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Jaguars hope to build on best defensive showing
JACKSONVILLE, FLA. (AP) - The Jacksonville Jaguars insist their defensive progress started weeks ago. They talked about it in meetings, felt it in practice and relived it on video.
They showed everyone else Sunday.
“That’s what we expect to become defensively,” coach Jack Del Rio said Monday. “We expect to have better days than that defensively. It was a very good day defensively. We have high expectations, the guys are working hard, and when we do things right, it can be pretty good. What we need to do right now is build on that and grow from there.”
It’s not farfetched to believe the Jaguars, even though they’re playing without star defensive end Aaron Kampman, will continue to get better. After all, six of 11 starters are in their first or second seasons.
“I think we’re on our way up,” said defensive end Jeremy Mincey, who had two sacks in his second career start. “It’s a huge stepping stone. It feels like years back when the Jags had that swag. Guys were going so hard that the effort was making up for the mistakes. It’s coming together.”
Jacksonville held Hillis to 48 yards on 21 carries and sacked McCoy six times. Even more impressive, the Jaguars kept the Browns out of the end zone after four consecutive turnovers in the second half.
Cleveland couldn’t run and couldn’t give McCoy enough time to find open receivers. The Browns had minus-4 yards after the four turnovers, the kind of stands that would raise any defense’s confidence. It worked wonders for Jacksonville’s young group.
“We always talk about doing well in adverse situations,” linebacker Justin Durant said. “Yesterday, we were faced with a lot of them. We all just stuck together and made plays that we had to make. … It’s everybody growing together. Sometimes it takes time to get to that level. We’ve been taking steps throughout the whole season, and these past few games it’s been showing.”
Jacksonville has won three in a row and five of seven, moving from last to first in the AFC South. The Jaguars are tied with Indianapolis atop the division, but they are healthier than the Colts and Houston, and have fewer distractions than Tennessee.
“We’re aware of what’s taking place in the division, but that’s not where our focus is,” Del Rio said.
It’s the first time the Jaguars have been atop a division this late in the season since 1999, the year Jacksonville advanced to the AFC title game.
“It’s fun to be in the locker room now,” defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. “We’ve got some momentum going.”
Jacksonville used to have one of the more stout defenses in the league, but it slipped drastically in recent years. Del Rio and general manager Gene Smith spent much of the offseason revamping the defense with free agents and draft picks.
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