Jags ready for first two-game west swing in team's history
SEP 12, 2013 3:03p ET
But the Jacksonville Jaguars clearly need, among a myriad of things, more time getting to familiarize themselves with one another. That became apparent in the first quarter Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs after J.T. Thomas, claimed off waivers from the Chicago Bears a week earlier, blocked a punt for what ended up being their only points in a 28-2 loss and was mobbed by fellow linebacker LaRoy Reynolds and the rest of that particular special teams unit.
"When J.T. blocked the punt, LaRoy came running over to him and they asked LaRoy what was J.T.'s last name. And he goes, 'I don’t know,' " running back Maurice Jones-Drew said.
From that perspective, the timing of the first multi-game trip out west in franchise history couldn't be better. The Jaguars will depart Friday for California, where they are scheduled to spend the better part of the next seven days at a hotel leading up to their game at Oakland and then preparing for a contest the following Sunday at Seattle.
It's all part of a season in which the Jaguars will rack up the majority of their 26,052 miles traveled before the halfway mark. They also have a game at Denver and will face the San Francisco 49ers in London in October.
"It's an opportunity for this team to grow closer together because, for the most part, all we have is each other out there," free safety Dwight Lowery said. "We'll get to know each other a little bit more, get to spend some time off together, and hopefully those things will help build our team."
More than any of their teammates, Jones-Drew and Lowery have reason to look forward to the days ahead. Although neither he nor the Jaguars have enjoyed much success on the West Coast, Jones-Drew was a star at nearby Concord De La Salle High School and maintains a home 20 minutes from where they are staying.
Lowery played in college at San Jose State, which is where the Jaguars will practice before the unenviable assignment of meeting the Seahawks in their noisy home stadium.
Other players admit to having some apprehension about a break in the team's usual routine.
"Just being away from home, staying in a hotel all week, not having our weight room, our training room — it'll be just little things like that, logistics," middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "But when it comes to being at a practice, we'll have a nice facility to practice at. It should be no problem."
Posluszny’s former team, the Buffalo Bills, went through a similar back-to-back arrangement last season. The Bills were pummeled 45-3 by the 49ers in San Francisco but were able to turn around and edge the Arizona Cardinals in overtime a week later.
During the four years he spent in Seattle as defensive coordinator of the Seahawks, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley could not recall a time when they had games in the Eastern time zone on consecutive weeks.
"The mentality of our team is going to be: We'll go anywhere, anytime to compete," he said. "If we have to change time zones, we’ll do that. If it's to London, we'll do that. I'd rather have our players concentrating on that than the distance and the time zone changes."
Of the nine games the Jaguars have played in California or Seattle, their only two victories took place at Oakland, with the most recent of those coming in 2005. Center Brad Meester and kicker Josh Scobee are the last players remaining from that team.
The Jaguars were defeated by the Raiders in overtime 11 months ago in a game where Jones-Drew was lost to what wound up being a season-ending foot injury and Blaine Gabbert injured his left shoulder. Gabbert is out this week because of a lacerated right hand, leaving Chad Henne to quarterback an offense which mustered only 178 total yards against the Chiefs.
"If a particular area of the team isn’t doing well, then another area has to pick them up," Lowery said. "I don't think overall we played as bad as people may think. But there are going to be times where the offense is going to struggle, there are going to be times when the defense is going to struggle, and there are going to be times where the special teams are struggling. Everybody’s got to stick together. It’s going to take all of us to win."
Sticking together could be a sticky proposition when the players' minds might drift to back home — especially in the case of Meester, who is married with six daughters.
"Actually, it's going to be the longest I've been away from them since I don't know when," he said. "Even in training camp, I get to see them every couple days. So it'll be hard in that sense. Just being gone for nine, 10 days without seeing my kids will be tough. And it's going to be tough on my wife, obviously. I know she's got some help coming, but it's still a lot of work.
"I guess it’s part of the business. But we'll make it work. And it'll be good when we come back and I’m able to see my kids again after that long time period."
Coming back with a much-needed victory under their belts would make it that much better.
"It’s football," Jones-Drew said. "It's going to be 120 yards, 53 yards spread apart, and at the end of the day you'll have to make plays. So that's what we’re going to focus on."
You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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