Against the Titans tonight, the Jaguars might be a little depleted because of injury but that's part of the NFL this time of year. The "color rush" uniforms worn by both teams will provide a story line, but this will be a chance for the Jaguars to "ignore the noise," all of the distractions that go with playing a Thursday night game, and win their fourth game of the year.
While it's simplistic to distill the game down to a matchup between two young quarterbacks, they do hold the key to their team's success.
Last week the Jaguars beat Baltimore despite Blake Bortles struggling. The coaches and Bortles himself admitted afterwards that the whole offense had trouble getting in sync, but Bortles also knew he was a part of that problem.
"It's good to see other parts, defense, special teams, pick us up when we're not playing well. That's why it was a team win," Bortles said on Tuesday.
In the locker room after the game, Head Coach Gus Bradley asked Bortles if he played his best, and emphasized how they still won, with other players getting the job done.
"It's not all on him and I want him to know that. Keep us in games and good things will happen," Gus recalled saying. "I see his leadership, he's always been a pretty strong leader, a different styled leader but the team really responds to him. I think he's done a really good job of growing. We understand that there are going to be games where he's playing with more consistency than others, but he's doing some good things."
On defense, the Jaguars haven't gotten much pressure on the quarterback and they won't again tonight. Not from a lack of effort or scheme, but just because the Titans and Marcus Mariota get rid of the ball quickly out of the backfield. Mariota's ball handling skills have been on display since his time at Oregon and perhaps his arm is a bit stronger than most scouts expected in the pro game. So it'll be important for the linebackers and the corners to not give him much of a window to throw into when they're in man coverage.
Despite a bit of a rocky relationship with parts of the media, Titans Interim Head Coach Mike Mularkey says he's looking forward to coming to Jacksonville. He didn't get much of a chance the year he was here as head coach, but still lives in Atlantic Beach and says he'll make it his permanent home once he retires. That might not be soon if this "audition" works out with Tennessee for the second half of the year. "This is not a dress rehearsal," Mularkey pointed out this week. "It's my job to get this team as ready as possible to play against the Jaguars."
Weather could be a factor tonight, but rain or not, look for the Jaguars to try and run the ball against the Titans and take their shots down field when they can. No matter who the running back is, Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson said this week the Jaguars have to run the ball more effectively and challenged the offensive line to make that happen.
Should be fun tonight with all of the surrounding things that go into a nationally televised night game. About a half dozen PGA Tour pros will participate in a "closest to the pin" contest from the fourth level in the South End Zone hitting out to the 50-yard line. It's about a 125-yard shot but the thing they have to account for is the wind that high. When the Jaguars invited the media to hit the shot this week, it was blowing about 20 mph out of the east.
While the "color rush" will include all gold from head to toe, the Jaguars will have the option to use the gold jersey in the future as their alternate jersey.
Kickoff is 8:25 with the Jaguars Pregame show starting at 7pm.