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Del Rio defends coaching
Not enough offense
Monday, December 27, 2010 By Vic Ketchman, jaguars.com senior editor Print Email Comments Jack Del Rio defended his and his coaching staff’s efforts this season, despite harsh criticism by fans and media following Sunday’s 20-17 loss to the Washington Redskins.

“We are absolutely squeezing the most out of this football team. We are an achieving football team. It’s not being portrayed that way but we have (achieved), despite being right in the middle of a rebuild,” Del Rio said at his Monday press conference.

The loss left the Jaguars at 8-7 heading into Sunday’s regular-season finale in Houston. A win would give the Jaguars their first winning season since 2007 and Del Rio said that is his team’s primary goal to “secure a winning season. That’s first and foremost,” he added.

Should the Jaguars beat the Texans and the Titans score an upset in Indianapolis, the Jaguars would win the AFC South title, but Del Rio said that’s “secondary. Obviously, we’ll be pulling for the Titans,” he added.

As a result of the Colts’ win in Oakland on Sunday, the Jaguars’ loss to the Redskins was meaningless, but it’s not being treated that way by the fan base. The manner in which the Jaguars lost the game, in dramatic, overtime fashion, is probably contributing to the harsh feelings.

Two overtime plays sealed the Jaguars’ fate: 1.) Rookie return man Deji Karim’s failure to field the overtime kickoff cleanly, which caused the Jaguars to begin their overtime possession at their 11-yard line; 2.) an interception thrown by David Garrard on third and four that directly led to the Redskins’ game-winning field goal.

“We’ve got to field that ball. We cannot let the ball hit the ground,” Del Rio said of the kickoff.

The third-and-four interception by Redskins defensive back Kevin Barnes was the result of poor execution in three phases: pass-protection, route-running and the throw.

“We probably could’ve done a better job of running the route. We had a little bit of a rub there. That didn’t occur to get the separation we needed there. We didn’t make the call at the line we needed to pick up (the rush). The protection could’ve been better, the route could’ve been better and the throw could’ve been better,” Del Rio said of the third-and-four play.

Kicker Josh Scobee has had better days, too. Aside from missing a 44-yard field goal attempt late in the first half, Scobee’s opening kickoff was a line drive and he was then flagged for a facemask in attempting to make the tackle, which gave the Redskins possession at the Jaguars 44-yard line to begin the game. It led to a field goal and a 3-0 lead. He also kicked a ball out of bounds.

The running game was held to under 100 yards for the second consecutive week; the Jaguars have not been held under 100 yards in three consecutive games since 2001. Del Rio, however, did not blame the poor performance of the running game on the absence of Maurice Jones-Drew.

His replacement, Rashad Jennings, was praised for his play on Sunday.

“I don’t think he had much of a chance,” Del Rio said of Jennings, who rushed for just 32 yards on 15 carries. “He saved us on a play or two (in pass-blocking); on Mike Thomas’ touchdown, he saved the day. I think he was ready to go. We just didn’t give him much space.”

Whatever blame Del Rio isn’t getting for the loss, Garrard is. Despite a passer rating of 90.8 that has him ranked in the top 12 quarterbacks in the league, and despite having added to his Jaguars all-time, single-season touchdown passes record on Sunday, Garrard is a target of harsh criticism for his combined performance of the past two weeks. An interception in Indianapolis when the Jaguars were driving for what would’ve been the game-tying touchdown and his interception in overtime against the Redskins have fans in a lather.

“Offensively, we struggled; penalties that killed drives, turnovers that led to points,” Del Rio said.

Garrard’s first pass of the game was also intercepted and it led to a touchdown that staked the Redskins to a 10-0 lead. He struggled against Redskins Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett’s sophisticated schemes that disguised rush and coverage. Del Rio described those schemes as “trapping and coverage things that I thought would be a little bit of an issue and it was,” he said.

“When you have as many possessions as we had, 17 points is not much productivity,” Del Rio added.

The coach expressed displeasure with his special teams’ play, beyond the overtime kickoff-return failure.

“We forced nine punts and didn’t do enough in that phase,” he said of the return game.

Now, the Jaguars are left with one more chance to make this a winning season, and they hope even more will be on the line as they play in Houston on Sunday.

“Have a winning season, get to 4-2 in the division and see if that gets us a division title,” Del Rio said.

It might take all three to satisfy the fans, to whom Del Rio offered thanks on Monday for their support throughout the season.

“We definitely appreciate it,” he said.