- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 10, 2010

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. (AP) - The Jacksonville Jaguars had a perfect bye week. Coming off a lopsided win at Dallas, they got extra time off and managed to gain ground in the AFC South.

How will they follow it up?

Players and coaches are looking for better results than they had in recent years. The Jaguars (4-4) are 2-5 following bye weeks under coach Jack Del Rio, a trend they hope to reverse Sunday against Houston (4-4).

“As a coach you look around and study and do the things that are most successful and we changed it up a little bit, we took a little more time off, we had a little more intense work when we did work, so let’s see what our record is with that approach,” Del Rio said.

The Jaguars have plenty of other things they want to improve on in the second half of the season. They would like to run the ball with more consistency, play better pass defense and limit the number of games in which quarterback David Garrard struggles.

If they do those things, the Jags should be able to avoid the roller-coaster-type ride that defined their first half of the season.

“One week we’ll come out looking like one of the best teams in the league, then we’ll come back and lose bad,” receiver Mike Sims-Walker said. “Our losses have been very ugly, and that’s what makes everything bad around here. When we do lose, it’s not a close game decided by the last drive in the final two minutes. It’s always a 20-, 30-pount loss. We’ve got to eliminate those kind of games and try to be consistent.”

Indeed, Jacksonville’s four losses have been by a combined 99 points _ our one-sided games that had some questioning Del Rio’s job security. The wins, meanwhile, have come against underachieving Dallas, winless Buffalo, suspect Denver and one-dimensional Indianapolis.

Given the inconsistency, it’s anyone’s guess how the Jaguars will perform down the stretch.

But if running back Maurice Jones-Drew gets on track, the revolving-door secondary develops some chemistry and cohesiveness, and Garrard avoids more meltdown games, the team could make a run at the division title _ especially with four games remaining against Indianapolis (5-3), Tennessee (5-3) and the Texans.

“Everything that you want as a football team in terms of opportunity is sitting right there in front us,” Del Rio said.

Jones-Drew is 92 yards and 10 touchdowns behind last year’s pace, and that’s after a season-high 135 yards rushing against the Cowboys. Jones-Drew believes the team’s running game is starting to find its rhythm, mostly because he’s healthier than he’s been all season.

The secondary used five starting combinations in the first seven games and gave up huge numbers to just about everyone. But now that Jacksonville has settled on second-year safeties Courtney Greene and Don Carey and second-year cornerback Derek Cox, Del Rio feels like it’s just a matter of time before they start to gel.

Then there’s Garrard, who’s turned in four of the best games of his nine-year career. But he also missed a game because of a concussion and had three stinkers.

“I’ve been playing this position for a while now, so I know how things work,” Garrard said. “I know when I come out and have a good day, things are a little bit better. … It’s not just all on me, but I know that I play a big part in it.”

Garrard has 12 touchdown passes and an interception in Jacksonville’s four wins. He has one TD pass and six INTs in his three losses. What’s been the difference?

“I think him staying upright and being decisive with the weapons that we have and the way that we’re utilizing him right now, we ought to expect to be a pretty good offense and difficult to stop,” Del Rio said. “We’ll need him to play well, and when he has, it’s been good for our football team.”

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