Published December 14, 2012
| 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 another."
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 concussion.
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 attempts.
"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