The Jacksonville Jaguars kick off their 2018 training camp today. Football is finally here!
The team looks to repeat as AFC South Champions, and build off of their 2017 campaign that saw them advance to the AFC Championship game, just short of the Super Bowl. With 10 starters returning to their best-in-the-league defense and an offense that looks to grow on it’s impressive run game from last year, the Jaguars should like their odds at, at least, making the playoffs again this year.
With that being said, it all starts in training camp. Eight practices will be open to the public, and you can obtain tickets to the practices here.
Training camp has fans giddy, and out of excitement for the return of football, here are three bold predictions for Jaguars training camp.
1. An undrafted free agent will win a four-way roster spot battle
Position battles for the Jaguars this year aren’t going to be like what they were in the past. For years, fans have observed camp battles for starting positions across the board as the team was building.
Now, the starting position battles are minimal. The easy assumption is that the right guard and SAM linebacker positions are up for grabs, but other than that, depth spots are the headlining position battles. The sixth receiver spot will be one of the more intriguing battles to watch, between Rashad Greene, Jaydon Mickens, Shane Wynn, and Allen Lazard.
Greene, Mickens, and Wynn are likely slot receivers at best, as the receiver room is filled with varying talents that can occupy the outside. What gives these three receivers a better shot at the roster is their ability to return punts, as they all have experience doing so for the Jaguars.
Lazard faces quite the hike to make the final roster, as he went undrafted this year and is competing for the sixth receiver spot with those three veteran receivers. However, his skillset and intangibles set him apart from Greene, Mickens, and Wynn. He stands at nearly 6-5, 227 lbs, with a 38 inch vertical jump and over 32 inch arms.
Lazard hauled in 26 touchdowns during his career at Iowa State, and he was frequently targeted in the redzone and specialized at coming down with contested catches. The Jaguars’ don’t currently have a receiver on the roster quite like Lazard who offers this skillset, and considering QB Blake Bortles thrives in the redzone (36 TDS and only two interceptions over the past two years), he could utilize a weapon like Lazard moreso than another slot receiver in Greene, Mickens, and Wynn.
Marqise Lee, D.J. Chark, and Dede Westbrook have two things in common: They’re all locks to make the roster, and they can all return punts. Given these factors, Greene, Mickens, and Wynn can become expendable if Lazard has an impressive camp.
I’ll have my eyes on redzone drills at camp for Allen Lazard, where I expect him to shine. If he can do so, he should have the upper-hand at the sixth receiver job and make the team despite being an undrafted free agent, a la Keelan Cole last year.
2. Blake Bortles will have less than five interceptions in team drills during the entirety of training camp, a year removed from a dramatic five-interception practice
Is this prediction silly? Sure. Is it bold, considering Bortles has to face arguably the best defense in the NFL every day in practice? Absolutely.
Is it possible? I’d say absolutely to that as well.
Blake Bortles had a solid 2017 season, where he improved his decision making and cut down on turnovers, throwing only 13 interceptions on 523 passing attempts. An improved running game and a simpler, West Coast style passing scheme can be thanked for the quarterback’s improvement, and as he enters his second season in the scheme, we can expect consistency and further improvement in his decision making.
Last year’s camp was highlighted by Bortles’ up-and-down performances. One day, he’d make impressove throws left and right, while being smart with the football. The next day, he’d be inaccurate and turnover-prone, most notably throwing five interceptions in one practice.
This year, Bortles needs to take control and be consistent during camp, continuing to limit mistakes and grow in a simpler passing system. Considering his comfort level as seen by his growth last year and chemistry within the offense, the idea that he could keep his interception count to five or fewer during the eight practices of training camp sounds much less crazy than it does without context.
3. The SAM linebacker starter will be chosen late in the preseason
The strong-side (SAM) linebacker position is one of the two apparent starting jobs up for grabs during Jaguars’ training camp, with the other being right guard.
While it will be a fun battle to keep an eye on, it’s a much less important battle than right guard in terms of position value. The Jaguars are primarily a nickel defense, with the SAM linebacker on the field for roughly 30-40% of the defensive snaps.
When on the field, the SAM linebacker’s main responsibilities include setting the edge against the run and putting pressure on the QB in passing situtions, as the 4-3 under scheme the Jaguars’ run in base formations has the SAM roam near the line of scrimmage.
Second-year linebackers Blair Brown and Donald Payne, as well as rookie Leon Jacobs, are all competing for the job. Brown, who the team selected in the fifth round last year, saw playing time in 2017 at weak-side (WILL) and middle (MIKE) linebacker last year, where he accumulated 15 tackles and half a sack. He was a natural run defender at the University of Ohio, clogging holes and chasing backs down in the run game often.
Payne was mainly a special teamer for the Jaguars last year, where he recorded 13 tackles. However, he stepped up during OTAs this year while Myles Jack was sidelined with an injury, and manned the first-team middle linebacker role, per Mike Kaye of First Coast News. He is still growing as a linebcker, as he originally played safety in college.
Jacobs is a true athlete who will be a project at the position. Standing at nearly 6-2, 246 lbs, Jacobs ran a 4.48 40 yard dash, a 7.14 3 cone, and recorded a 122 inch broad jump. In five years at Wisconsin, Jacobs tallied 6.5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, three interceptions and a forced fumble. His intangibles are intriguing enough to warrant a place in this position battle.
Considering all three players battling for the SAM linebacker job are relatively unproven, I wouldn’t expect the coaching staff to rush on picking a starter, and rather let each player prove themselves as training camp and the preseason goes on. I’d put my money on Brown to win the job, as I believe he’s the most natural fit at the position, but I wouldn’t shocked if Payne or Jacobs earn themselves the gig with a strong preseason.
Life after former Jaguars superstar cornerback Jalen Ramsey
The trade many expected to happen, did happen, and possibly sooner than anticipated. Now, with Jalen Ramsey off of the team, what’s next for the Jaguars in 2019 and beyond?
All good things must come to an end. At least that is what the majority of Jaguars fans will tell themselves after the team shipped off one of their most prized possessions on a late Tuesday evening.
The Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4) traded Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams (3-3) yesterday for a significant haul. Compensation the Jaguars were ultimately pining for from the very beginning. After reportedly turning down numerous deals for the star cornerback, the team finally gave in after Ramsey was declared a no-go this past Sunday following a meeting with Jaguars owner Shad Kahn. Khan told ‘The Street’, he expected the All-Pro cornerback to suit up against the Saints.
Ramsey had already missed the previous two weeks due to a back injury, which the star cornerback spoke about on Nate Burleson’s 17 Weeks podcast. Ramsey had not practiced with the team until last week and was seen during the portion of practice open to the media as simply going through the motions in individual drills.
If the Jaguars were going to trade Ramsey, it was always going to be for a steep price. The Jaguars had no intention of sending Ramsey off for — frankly — disrespectful offers or compensation. The team held tight until Tuesday when the Los Angeles Rams offered compensation the team simply could not refuse.
Earlier in the day, the Rams traded up-and-down cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens (4-2) for a 2020 fifth-round pick and linebacker Kenny Young. This sparked speculation of Ramsey eventually being the next cornerback to be traded, and at 7:43 P.M. it was reported by multiple outlets that Ramsey would indeed be traded to the Los Angeles Rams.
Ramsey had always been an outspoken, potentially problematic football player during his time in the NFL, however, after a conflict between himself and head coach Doug Marrone, combined by a reported conflict between himself and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin, the dam was finally broken.
After three years at performing as arguably a top-three defensive player in the NFL, the relationship was completely severed. This would be the end of a consistent toxic-relationship between Ramsey and the Jaguars, which is well documented here by ESPN’s Michael DiRocco.
Life After Jalen Ramsey
So where do the Jaguars go from here?
After acquiring two first-round picks — one in each of the next two drafts — and a 2021 fourth-round pick, the Jaguars have plenty of ammunition to supplant their already talented roster with an influx of young, and talented players over the next two seasons.
The core of the Jaguars roster stems from young (25 years or younger), talented players at nearly all levels of football both offensively and defensively. Although the team is currently sitting at 2-4, there is plenty to be optimistic about moving forward.
Starting with defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue (24 years old) and Josh Allen (21), the Jaguars have a couple of core pieces on the defensive side of the ball which could potentially make up for the loss of a star cornerback. Although there is no replacing a generational talent such as Ramsey, having pass rushers that will impact the quarterback will always take precedence.
Jaguars’ wide receivers DJ Chark Jr. (23) and Dede Westbrook (25), along with running back Leonard Fournette (24), and linebacker Myles Jack (24) have already shown how talented they are or could be in the very near future. These players represent the potential “star” level core players of the team as it stands right now.
Players such as offensive tackles Cam Robinson (24) and Jawaan Taylor (21), defensive end Dawuane Smoot (24), safety Ronnie Harrison (22), and potentially right guard Will Richardson (23) all-round out a young group of players who will impact the team’s decision making over the next couple of years at least. While these players have not performed at the level the aforementioned group has, they have the potential to become something special in Jacksonville.
There are also several young, and talented players such as linebacker Quincy Williams (23), and the remainder of the Jaguars past couple of draft classes who have not proven themselves on the field, but have the potential to do so in the next couple of years.
More recently, sixth-round quarterback Garnder Minshew has proven to — at the very least — be a capable replacement-level starter for the team over the course of the season while veteran quarterback Nick Foles recovers from a broken collarbone. It remains to be seen whether or not Minshew will evolve into the team’s franchise quarterback, but his play — during the first five games of the season — illustrates the potential.
The Jaguars have posted a 1-2 record without Ramsey, and while he absolutely would help the team right now, and moving forward, the team’s issues have not been only due to his absence. There is no point of playing revisionist history right now, Ramsey was probably the team’s best player, period. But, the team’s issues are certainly not simply in the secondary.
The Jaguars lost to the Saints last week 6-13 after a complete offensive failure due to the Saints’ ferocious defensive gameplan. They lost to the Panthers a week prior due much more to the Jaguars’ defensive front seven players than secondary after Chrisitan McCaffrey ran for 185 yards.
Replacing Ramsey at the moment is second-year cornerback Tre Herndon. According to Pro Football Focus, Herndon has allowed 15 receptions for 232 yards and two touchdowns. However, in the last two games, the young corner has allowed only six receptions for 72 yards and zero touchdowns.
The Jaguars’ season has not ended simply because Ramsey is no longer on the team. There is still hope for a great finish — especially with their talent on both sides of the ball –, and it will start this Sunday when the Jaguars travel to Cincinnati to face the 0-6 Bengals.
Bright Future Ahead
Along with the players mentioned above, the Jaguars now have enough ammunition to make waves during the next two draft classes. Although they have plenty of pieces to move forward, there are still voids on the team which need to be filled — soon.
There is no need to take a deep dive into the next NFL draft, however considering the compensation the Jaguars were awarded by trading Ramsey, there is enough reason to at least take a peak.
With the Rams currently sitting at a 3-3 record, their first-round pick from this season would be around 15th overall. This is due to change, but with their struggles on offense, and a tough schedule, it should bode well for the home team.
During the next draft, the Jaguars will almost assuredly take a look at the cornerback position, one name which will stand out is Florida star cornerback C.J. Henderson. Henderson is thought of by most draft pundits to be a top-five cornerback in this class.
While no one can reasonably replace Ramsey — especially not right away –, having star power at all levels of the defense is still a priority.
Draft flexibility is a must in today’s NFL, and the more darts you have to shoot at the board, the better. The Jaguars will enter the next two seasons with 18 total draft selections (nine in each year), which includes two first-round picks in 2020, two in 2021 and extra picks along the way in the later rounds.
Considering the Jaguars’ situation at quarterback, the team has done a fantastic job of balancing their movement in the draft with the movement of the team. By 2021, the Jaguars will know whether or not Minshew is the answer, and will have a reasonable opportunity to move on from a would-be 32-year-old quarterback in Foles.
With two first-round picks in 2021, the Jaguars can maneuver their way up the draft to select a quarterback if need be.
While the immediate future may look grim, ultimately, trading Ramsey could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The Jaguars will almost assuredly find out over the next several weeks as their season is on the line heading into their week nine bye.
REPORT: Jaguars trade CB Jalen Ramsey to Los Angeles Rams
After weeks of speculation and intrigue, the Jaguars have finally solved the long-standing feud with cornerback Jalen Ramsey
The Jaguars have officially traded cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams. The compensation? Two first-round picks (2020,2021) and a fourth-round pick (2021). After a tumultuous few weeks, the long-awaited trade has finally happened.
Many speculated the Jaguars may hold onto the star cornerback beyond this season to maximize their potential compensation, but it only took one desperate team willing to part away with what the Jaguars felt he was worth to ultimately get the deal done.
The Jaguars cornerback had not participated with the team in several weeks due to an on-going back injury. Ramsey became malcontent following a reported dispute between himself and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin after the Jaguars played the Houston Texans in week two.
After the reported discussion, Ramsey requested a trade via his agent and would go on to play one more game for the Jaguars.
“Some disrespectful things were said on their (Jacksonville Jaguars) end that made me definitely walk out and call my agent. As soon as I walked out,” Ramsey said on the 17 weeks podcast shortly before the team’s week three matchup against the Tennessee Titans. “I told him, ‘its time. my time is up here in Jacksonville.’ I said, ‘I wanna ask for a trade’.” The Pro Bowl corner says he was truly at peace when he made the decision. “I was completely calm.”
Now, a little over a month later, the Jaguars have made good on his request and have ended their toxic relationship with the star cornerback by sending him to Los Angeles.
Drafted fifth overall in 2016, Ramsey accounted for 182 total tackles, 45 passes defended and nine interceptions. Ramsey joins former 2014 and 2015 first-round picks Blake Bortles and Dante Fowler Jr., in LA.
The Jaguars have long-wanted at least two first-round picks for the star corner, and get their wish. Ramsey met with Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan last week and had a “heart-to-heart” which ended with Khan believing the All-Pro player would be suiting up last weekend.
The Jaguars later confirmed the trade and now have 18 picks, including four first-round selections, over the next two drafts. The Jaguars will now have plenty of ammo to surround their extremely talented young core of players in Jawan Taylor, Ronnie Harrison, Myles Jack, Yannick Ngakoue, Josh Allen, DJ Chark Jr., and potentially quarterback Gardner Minshew moving forward.
In the meantime, the Jaguars will likely continue with second-year cornerback Tre Herndon as they have for the past three weeks. Herndon has had an up-and-down three starts with the Jaguars, however, he has shown potential to — at the very least — be a capable starter opposite of A.J. Bouye.
The Jaguars now have 18 picks, including four first-round selections, over the next two drafts.
— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) October 16, 2019
Jacksonville Jaguars: Three crucial adjustments needed before bye week
An up-and-down start to the season for the Jaguars seems to be on a downward slope as Jacksonville loses another tough matchup for after struggling offensively in Sunday’s game against the Saints.
Following that loss, the Jaguars continue to be sucked into the abyss that is being below .500 at this point in the season.
With a 2-4 record, many believe that it is just the beginning of another disappointing season that will cause turmoil within the supporters of the team and players.
That is far from the case according to defensive end Calais Campbell. In a post-game interview following the Jaguars fourth loss of the season Campbell says “You’ll be foolish to doubt the heart of this team, this team has a lot of heart. We’re gonna keep it together…and we’re gonna find a way to be a really good team this year.”
A promising statement from a leader of the Jaguars. But — as the saying goes –, actions speak louder than words.
The Jaguars will start a stretch of games that are rather favorable for them to get back on track going into the bye week and could put them in a position to make a late-season playoff run.
As the Jaguars gear up to take on the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, and Houston Texans over the next three weeks, there are three essential adjustments to make in each of those games to go into the bye week with a winning record.
Three crucial adjustments for the Jaguars to make before the bye week:
1.) Limit penalties
With only two penalties accepted in week six, the Jaguars must continue to limit unnecessary penalties that shoot themselves in the foot. As we have learned thus far in the season, the Jaguars are not a good enough team to overcome an abundance of penalties.
With questions surrounding multiple parts of the team —including the linebacker and offensive line positions— the Jaguars do not have the luxury that some teams around the NFL do to overcome penalties with talent.
To this point, the Jaguars rank in the bottom half of the league with nearly 63 penalty yards averaged per game. With football being a game of inches, it is essential to execute cleanly to be successful in the NFL.
In the fourth quarter against the Saints, we saw a first-down run of 14 yards by Leonard Fournette subsequently negated due to a hold that backed the Jaguars up eight yards into a 1st and 18 on the Jaguars 44 instead of a first down in plus territory.
Just three plays later, Jacksonville was stopped on fourth-and-short and set up the Saints with the opportunity to close out the game.
The inability to get out of their own way all season has created an inability to win in close games. If the Jaguars can somehow find a way to limit the number of penalty flags thrown, they have a much better chance to “win games now” as Myles Jack would say.
2.) Find consistency on the offensive line.
The Jaguars have struggled all year on the offensive line. The plugging and playing of multiple different players and the continuous rotation at the guard right guard position have resulted in lackluster develop for the group.
They have been unable to establish a consistent push and protection and it has ultimately resulted in tallies in the loss column.
While every game has not been 100% on the offensive line, the struggling front five have not done much to ensure victory for the Jaguars.
The lack of holes being opened in the run game paired with the collapsing of the pocket when their quarterback drops back to pass will plague any team’s ability to win games.
For most of the year, the Jaguars have been able to hide the fact that their offensive line is subpar — for the most part — due to Gardner Minshew’s uncanny ability to escape the pocket and make plays on the run.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) September 29, 2019
But, in week six against the Saints, the offensive line was exposed for the weakness that it really is. The Saints brought pressure on Minshew but confined him to the pocket and didn’t allow him to make the plays he had been making throughout the majority of the young season.
A formula that many teams will begin to use as the season goes on. A containment pass rush to keep the star rookie quarterback in the pocket is going to be the trend as the well-oiled machine that had been running for the Jaguars throughout the first few weeks was shut down by Cam Jordan and company.
This new way to limit Minshew’s playmaking ability will be a call to action for the lackluster offensive line. One of the only teams in the league that continuously rotates players at the right guard position, with Will Richardson and A.J. Cann, will need to solidify that spot in order to gain chemistry within the offensive line.
Regardless of who is put in that spot permanently, there is very little chance it results in worse production that is currently being put out.
3.) Have the offense and defense show up in the same game.
Both sides of the ball have failed to show up for the Jaguars in five out of their first six games of the season. The number of times one side of the ball has shown up, but not the other, this season is problematic.
So far this season, the Jaguars have been unable for the offense and defense to put together consecutive games of competent play at the same time.
In weeks two, three, and six, the Jaguars’ defense decided it was their time to play. Allowing a maximum of thirteen points in those games. They went 1-2 over that stretch.
On the other hand, in weeks one, three, four, and five, the Jaguars’ offense showed up and produced yardage in a big way. They were able to go 2-2 in those games.
The team is on the cusp of winning close matchups, three of their four losses have come by seven points or less. If the Jaguars can figure out how to get both sides of the ball to play effectively down the stretch of the season at the same time, they can definitely find a way to come out victorious.
Jacksonville looks to take on the rest of the season with an iron fist. They have the ability to control their own destiny but it will be up to them whether they want to squander the opportunity at hand, or seize the moment and take the rest of the NFL by surprise.
Climbing the ladder to a playoff appearance will be no easy feat, especially as a 2-4 team. But if Jacksonville is able to execute to the best of its abilities and make the three crucial adjustments needed for success, the weak AFC conference could feature a Jaguars team within its playoff.
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