Jaguars address problems by working out punters
The Jacksonville Jaguars are taking the first step, albeit a small one, toward fixing their problems.
Coach Jack Del Rio said he will work out punters Tuesday, two days after Matt Turk's 22-yarder helped the Cincinnati Bengals hand the Jaguars a fourth consecutive loss.
Turk also had punts of 32 and 23 yards in the second half of Sunday's 30-20 loss. He raised his arms to mock fans who loudly booed him after one of his poor punts.
''When you have seven punts on the day and one of them is good, that's not going to work for you,'' Del Rio said Monday.
Turk, who ducked out of the locker room after the game, spoke to reporters Monday and blamed his problems on Jacksonville trying to make a hang-time punter into a directional kicker. He also sounded like he expected to be released.
''I want to be where I'm wanted,'' said Turk, who signed a one-year contract worth nearly $2 million in July to replace free agent Adam Podlesh. ''I want to be where I feel I can contribute what my skills are. I kind of feel like this is the Adam Podlesh experiment since I've come in. I really haven't been able to do what I've been doing for the last 19 years. But I've been attempting it and I've been inconsistent.''
Turk ranks near the bottom of the league in gross and net punting. He was only part of Jacksonville's problems against the Bengals, but he could be the scapegoat for a game the Jaguars (1-4) controlled much of the day.
Jacksonville settled for short field goals on consecutive trips inside the 5-yard line in the second quarter, and of the six plays called near the goal line, franchise running back Maurice Jones-Drew touched the ball just once.
Pro Bowl tight end Marcedes Lewis had a pass stripped from his hands in the end zone. Receivers Mike Thomas and Jason Hill dropped balls.
The defense played well most of the day, giving up just 239 yards, but the unit also allowed Cincinnati to convert twice on fourth down and blew coverage on a third-and-17 play in the first quarter. Cornerback Rashean Mathis turned A.J. Green loose, and the rookie receiver scored on a 37-yard pass from Andy Dalton.
''It is frustrating to be in the situation we are in right now with our record, but the main thing is we have to stick together,'' linebacker Paul Posluszny said. ''We have to stick together as a team, come together, learn from the mistakes we made ... and start playing some winning football.''
The Jaguars have lost seven of eight dating to last year's late-season collapse, raising more questions about Del Rio's future with the franchise.
It could get worse, too. The Jaguars play at Pittsburgh, against Baltimore and at Houston the next three weeks.
Majority owner Wayne Weaver made it clear in January that the team needed to make the playoffs to avoid significant changes. Del Rio knew the challenge when he released veteran quarterback David Garrard five days before the opener and when he turned things over to rookie Blaine Gabbert three weeks ago.
Gabbert completed 15 of 28 passes for 201 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions, against the Bengals. He also was sacked three times and failed to recover a bad snap in crunch time.
Gabbert's 74-yard TD pass to Jason Hill put Jacksonville ahead 20-16 in the fourth quarter. But little went right down the stretch for Del Rio's team.
All the errors added up to another loss for a team that thought it would compete for the AFC South title. So instead of talking about Gabbert's progress, defensive end Jeremy Mincey's relentless pass rush or place-kicker Josh Scobee's perfection, it's all about the losing streak and Del Rio's job security.
''Doing our best to ignore some of the comments and things that have nothing to do with us playing well, that are part of your job not part of ours,'' Del Rio said. ''I think you guys are doing well with that, but certainly that becomes a challenge just as getting ready for the next opponent becomes a challenge.
''There are a lot of positives that it's hard to really spend a lot of time focused on now when we're trying to fend off some of this other stuff that needs to be talked about.''