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Jags bench CB House, replace him with Gratz

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In the wake of a 31-20 loss to the Houston Texans last Sunday that dropped the Jaguars to 1-5, Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley talked Monday about the players having more accountability.

On Wednesday, he showed he was serious about it.

Although he is often viewed as an upbeat players’ coach, Bradley showed he can put the hammer down.

He benched Davon House after the cornerback struggled covering Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the fourth quarter Sunday.

House was told before practice that he would be switched to nickel back against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, and Dwayne Gratz was told that he will start at cornerback for House. The game will be played in London.

Bradley telegraphed that a move at cornerback could be coming when he said Monday of House’s matchup with Hopkins, “I thought the first three quarters (for House) were pretty good, but it’s the whole game. You’ve got to play the whole game.”

Bradley is, in effect, raising the bar for the team. Playing well part of the time isn’t good enough.

“In the secondary, if a guy gets behind you, there’s no excuse,” Bradley said Monday. “If you lose your eyes, there’s no excuse. You have to be able to do those things, that’s part of being in the league. It’s playing that complete game.”

He also said to hold players accountable, he has to find out what they value.

“If that requires some guys not playing, if playing time is what they value, then it’s playing time,” he said.

And now House’s playing time will be cut against Buffalo.

Last week, House, who participated on 71 snaps, and Aaron Colvin, who played all 72 defensive snaps, were the starting corners, and Gratz, who played 42 snaps, was the nickel back. Now the Gratz and House snap totals likely will be flipped.

House had the job of shadowing Hopkins one-on-one Sunday and held him in check for three quarters.

However, Hopkins caught touchdown passes of 9 and 26 yards in the fourth quarter. Hopkins also had a 29-yard catch on a play when House was called for holding in the fourth, but the Texans declined the penalty. In addition, Hopkins caught a 13-yarder in the fourth period.

Hopkins wound up being targeted 15 times, and he caught 10 passes for 148 yards.

House called the demotion a “big-time disappointment” but said he would work to “continue to get better and continue to excel.”

House said that “nothing is set in stone,” a sign that the Jaguars will give him a chance to win his starting job back.

Saying that he likes the challenge of covering a receiver like Hopkins, he added, “That’s what I get paid to do.”

Bradley didn’t want to elaborate on the comments he made Monday about accountability except to say that House and Gratz will be competing.

Gratz also said that he and Colvin will play a side of the field as the starting corners and won’t shadow a single receiver. House will cover the slot receiver as the nickel back.

If the Bills open with three wide receivers, all three Jaguars corners could wind up starting. If Buffalo opens with a base package of two receivers, House will be on the sidelines until the Bills go to a three-receiver package.

House is still getting accustomed to playing complete games because he was a part-time player in his first four years with the Green Bay Packers, starting only 14 of 40 games.

Still, the Jaguars had enough confidence in the player who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 draft out of New Mexico State to give him a four-year, $24.5 million free agent deal with $10 million guaranteed.

He has started every game and played well enough in the first four that the Jaguars had him shadow Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans in the fifth game.

House gave up only three passes for 41 yards to Evans although Evans was only targeted five times as the Bucs concentrated on the run and quarterback Jameis Winston passed only 19 times.

Then the Jaguars put him on Hopkins, who finally burned him in the fourth quarter.

The Bills may not have either starting receiver Sunday. Percy Harvin didn’t make the trip to London because of personal issues, and Sammy Watkins sprained an ankle making a touchdown catch against the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday and didn’t play in the second half. He didn’t practice Wednesday.

Backups Robert Woods, who has 17 catches, and Chris Hogan, who has 14 catches, could be starting against the Jaguars. The Bills’ leading receiver is tight end Charles Clay, who has 31 catches.

Gratz, who started 13 of 15 games as a rookie, said he views the chance to start as an opportunity.

The signing of House and emergence of Colvin cost Gratz a starting job, but now the third-year man is getting another chance.

“They told me today (that I am starting),” Gratz said. “I’ve been working very hard for this opportunity. I’m trying to take advantage of it.”

SERIES HISTORY: 13th meeting. Bills lead series, 7-5. The Bills won the last meeting in Jacksonville, 27-20, in 2013. However, the Jaguars won the only playoff meeting between the teams, beating the Bills 30-27 in 1996. In the last meeting in 2013, Buffalo’s EJ Manuel passed for 193 yards and two touchdowns and an interception to trump Jacksonville’s Chad Henne, who passed for 237 yards and two touchdowns an interception. Manuel threw a 1-yard touchdown pass with 9:35 left in the game to break a 20-20 tie, and the Bills blanked the Jaguars the rest of the way.


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