NFL Team Report - Jacksonville Jaguars - INSIDE SLANT
Justin Blackmon has made an immediate impact on the Jaguars offense the last two games since he returned from his four-week drug suspension.
He has caught 19 passes for 326 yards and a touchdown over the past two games.
That is the best mark in the league the last two weeks.
The 19 receptions are five more than any other player in the league over that period. His 326 yards are 58 more than any other player.
In the first four games, the Jaguars averaged 224.0 yards a game and scored 7.8 yards a game with 700 passing yards.
In the last two, they've averaged 362.5 yards per game while scoring 19.5 points a game and gaining 558 yards in passing.
That helps explain why coach Gus Bradley said he was keeping his fingers crossed that Blackmon, who suffered groin and hamstring injuries at Denver last Sunday, can play this week.
Bradley said he expects to have Blackmon healthy for Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers, and Blackmon vowed on Friday that he will play. However, Bradley is not so confident in Cecil Shorts' status.
Bradley said Blackmon is improving in recovering from hamstring and groin strains. He did not practice Friday but should be ready by Sunday.
Shorts, Jacksonville's top receiver, is likely a game-time decision with a sprained right shoulder. Additionally, receiver Ace Sanders still in the NFL's concussion program, has not practiced this week and was ruled out for Sunday.
"Blackmon's good," Bradley said Thursday. "I think it's something that he'll have to deal with. He may be a guy that we hold out tomorrow just to keep it calmed down."
Blackmon has 19 catches for 326 yards in two games since returning from a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He leads all NFL receivers in both categories over the past two weeks.
Shorts leads the team with 31 receptions for 411 yards. The swelling in his shoulder has subsided and there is still some pain. However, he was able to windmill his right arm in the locker room to show how much range of motion he has regained, according to ESPN.com.
"I ran around today in walk-through and felt pretty good," Shorts said. "It's going to hurt. So we'll see how it goes. No decision yet but I'm excited about my chances."
Shorts practiced on a limited basis Thursday but was held out Friday.
--Blackmon knows that his fast start hasn't changed the fact that he's not a very popular player.
His arrest shortly after he was drafted a year ago on a DUI charge for driving with a blood alcohol limit of three times over the legal limit and his suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy for the first four games this year have tarnished his image.
"I'm a very good person I would say, although some people think I'm an a------," he said. "Not everybody is going to view me how I want them to. I'm not going to try to force them or make them view me that way, either. If they want to get to know me, they can get to know me. If not, I could care less about them," he said.
Blackmon, though, makes it difficult to get to know him.
Although he opened up in the locker room Wednesday, he usually has little to say.
"I just don't really care about people on the outside," he said. "I don't care what they've got to say. I don't really care how they view me because ... they don't try to get to know me. They won't ever know me, so that's not important to me. They can feel however they want to feel.
"All I can do is control what I can control and that's showing up here, trying to get better every day and carrying that out on the field there."
Bradley has gotten to know him. They've talked frequently since his suspension was announced.
"I always knew he was a strong competitor," he said of his fast start. "I think that those four weeks that he was with us, he competed in those four weeks (to keep himself in shape) is now carrying over to his performance."
Bradley said of Blackmon playing hurt Sunday: "Wow, huh, isn't that something? That's what I'm telling you, his competitive spirit is unbelievable. I can't tell you when he hurt his hamstring. He was in that zone and he was competing. Fortunately for us, it wasn't a bad pull but he was in some pain I'm sure and it was anytime he had that strain to fight through it and still perform at the level that he does say something."
Blackmon may be difficult to get to know on the field, but the Jaguars obviously like what they see on the field from him.
SERIES HISTORY: 6th regular-season meeting. Chargers lead series, 3-2, and have won the last two games by lopsided margins. They won 38-13 in San Diego in 2010 and 38-14 in 2011 in Jacksonville. In the last game, Philip Rivers passed for 294 yards and three touchdowns while Blaine Gabbert threw for 195 yards and two touchdowns and an interception.
NFL Team Report - Jacksonville Jaguars - NOTES, QUOTES
--Last Sunday is a day Chad Henne will never forget.
Even though he was dealing with the fact his wife was in labor back home in Jacksonville, he passed for 303 yards against the Broncos.
At 10:15 p.m. that night, their son, Chace, was born while Henne was flying back on the team's charter flight. His son is 20 inches, six pounds and 10 ounces and came home Tuesday.
In his first interview Wednesday since the baby was born, Henne said, "It's tough. It was a week early. It was supposed to be due when we were in London and we were doing to induce this Friday and God gave him to us early. I'm just glad she's healthy and the baby is healthy."
Henne said that when his wife called Sunday morning to tell him she was in labor, he told her, "There's not much that I can do. Even if I got home, how do you know you're going to make it anyway. So I just went out and tried to concentrate on what we had to do against Denver."
After the game, he talked with his wife on the phone and on the plane he used Wi-Fi to text back and forth with one of his neighbors and his mother-in-law.
Of the difficulty of concentrating on football when he knew his wife was in labor, he said, "It was tough, but I just went back to my preparation during the week and just did what we did in practice. Once the game started, I think everything was relaxed and I just went out and played. She wouldn't want me to worry about anything else except to try to concentrate on what we had to accomplish against Denver and we did some good things."
He said his wife is enabling him to concentrate on preparing for the San Diego game although he's already changed a diaper.
"My wife has been great. Last night, we slept all the way through the night. She just has to get up every two hours to breast feed. She just wants me to concentrate on football, you've got to love her for that," he said.
Of his chances of keeping the job when Blaine Gabbert is healthy, he said, "I don't even think about it. If they give me the opportunity to play, I take it like I'm the starter. Like I've said before, if I'm the backup I prepare like I'm the starter so it doesn't really matter. From here on out, my whole career I have to take it that way."
He added, "Is it my goal to be the starter? Absolutely. I want to be the starter and help this team win and play the rest of the season. It may not end up like that. I can't think about it."
--When Maurice Jones-Drew was asked if he gave Henne any advice on changing diapers, he said, "I don't change diapers. Actually, I can't say that. I didn't change diapers until yesterday. It was my first time changing a diaper. I had the kids by myself. My wife owes me for that one because that's just something we don't do."
--A pair of Hall of Famers, tight end Shannon Sharpe and quarterback Dan Fouts, who were the announcers on the Jaguars' CBS telecast Sunday, suggested on the air that Maurice Jones-Drew isn't the running back he once was.
Sharpe said "He doesn't seem to have that explosion that he once had." And Fouts said he doesn't have "enough speed or burst to get to the outside."
Jones-Drew had 71 yards in 20 carries. He had a 28-yard run but only had 43 yards in his other 19 carries. He was originally credited with 21 carries because the statisticians incorrectly credited Jones-Drew with a carry that Jordan Todman had.
Jones-Drew, though, didn't seem upset about the comments.
"Every year something happens. Every year I lose something. I really don't worry about it too much. People just talk," he said.
Jones-Drew said he's getting healthier every week and said it takes time for the running game to develop, especially since they are learning a new scheme.
He compared the running game to marriage.
"It's kind of like marriage. The more time you're with her, the better it goes," he said.
Jones-Drew also brushed off the continued speculation that he will be traded even though general manager Dave Caldwell told him he doesn't plan to trade him.
"I don't know. What am I supposed to say? (That) I'm upset about that? I can't worry about that. It is what it is. If it happens, it happens. When it comes to that point, I'll deal with it," he said.
He said he wouldn't be stunned if he were traded.
"Why would I be stunned? I've seen guys get cut Week 1. Nothing stuns in this business anymore. It's business, things happen. No hard feelings. You go on," he said.
--Even though the Jaguars traded left tackle Eugene Monroe and then top draft pick Luke Joeckel was lost for the season with a broken leg, coach Gus Bradley said the play of the offensive line has improved.
He credited offensive line coach George Yarno for helping the line jell.
--CB Derek Cox left as a free agent to San Diego for a four-year $20 million deal and is starting for the Chargers although he has struggled at times.
Coach Gus Bradley was asked if he wasn't a good fit for his defense.
"He has some talent and he makes some plays and he did some good things here, but that was just a decision between Dave (general manager Dave Caldwell) and I," Bradley said.
BY THE NUMBERS: 200 - Center Brad Meester will make his 200th appearance for the Jaguars Sunday. He will become the 61st offensive lineman in NFL history to play in at least 200 games. Bruce Matthews is the leader with 296. Meester also holds the franchise record. Jimmy Smith is second at 150.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "For us, winning is everybody playing at their highest level." -- Coach Gus Bradley on the winless 0-6 Jaguars.
NFL Team Report - Jacksonville Jaguars - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Jaguars, who usually play an attack defense with one deep safety, played a lot of Cover 2 and rarely blitzed against Denver last Sunday. They probably won't play as much Cover 2 against the Chargers. Bradley said they will mix it up.
--DE Jason Babin leads the team with just two sacks and eight quarterback pressures.
--P Bryan Anger is averaging 41.7 in net yards and 46.8 in gross yards.
--RB Denard Robinson has struggled in his rookie season with just one yard on six carries.
--WR Justin Blackmon (groin and hamstring) sat out Friday and is listed as questionable, but is likely to play Sunday.
--WR Cecil Shorts (sprained SC joint) sat out Friday, is listed as questionable and they will likely wait until pre game warmups to decide if he can play.
--WR Stephen Burton missed practice Friday because he is in the concussion program and has been ruled out.
--WR Ace Sanders missed practice Friday because he is being tested for a concussion and has been ruled out.
--DT Roy Miller (shoulder) was limited Thursday after not practicing Wednesday and is likely to play Sunday.
--DE Jason Babin practiced Thursday after getting a veteran's day off Wednesday and will play Sunday.
--C Brad Meester practiced Thursday after getting a veteran's day off Wednesday and will play Sunday.
--RB Maurice Jones-Drew practiced Thursday after getting a veteran's day off Wednesday and will play Sunday.
--RB Jordan Todman (thigh) practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday and will play Sunday.
--DE Andre Branch (knee) practiced Thursday after being limited Wednesday and will play Sunday.
--DE Jeremy Mincey missed practice Wednesday because he is in the concussion program.
--S Johnathan Cyprien missed practice Wednesday with a calf injury but is expected to play Sunday. Cyprien missed a big tackle when the Broncos converted on a third-and-20 play, but is second on the team in tackles with 40 while Paul Posluszny leads the team with 54.
--LB Russell Allen was limited in practice Wednesday with a rib injury but is expected to play.
--DE Andre Branch was limited in practice Wednesday with a knee injury but is expected to play.
--QB Blaine Gabbert was limited in practice Wednesday and won't play Sunday.
--CB Dwayne Gratz was limited in practice Sunday with a high ankle sprain but may play Sunday for the first time since the opener.
--TE Marcedes Lewis was limited in practice Wednesday with a calf injury but is expected is play.
GAME PLAN: With the status of both starting wide receivers Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts uncertain because of injuries, the Jaguars are expected to stress the run against San Diego. The Jaguars are last in the league in running the ball, but the offensive line seems to be jelling and Maurice Jones-Drew is getting healthier so they are expected to test the Chargers on the ground.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Jaguars SS Johnathan Cyprien vs. Chargers TE Antonio Gates -- Cyprien is a rookie with a lot of potential but the Jaguars have had trouble covering tight ends this year and Gates is one of the best.
Jaguars LDE Tyson Alualu vs. Chargers RT D.J. Fluker -- The Chargers' top draft pick from Alabama, Fluker could have a tough task against Alualu, who got two hits against Peyton Manning last week.