<
>

Jaguars hoping turnover floodgates have opened

Linebacker Telvin Smith returned this interception for a TD in the Jaguars' win against Buffalo. AP Photo/Tim Ireland

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The coaching cliché is that turnovers come in bunches. That is indeed what happened with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

After forcing just three turnovers in the first six weeks of the season, the Jaguars forced four in their 34-31 victory against Buffalo. Now they are eager to see if they can deliver a bunch more, beginning with Sunday’s game at the New York Jets.

"Let’s hope so," said linebacker Paul Posluszny, who leads the team with two interceptions. "The big thing is we have to continue to take advantage of the opportunities when we get them. Catch the easy ones when they’re thrown. When we get a forced fumble like that, that’s on the ground, we’ve got to be the team that picks it up.

"Continue to do everything we do, not force the issues, but take advantage of the opportunities when they are there for us."

The Jaguars (2-5) should have some against the Jets (4-3). Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is third in the NFL in Total QBR (78.4), but he has thrown seven interceptions. He’s also dealing with a torn ligament his left hand. That's his non-throwing hand, but he still has to take snaps from center and the shotgun, and it also could pose an issue during handoffs.

If the injury proves too much for Fitzpatrick and Jets coach Todd Bowles decides to make a change, his options are Geno Smith or rookie Bryce Petty. Smith has 43 turnovers (35 interceptions and eight fumbles) in 31 career games.

One big reason the Jaguars were able to get four turnovers against the Bills is because quarterback E.J. Manuel was on the field replacing starter Tyrod Taylor (sprained MCL). The Jaguars sacked Manuel four times and twice forced him to fumble, including one that defensive end Chris Clemons returned for a touchdown. They also intercepted two of his passes, including one linebacker Telvin Smith returned for a touchdown.

Safety Johnathan Cyprien also forced running back LeSean McCoy to fumble on the goal line with a big hit.

Defensive coordinator Bob Babich said it was finally good to see the turnovers come. They will do the same things in practice going forward and hopefully there will be more.

"I think the week before, you guys were saying we didn’t have many turnovers and you guys probably thought I gave you the same song and dance that every coach gives you," Babich said. "We just keep practicing. They’re doing a good job of practicing. It is an emphasis; [we] believe in it wholeheartedly. In team meetings, we talk about it. Defensive unit meetings, on the field. The guys are working hard at it.

"There are techniques to it that you can continually practice. If you keep practicing them, they’ll show up on Sunday eventually. If you don’t practice through the week, it’s just not going to show up on Sunday. Our guys have been doing a good job with it."

Except for the secondary. All three of the team’s interceptions have been by linebackers, and the Jaguars are the only team in the league without an interception by a defensive back. Coach Gus Bradley said the defensive backs have done a solid job, for the most part, in coverage, but they need to be more aggressive in going for the ball.

"We need to turn those PBUs [pass breakups] into interceptions," Bradley said. "I think it’s really the challenge -- for all of the group -- is to take advantage of those opportunities. We call them 'greedy opps.' When you know a play is coming and you have an idea because of the set and all of the indicators are there, that’s you’re time to make a play."

Cyprien said the Jaguars aren’t getting many "greedy opps", and that’s why there haven’t been many interceptions.

"If you look at our tape there’s not opportunities for us as if they’re in the air and we’re dropping them out of our hands," he said. "So the obvious thing is for us to be in position to get one, and it just hasn’t happened. That’s something that we just have to continue to clean up and practice makes perfect. So we’ll continue to do that and try to capitalize and take some more chances, I guess."