NFL Preview - Jacksonville (2-11) at Miami (5-8)|
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - On the bright side, Jacksonville fans, it's almost over.
But an imminent end to a 2012 season that's yielded just two wins in 13 games
-- not to mention second-from-last league rankings in both total offense
(282.9 yards) and defense (394.5 yards) -- isn't what's really motivating
Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny these days.
It's the future. More specifically, a Sunday afternoon visit to Miami.
"Even though it's late in the season, horrible record, we are trying to build
something special and carry some positive momentum into the offseason,"
Posluszny said. "We are at the most difficult point of the year: losing, bad
record, no playoffs. But we still have to do things right because eventually,
someday soon, this organization will be a playoff team and we've got to start
putting those building blocks together sooner rather than later."
And it'd be just in time for a team that's dropped four straight on the road
overall and managed to pull defeat from the jaws of victory last week against
the visiting New York Jets.
Jacksonville held New York scoreless in the opening half and appeared to take
a 10-point lead on a long interception return by Dwight Lowery. Instead,
Lowery was ruled down, the drive stalled and the Jaguars punted -- effectively
squashing the mojo in what devolved into a 17-10 loss.
The latest EverBank Field flop was followed by a health scare for coach Mike
Mularkey, who was hospitalized Monday and ultimately given a clean bill of
health after complaining that he didn't feel right. It was the first day of
work Mularkey had missed in 30 years as a player and coach.
"We need things like that to happen for our team to help us win and help us
with momentum," he said. "We're coming up short with them in one way or
Though they're likely to head down the Atlantic Coast without workhorse
running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who'd be missing an eighth straight game, the
Jaguars may be buoyed by the return of wide receiver Cecil Shorts, who had 20
catches for 368 yards in four games before missing last week's outing with a
Speaking of concussions, fullback Montell Owens figures to get the bulk of the
ball-carrying load again in place of Jones-Drew replacement Rashad Jennings,
who's not yet been cleared to play after suffering a head injury of his own.
Owens had 91 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries against the Jets.
Also in the backfield is quarterback Chad Henne, who returns to Miami for the
first time after spending four seasons with the Dolphins. Miami initially
acquired him with a second-round draft pick, but let him walk after last
season when they chose not to offer him a contract.
"I'm sure there's going to be emotions once we get there. Obviously I've got
to handle those emotions, but at the same time I'm just going to prepare like
it's a regular week," Henne said. "I want to prove that I belong here in
Jacksonville, not to anyone in Miami. I had my opportunity there, it is what
it is. I want to prove to this organization that I can get it done here."
Henne has started three times since an injury to starter Blaine Gabbert and
has used the time as an audition for a permanent starting role in 2013. He
defeated the Tennessee Titans, 24-19, in his initial outing on Nov. 25, but
has lost a pair against Buffalo and the Jets since, while completing 47.1
percent of his passes with one touchdown and three interceptions.
With first-round draft pick Ryan Tannehill now guiding the franchise from
under center, the Dolphins have skidded to five losses in six games while
falling out of the postseason chase for what's likely to be the 10th time in
11 seasons. Miami has been outscored by an average of 10 points in the slump
and has forced only one turnover in six games.
"I don't know exactly what the answer is," Tannehill said. "But we have to
make the plays that are there. You can't win in this league scoring as few
points as we are. It's frustrating."
The youngster completed 17 of 33 passes for 150 yards and one touchdown last
week in San Francisco, where the Dolphins were beaten, 27-13. His eight
touchdown passes are the fewest in the league for a passer with at least 250
"It's correctable," Miami coach Joe Philbin said. "There were some plays there
to be made on both sides of the ball that we didn't do. There were some
opportunities we didn't capitalize on."
The all-time series is tied at 2-2, though the Dolphins won the most recent
game in 2009 when Ricky Williams ran for 108 yards and a touchdown, and Henne
scored on a TD run of his own.
Mularkey is 3-1 against Miami, while Philbin has never faced the Jaguars.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The personnel may be drastically different from what Mularkey intended, but
the Jaguars nonetheless ran on the Jets to the tune of 5.1 yards per carry and
123 yards overall, which bumped their per-game season average to 82.2 yards.
The previously unknown Owens averaged 6.5 yards per carry and could be in for
more success against the Dolphins, who allowed 155 rush yards in their trip to
the West Coast to push their season mark to 102.1 yards per game -- still
ninth-best in the league.
Expect offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski to take the heat off a surely
emotional Henne and ride Owens for as far as he'll take them.
Seems like a while ago that the Dolphins were 4-3 and talking about a possible
playoff run, but even in a slumping state they've still got a larger pool of
talent than the visitors and ought to be motivated enough defensively to
tighten the screws on former teammate Henne. With that the case, Tannehill
probably does enough to outshine his predecessor, especially on home turf.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Dolphins 21, Jaguars 14
12/13 12:38:55 ET