has played (four starts) and that puts him on pace to tie Peyton Manning's rookie record of 28 interceptions. Some of them haven't been his fault -- Allen Hurns slipped coming out of a break and Cecil Shorts III couldn't come back to a pass because he hurt his hamstring, for example -- but most are the result of poor decisions. That's what happened twice against the Browns.

Bortles' first interception came because he was hit as he threw by linebacker Jabaal Sheard. In studying film, it's clear his second interception came because he was confused by what the Browns did after the snap and he threw the ball off his back foot and tried to squeeze it into a tight window to Denard Robinson.

The third interception was worse when re-watched on film. Bortles stepped up into the pocket and easily could have run for a first down on third-and-5 from the Cleveland 14-yard line. Instead, just before he crossed the line of scrimmage, he tried to hit Shorts at the 6 with a last-second pass. He never saw cornerback Buster Skrine charging Shorts and it was an easy interception in the red zone that cost the Jaguars points.

A positive: Coach Gus Bradley said Bortles at least has an awareness as it's happening that he has made a poor decision on some throws, which shows progress from earlier in the season.

"I know in my conversation with him it's coming to him right before the play happens and when he's going and right before he throws the ball it's like, 'Oh, maybe I shouldn't have thrown that,' where before it was 'I'm throwing it' and it was an interception," Bradley said. "He is building a consciousness about it."

One of Bortles' biggest strengths is he doesn't often make the same mistake twice, so some of the poor decisions he's making won't be repeated. He's a bit of a gunslinger so he's always going to take chances, but he's got to understand when to take those chances. In the red zone holding a four-point lead in the third quarter isn't one of those times. That's something that comes only with experience.

The Jaguars' defense bailed out Bortles with three turnovers but the Jaguars can't count on that happening every week. The Dolphins are coming off a big road victory at Chicago in which they sacked Jay Cutler three times and forced him into a pair of turnovers. You can bet they'll come at Bortles pretty hard Sunday. If the Jaguars are going to get victory No. 2, Bortles will have to cut down on poor decisions.
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny knew immediately something bad had happened.

He felt a pop and searing pain on the right side of his chest when he sacked Cleveland quarterback Brian Hoyer midway through the fourth quarter of the Jaguars’ 24-6 victory over the Browns on Sunday. He stayed down on the turf for a moment, grabbed his chest with his left hand, and then slowly got up and went back into the defensive huddle.

It wasn’t until he came off the field after Hoyer’s incomplete pass on third down one play later that he found out just how badly he was injured. He had torn his right pectoral muscle away from the tendon that attaches it to his shoulder.

"I knew something was wrong [when it happened] but not that wrong, you know what I mean?" Posluszny said Monday afternoon. "You know how it is. We’re winning, we’re up, you want to finish the game."

The injury prevented him from finishing the game and it’s also going to keep him from finishing the season, too. Posluszny is trying to schedule surgery this week and the Jaguars are going to place him on season-ending IR. It’s certainly a blow to a defense that has played its best over the past three weeks but it’s just as disappointing for Posluszny, who had only missed one game in his three-plus seasons since he joined the Jaguars as a free agent in 2011.

"It’s not easy, especially [because] you get the feeling now that we’re just starting to pick things up and the team’s going to roll a little bit and get on a nice winning streak and play some good ball, so you want to be a part of that," he said. "It’s tough to get hurt now and know that I’m not going to play football for a long time."

Posluszny said team physician Kevin Kaplan hasn’t given him a timetable on the rehab process but assured Posluszny that it would not impact his preparation for the 2015 season. Posluszny has two more years remaining on the six-year, $45 million contract he signed in 2011 and is scheduled to make $7.5 million in 2015 and 2016.

Posluszny is in his fourth season with the Jaguars after spending four years with Buffalo. The 2013 Pro Bowler has recorded at least 110 tackles from 2008-2013 and was second in the NFL with 162 tackles in 2013. Not only is he the team’s leading tackler (69) and best defensive player this season, he’s also responsible for making the defensive calls and is one of the team’s leaders.

The Jaguars’ defense has played its best football in the last three weeks, allowing only two touchdowns and 32 points over that span. They’ve forced four of their seven turnovers during that time as well, including three against Cleveland.

That was with Posluszny in the lineup, though.

"That’ll be huge, losing Poz," defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said. "Poz is the guy that jells our defense together. He’s the leader of our unit, so losing him will be huge. But Poz, he’s a leader. He’ll step in. Any question a guys has to ask, Poz will be there to answer the question and help the guys through the game plan. It’ll be big for him to be in there in the meeting room helping the guys."

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said it’s likely that fourth-year player J.T. Thomas will take over as the middle linebacker. He was cross-trained at outside and inside linebacker during training camp but has played mainly on special teams this season and has just three tackles. Second-year player LaRoy Reynolds, an undrafted rookie in 2013, will move into Thomas’ spot. He started at OTTO in the first three games before getting benched because of poor play and has played mainly on special teams since then.

"The guys are going to do a great job," Posluszny said. "Our D-line’s going to continue to play really, really well. That’s going to set the tone for the entire defense. The linebackers are going to step up and take advantage of the opportunity."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to rely on two unproven players and perhaps the team’s biggest free-agent bust to help offset the loss of middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, the team’s best defensive player and a team captain.

And yet coach Gus Bradley seems pretty confident the Jaguars are going to be fine.

[+] EnlargePaul Posluszny
Richard Dole/USA TODAY SportsWith Paul Posluszny out for the season, the Jaguars are losing more than their top tackler. They're losing key leadership.
"Well, it’s a big loss," Bradley said Monday afternoon. "He’s been really playing really well lately. Well, he’s been playing well ever since I’ve been here but I think he’s come into his own, really understands the defense now, and really takes total command of the defense. That’ll be a difficult one.

“We’ve got some guys that will step up. That’s what this league’s all about. I think we’ll be OK."

Bradley obviously has to say those things and maintain a positive outlook, but the bottom line is that while Posluszny has his limitations in coverage and went through a stretch earlier this season when he tried to do too much and got out of position, he is the team's most reliable defensive player and the Jaguars don't have enough talent to even come close to replacing his production.

Who are the replacements? Second-year player J.T. Thomas and second-year player LaRoy Reynolds, both of whom have made more of an impact on special teams than on defense, and fifth-year player Dekoda Watson, who was signed to fill the newly created OTTO spot but has been disappointing and has played sparingly on defense.

Bradley said it’s likely that Thomas will take over as the middle linebacker. He was cross-trained at outside and inside linebacker during training camp but has played mainly on special teams this season. He has three tackles.

Thomas started at the OTTO linebacker against Cleveland on Sunday and Bradley said Reynolds, an undrafted rookie in 2013, will move into Thomas’ spot. He started at OTTO in the first three games before getting benched because of poor play and has played mainly on special teams since then.

The Jaguars signed Watson in March to fill the OTTO spot, but he missed all of training camp while recovering from a second groin surgery. He returned to practice late in the preseason but had been unable to overtake Reynolds and played mainly on special teams. When Reynolds was benched, the Jaguars inserted Thomas into the OTTO spot and kept Watson on special teams.

Posluszny is a two-down linebacker that has been forced to play on third down because of a lack of better options and struggles in coverage, but he is the team’s leading tackler (69) and best defensive player. He’s also responsible for making the defensive calls, so he’ll be tough to replace from that perspective.

The fact that the Jaguars are relying on Thomas, Reynolds and Watson underscores the need for a significant upgrade at the linebacker position, which the Jaguars are expected to address in the offseason and the draft. Rookie Telvin Smith has progressed and had his best game in the 24-6 victory over Cleveland on Sunday -- two sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception -- but he’s an undersized outside linebacker and isn’t yet ready to be a starter.

"Any time you have injuries with guys that are playing well it stings you a little bit," Bradley said.

Losing Posluszny’s leadership won’t be easy to overcome, either, and that’s something Thomas, Reynolds and Watson aren’t capable of providing, either.

"Everybody has different leadership style. Poz was not really a vocal-type leader," Bradley said. "He led by his actions and his demeanor and how he took care of himself. So hopefully the lessons he’s taught many of our players, they’ll buy into and continue to own it and they’ll demonstrate it. I think it’ll be a group effort."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles didn't have a great game in the 24-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns at EverBank Field on Sunday.

Bortles
In fact, he didn't even have a good game. It was, by the standards that he set in his first three starts, below average: Three interceptions, 55 percent passing, and a season-low 159 yards.

But he had one great drive and that was enough to help the Jaguars snap a nine-game losing streak.

Bortles needed just three plays and a little more than a minute to drive the Jaguars 76 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 27 seconds remaining in the first half. He did it with his legs as much as his arm.

On first down, he escaped pressure and rolled to his left and found Allen Robinson open for a 16-yard gain and a first down.

On the next play, he escaped pressure and ran to his right before an easy toss to a wide-open Clay Harbor, who ran for 20 yards after the catch to put the Jaguars on the Cleveland 36-yard line.

After a defensive offside penalty wiped out an incompletion to Cecil Shorts III, Bortles and Robinson hooked up again. This time Bortles stayed in the pocket and fired a pass to Robinson, who broke free from cornerback Buster Skrine at the 20-yard line and scored his first career touchdown to put the Jaguars ahead 10-6.

"It seems we do that pretty well," Bortles said. "We moved the ball pretty well in the last couple two-minute drills, but I think it was just good getting some points going into the half."

It's obvious Bortles is very comfortable in the two-minute offense. The quick tempo helps him get into a rhythm. It's almost backyard football and it allows Bortles to just go out and play more freely. The stats show it: Bortles was 3-for-3 for 71 yards on that drive and 14-for-28 for 88 yards in the rest of the game.

That two-minute drive gave the Jaguars some much-needed confidence, which was something the team hadn't experienced since the first half of the season opener. They went into halftime with a lead for the first time since that game, and this time held onto it.

"That was great for us without a doubt to go into halftime like that," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. "I just saw the look on the sideline. I don't think you have seen the team deflate if that didn't happen, but it sure helped."

More thoughts on the day after ...

It was certainly a breakout game for rookie linebacker Telvin Smith: one sack, a forced fumble, an interception, and another pass breakup to go along with four tackles. He said only one thing would have made it better: Scoring on his interception, which he returned 15 yards to the Cleveland 7. He was really bummed that he was brought down by Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas, who punched the ball out of his hands as he was being tackled out of bounds. "I should have hit him with a move," Smith joked.

Sunday was the first time offensive tackle Luke Joeckel has experienced a victory in nearly two years. Joeckel was placed on injured reserve after breaking his ankle in a Week 5 loss to St. Louis as a rookie in 2013, so he didn't participate in the Jaguars' four victories in the second half of the season. The last time he played in a victory before Sunday was Jan. 4, 2013, when his Texas A&M team beat Oklahoma 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl -- a span of more than 21 months. "I wasn't playing when we won those games so to get your first NFL win, it's a whole lot better," Joeckel said. "You don't realize it until it happens."

The Jaguars' 185 yards rushing and 35 rushing attempts is the most in the Bradley era. The previous highs came against Buffalo on Dec. 15, 2013 when the Jaguars ran for 159 yards on 31 carries. Denard Robinson's 127 yards was the most by a single player under Bradley and the most by a Jaguars player since Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 169 yards against Indianapolis in the final regular-season game of the 2011 season.
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In his brief time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Denard Robinson has been a wide receiver, a Wildcat quarterback, and, finally, a running back.

After what he did on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns at EverBank Field, he may have added another role: Building block.

The Jaguars are trying to find some young playmakers to grow and develop with rookie quarterback Blake Bortles. They've got pieces at receiver in rookies Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns. Denard Robinson's 127-yard, one-touchdown performance in the Jaguars' 24-6 victory over the Browns shows he has the potential to be considered a part of the offense's foundation going forward.

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackSecond-year player Denard Robinson notched career highs in carries (22) and yards (127) and a touchdown on Sunday against Cleveland.
Robinson's potential is intriguing because it's hard to put a cap on what he could become because he's still learning to be a running back. He's still somewhat relying on instincts and athleticism as he figures out how to carry the ball from the backfield and how to read blocks and find seams in the offensive line.

Robinson starred as a quarterback at Michigan from 2009-12 but the Jaguars, enamored with his speed and open-field ability, drafted him in the fifth round in 2013. Jaguars GM David Caldwell called him an "offensive weapon" and said he'd be used in a variety of ways.

That never materialized. Lingering nerve damage in his throwing hand from a hit to his elbow during his senior season at Michigan -- which the Jaguars and Robinson kept mum about -- prevented him from gripping the football. He struggled to throw it, had all kinds of problems trying to catch it, and couldn't keep from fumbling it.

By the time his rookie season ended, he had started to regain some of the feeling. That's when he started to really concentrate on becoming a running back. It wasn't an easy transition. Most of his big runs in college came off zone-read plays or scrambles. Robinson didn't know how to read blocks while taking a handoff in the backfield. He didn't know how to pick up blitzing defenders, either.

It was the first time Robinson hadn't had success on the field and it was hard to take.

"I came in not even knowing what position I was going to play, and they told me I was going to play running back," he said. "I didn't know how to do it -- how to make the right steps to come off, how to block a guy or anything like that. I had to work on how to get the ball in the backfield because I was used to getting the ball from the gun. It's a big difference."

He has come a long way since then, thanks to help from Toby Gerhart, Jordan Todman, Will Ta'ufo'ou and even Maurice Jones-Drew, who mentored Robinson last season. Robinson worked with running backs coach Terry Richardson throughout the offseason, too. When the feeling and strength in his hand returned completely, he was a different player.

He had one drop during organized team activities and minicamp and hasn't fumbled once in seven games. When Gerhart was forced to sit out his second consecutive game because of a right foot injury, Robinson showed how far he has come in less than a year.

His first carry against the Browns went for 14 yards and he ended up averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He had 160 career rushing yards coming into Sunday's game. Robinson sealed the Jaguars' first victory since Dec. 5, 2013, with his 8-yard touchdown run with 5:58 remaining.

"I saw the opening and hesitated a little bit and bounced it outside," Robinson said. "I was like, 'I can't get denied.' It was my first touchdown, and it was amazing. It's a great feeling to experience something that you've dreamed about your whole life.

"As a little kid, I thought about scoring a touchdown in the NFL, and I did it."

Now maybe the Jaguars should start thinking about making him a piece of their foundation.
Observed and heard in the locker room after the Jacksonville Jaguars' 24-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns:

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackDenard Robinson had the best game of his NFL career -- rushing for 127 yards and a touchdown.
Go Blue: Jaguars running back Denard Robinson starred as a quarterback at Michigan and still carries the torch for the maize and blue. With that also comes the prerequisite disdain for anything related to Ohio State and, by extension, everything else from Ohio. That’s why he was extra happy about his performance against the Browns: career highs in carries (22) and yards (127) and a touchdown. “It was good to do it against an Ohio team,” he joked. Robinson went 1-3 against Ohio State in his four seasons at Michigan.

Streaks snapped: Not only did the Jaguars snap a nine-game losing streak that dates back to last season, they also snapped a streak of September/October futility that dates back two seasons. The 24-6 victory over the Browns snapped an 18-game losing streak in games played in September and October, which was tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history. "You could feel us getting better [over the last few weeks]," receiver Cecil Short said. "You could feel us sniffing victory a little bit, but we finally came through today." According to ESPN Stats & Information, Cincinnati lost 20 September/October games in a row from 1992-94. The Houston Oilers also lost 18 in a row from 1983-84. Before Sunday, the last time the Jaguars won a game in September or October was Sept. 23, 2012, against Indianapolis.

Quick change: It wasn’t rookie quarterback Blake Bortles' best day. He threw three interceptions, but each time the defense bailed him out -- including twice deep in the Jaguars' own territory. Tashaun Gipson picked off Bortles and gave the Browns the ball at the Jacksonville 17-yard line. The defense held the Browns to minus-5 yards and forced a field goal. Gipson’s second interception set the Browns up at the Jacksonville 33, but the defense held again and forced the Browns to turn the ball over on downs. "That builds momentum," defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks said of the stops. "That builds momentum throughout the stadium. That builds momentum throughout our team."

Rapid Reaction: Jacksonville Jaguars

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
4:30
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 24-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns at EverBank Field.

What it means: The Jaguars snapped a nine-game losing streak that dated back to last season and got just their third victory at EverBank Field since the start of the 2012 season. They did it by forcing and capitalizing on turnovers and not relying on quarterback Blake Bortles to carry the offense. The Jaguars are finally starting to look the way many thought they would when the season began: A defense that keeps the team in the game and allows a struggling offense to get chances with a short field.

Defense comes through: The answer to whether the Jaguars' defense has improved over the last several weeks or was just benefiting from playing struggling offenses still can't be answered completely, but it looks more like the former than the latter. The defense completely shut down the Browns' running game, which was the core of the offense, holding them to just 69 yards. Ben Tate had 36 yards and Isaiah Crowell had 18 yards and the Browns averaged just 2.3 yards per carry. Without a running game the Browns were forced to rely on quarterback Brian Hoyer, and the Jaguars were all over him, too. They sacked him twice, forced him to fumble, and intercepted him once, turning both of those turnovers into points. Rookie linebacker Telvin Smith forced both of those turnovers, knocking the ball out of Hoyer's hands on a sack and intercepting a Hoyer pass late in the fourth quarter.

Run to daylight: Denard Robinson gave the running game a much-needed boost with his performance against the Browns. He ran for 127 yards and one touchdown, the first time the Jaguars have had a back surpass 100 yards since Jordan Todman ran for 109 against Buffalo on Dec. 15, 2013. The Jaguars ran for a season-high 185 yards. The Jaguars had been averaging 69.5 yards per game rushing but eclipsed that mark in the first quarter (76 yards). Robinson had 62 yards alone in the first quarter. Granted, the success came against a Browns defensive line that is banged up. Armonty Bryant is out for the season with a torn ACL and Phil Taylor (knee), Billy Wynn (quad) and Ahtyba Rubin (ankle) were inactive. But the Jaguars' offensive line took advantage of those injuries to create more space for the backs than they had all season.

Game ball: It's tempting to go with Robinson, but the defense deserves the honor this week because the unit finally got off the turnover schneid. After forcing three in the first half of the season opener, the unit had forced just one over the next five games. They forced three on Sunday, recovering two fumbles and intercepting Hoyer once, and scored 17 points off the miscues.

What's next: The Jaguars play host to Miami next Sunday at 1 p.m. That's the last time the Jaguars will play a game at EverBank Field for more than a month (Nov. 30 versus the New York Giants).
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Running back Toby Gerhart is the only player who is expected to miss Sunday's game against Cleveland because of injury.

Cornerback Alan Ball (ankle), defensive end Andre Branch (groin) and tight end Clay Harbor (knee) are listed as probable on the Friday injury report, meaning they have a 75-percent chance of playing. Ball and Branch practiced fully on Friday, but Harbor was limited. He's a new addition to the injury report.

This will be the second week in which Gerhart has not played because of a right foot injury, which he originally suffered in the season opener against Philadelphia. He played through the injury the next four weeks but missed the Tennessee game last Sunday.

Denard Robinson and Storm Johnson split first-team running back reps this week as they did during practice last week. Johnson ended up getting the start against the Titans and ran for 21 yards on 10 carries. Coach Gus Bradley did not name a starter for Sunday.
Every Thursday I’ll present an interesting (to me, anyway) stat, break it down, and try to provide some context heading into the game the following weekend.

The 300 club

[+] EnlargeByron Leftwich
AP Photo/Bill KostrounByron Leftwich was the first Jaguars rookie to throw for 300 yards in a game. Blake Bortles became the second.
Quarterback Blake Bortles threw for 336 yards in last Sunday’s 16-14 loss to Tennessee, which made him only the second rookie quarterback in team history to throw for 300 yards.

The only other rookie to do that was Byron Leftwich, who also threw for 336 yards in a 27-21 victory over San Diego on Oct. 5, 2003. That came in Leftwich’s second start. Last Sunday was Bortles’ third start.

How does Bortles’ first 300-yard passing game compare to some of the other quarterbacks in Jaguars history? Blaine Gabbert didn’t have a 300-yard game until his 21st start. David Garrard did it in his 41st start. Mark Brunell did it in his fourth start.

The team record for fewest starts before throwing for 300 yards belongs to Jay Fiedler, who threw for 317 yards in his first start, a 24-7 victory over Cincinnati on Jan. 2, 2000, which was the final game of the 1999 season in which the Jaguars went 14-2.

There have been 42 300-yard passing games in Jaguars history. The next time Bortles hits the 300 mark, he’ll be tied with Quinn Gray for fifth in team history. Only Brunell hit the benchmark more than six times.

A breakdown:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The camera loves Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley.

Shanahan
Bradley
More than John Fox, Mike McCarthy, John Harbaugh and Sean Payton, apparently.

The Wall Street Journal ranked the NFL's head coaches and starting quarterbacks based on the average number of times the television broadcast cut to a shot of them during a game. The WSJ watched two full games for all 32 teams and counted the number of times the coaches and QBs were shown, regardless of the duration of the shot, and figured out an average. Bradley ranked ninth, appearing in an average of 34 shots per game.

Jim Harbaugh (45.5 shots), Bill Belichick (44.5), Chip Kelly (44), Tom Coughlin (39) and Mike Tomlin (37.5) were the top five. McCarthy (13.5) was last.

When it came to quarterbacks, Peyton Manning finished atop the list with an average of 31 shots per game. Blake Bortles was 19th (11.5) while Mike Glennon was last (5.5).
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The Cleveland Browns are on a bit of a roll. So are the Jacksonville Jaguars, only it’s in the opposite direction.

The Browns (3-2) have won back-to-back games in dramatic fashion, first rallying from a 25-point deficit to beat Tennessee on the road and thumping the Pittsburgh Steelers by 21 points last Sunday in Cleveland. Now they’re being talked about as legitimate contenders for a playoff spot in the AFC.

The Jaguars (0-6) haven’t won a game since Dec. 5, 2013, and they’re being talked about as the favorite for the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2015.

The teams meet Sunday at EverBank Field; Browns reporter Pat McManamon and Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco break down the matchup.

DiRocco: Pat, I think everyone outside the Cleveland organization expected Johnny Manziel to be the Browns’ starting quarterback by this point in the season. Brian Hoyer has done a good job, though, and it’s clearly his team now. But what about beyond this season? Is Manziel the franchise quarterback or is it Hoyer?

McManamon: If Hoyer keeps playing the way he has, it would be folly if the Browns did not re-sign him in the offseason. That puts Manziel in the spot of perhaps having to enter the 2015 training camp as the backup, and perhaps be the backup for the foreseeable future. Eleven games remain and a lot can happen yet, but to this point Hoyer is earning the right to be considered the long-term answer. He gets rid of the ball quickly. He does not throw interceptions. His even-keeled approach makes him a good leader. And the team respects him. Because Hoyer can be a free agent after the season, and because negotiations went nowhere in the offseason and Hoyer chose to bet on himself, this will be a closely watched story as the season progresses. But if Hoyer maintains his level of play, it would be impossible for the Browns to let the local product go.

This is rookie-quarterback weekend, Mike, and since everyone asks me about Manziel, I'll ask you about Blake Bortles. How has he played, what impresses you most and how far does he have to go?

DiRocco: Since being inserted into the lineup in the second half of the Week 3 loss to Indianapolis, Bortles has played pretty well and leads NFL rookies in passing yards per game (251), completion percentage (67.8) and completions of 20-plus yards (11). He has shown that he has a good feel in the pocket and is able to evade the rush and get outside when he needs to. When he does that, he’s keeping his eyes downfield, too, which is rare for a rookie quarterback that can run. Usually, they just take off. Plus, the coaching staff can’t stop raving about his poise and how unshakable he is. The thing that has impressed me the most has been his work on third down. The Jaguars were 6-for-32 on third down under Chad Henne but are 23-for-46 on third down under Bortles, and he leads the NFL in completion percentage on third down (71.0). Bortles is far from perfect. He still makes bad decisions, stares down receivers and throws some bad passes, but he already looks like the best quarterback the team has had since Mark Brunell in the late 1990s.

Losing Alex Mack was obviously a huge blow. We know what kind of effect that will have on the field, but how do you think it will impact the team in the locker room, considering he was one of the team’s leaders, especially this week?

McManamon: The respect that Mack has in the locker room and around the league was evident the day he was injured, so it matters that he’s not around. But Mack was never a vocal yeller or screamer. His leadership came from his consistency and his dependability. Losing his voice in the locker room matters, but as one scout told me during the week, that sometimes is overstated. The Browns have guys such as Joe Thomas and Hoyer and even John Greco who can step in. The team’s bigger issue is filling the void left on the field.

It's been a long time since there was a game in which the Browns looked like a favorite. But when a 3-2 team faces an 0-6 team, that's the appearance. What's the Jaguars' attitude toward this game, and is there any advantage to them playing at home?

DiRocco: The Jaguars are as optimistic as they have been all season because they’ve been close the past two weeks against Pittsburgh and Tennessee. It was late mistakes that cost them in each game, and the players know they could have won both games had they played marginally better. A lot of the players on this team were on last year’s team that beat the Browns in Cleveland on a late touchdown pass, and this year’s Browns are without Mack and receiver Josh Gordon. I don’t see the Jaguars having any kind of advantage playing at EverBank Field. The weather has cooled a bit so the heat won’t be a factor for the Browns.

The Cleveland defense is among the NFL’s worst when it comes to total yards and rushing yards, but it has been among the league’s best in the red zone. Why are Browns so good inside the 20 but struggling everywhere else?

McManamon: Good question, and I’m not sure I or the team can answer. Perhaps there’s a greater sense of urgency, perhaps the field shrinks for the opposition and perhaps it’s that the coaches call better plays. But it is hugely important, because coach Mike Pettine believes the most important statistic for a defense after wins is points allowed. The defense swung the momentum in the win over Pittsburgh by twice holding the Steelers to field goal attempts after two good drives. Pittsburgh made the first kick, but a botched hold on the second changed the feel of the game, and the Browns took advantage. Whatever the reason for the red zone success, the Browns just hope it continues.

How close do you think the Jaguars are to winning consistently?

DiRocco: Now that they appear to have found their quarterback, that timetable is accelerated a bit, but the Jaguars are still two years away from being a team that can compete for a playoff spot. While Bortles might be able to make up for some deficiencies in the roster, the Jaguars are still the least talented team in the league. After addressing the offense heavily in the draft this offseason, I expect them to attack the defense next offseason. If they draft well, add some key free agents and Bortles continues to develop, then this could be a six- or seven-win team in 2014 and challenge Indianapolis in the division in 2016.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson was pretty much an afterthought during August and early September.

He had missed a significant chunk of training camp and all the preseason with a hamstring injury, and then got further pushed into the background after Allen Hurns' two-touchdown performance in the season opener against Philadelphia.

Since then, though, the second-round pick has made steady progress and quietly become a key part of the offense.

Allen Robinson
Jeff Haynes/AP Images for PaniniAllen Robinson ranks third among rookie wide receivers with 30 catches.
"When I got back [from the injury] just thinking a lot about the route technique and trying to do everything right kind of slowed me down a little bit," Robinson said Wednesday as the Jaguars (0-6) began preparations for Sunday’s home game against Cleveland (3-2). "But I talked to coach [Gus] Bradley and he told me just to go out there and play how I know I could play and everything else will come and I did that."

It’s coming at a pretty good pace now, too. Robinson had five catches in the first two games combined but has caught at least five passes in the last four games, including a career-high eight for 68 yards in last Sunday’s loss to Tennessee. His 30 catches are third among rookie receivers in the NFL, behind only New Orleans’ Brandin Cooks (32) and Carolina’s Kelvin Benjamin (31).

Neither of those players missed the amount of time that Robinson did. He missed much of the offseason OTAs and minicamp with a hamstring injury and re-injured it on July 31. He missed the entire month of August and returned to practice on Sept. 1, six days before the season opener.

At that point Robinson felt he had a good grasp of the offense mentally, but that wasn’t enough.

"I think it definitely would have helped me a lot more being out there, just because of the simple fact that once you kind of see the things, even in the playbook, you do it and it starts creating the muscle memory," Robinson said. "That helps you even remember a lot better once you’re out there doing it.

"You may be seeing the plays on paper and stuff but it’s different when you’re actually hearing them in the huddle."

Robinson played 20 snaps and caught one pass for 0 yards against Philadelphia and caught four passes for 75 yards, including a 54-yarder, against Washington the following week. He has caught 25 in the last four weeks.

"He’s getting better every week but he’s got a ways to go. I’m sure there’s a couple of routes that he would like back," offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. "… He’s had the opportunities there to continue to get the ball and continue to make plays. We’re going to continue to give him those chances. I think he’s just going to get better. I really do."

Robinson’s progress has not surprised his teammates, but it has impressed them. Not only was he trying to pick up a new offense, he was trying to adjust to becoming an NFL receiver at the same time -- without doing anything on the field. The fact that he has 12 more catches than anybody else on the roster is a testament to how quickly he adapted to both.

"It’s one thing knowing what to do and another thing actually getting the reps and doing it," receiver Mike Brown said. "He’s a smart kid so I thought he picked up on the written part very well. And then missing that training camp and preseason that’s tough, not getting the actual physical reps, making that adjustment. But I think he’s doing a great job and he’s really getting a lot better each and every week. It’s just looking like he’s getting more comfortable."

And no longer an afterthought, either.

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