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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars 2019 position group breakdown: Linebackers

Brandon Carroll

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Dec 23, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars middle linebacker Myles Jack (44) tackles Miami Dolphins wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

During the offseason, the Jaguars took some major hits to the linebacker position. From the unexpected announcement that Telvin Smith would be sitting out for the duration of the 2019 season, to the detrimental injuries of key players who looked to fill in during Smith’s absence. 

The Jaguars continue to look for a solidified starting unit to begin the season against Kansas City. One of the weakest positions in terms of depth on the Jacksonville team going into the offseason, players that were picked up via free agency in the offseason looking to take on a larger role than anticipated. 

While Miles Jack is a lock at middle linebacker, the players around him will vary. The rotation of outside linebackers will allow the Jaguars defense to use players’ strengths on certain downs. The goal is to maximize the potential of these players and work towards remaining one of the best defensive attacks in the league. 

Projected Depth Chart: 

WLB (Weak-side): Quincy Williams, Najee Goode 

MLB: Myles Jack, Joe Giles-Harris 

SLB (Strong-side): Leon Jacobs 

Myles Jack: 

Entering his fourth season out of UCLA, Jack has been put into a situation where he must lead the group of linebackers in Jacksonville. Jack is a shining young star among defensive talent in the league. 

Taken in the second round of the 2016 draft, Jack has proven to be the first-round talent whose stock fell due to a knee concern just before the draft festivities began that year. 

Over his career in Jacksonville, Jack has accounted for 221 tackles, five sacks, and two takeaways. Jack has the talent to be a dynamic middle linebacker in today’s league. Someone that looks to fly around the field and hit the ball carrier with bruising power. Jack is an efficient run-stopper who has shown he can make big tackles in the open field. 

Quincy Williams: 

Before being injured before the first preseason game, the rookie linebacker out of Murray State saw extensive action as a starter in Jaguars training camp and was praised for his performance. 

“When the ball is snapped, I think he might be the fastest player on our football field right now.” Marrone recently stated in an interview discussing what the team has seen from their third-round pick and what he has brought to the table thus far. 

Williams got off to a quick start for Jacksonville as he showed that despite his smaller frame, he was able to pursue the ball with great speed, acceleration and can lay hits on opposing players with the best of them. Along with his hard-hitting and speedy nature, he brings to the table, 

Williams is also someone that takes precise angles in tracking down a ball carrier to assure he makes the play. 

As he continues to grow under the mentorship of Myles Jack and the Jaguars staff, Williams has the possibility of being a key playmaker at weakside linebacker for years to come. 

Leon Jacobs: 

After the retirement of Paul Posluszny, Leon Jacobs was the next man up for the Jacksonville linebacker corps. With Myles Jack sliding over to middle linebacker, Jacobs was destined to take over the strong-side spot. But, after a disappointing showing he put on throughout the preseason and start of the regular season, the Jacksonville staff had to look in a different direction. 

Jacobs only started three games and had very minimal impact on the 12 games he played in. Recording only 16 tackles in that span. 

Going into his second year as a projected starter, Jacobs has more experience under his belt when it comes to how the game flows in the NFL. While he is still looking to mature in the way he plays the game, Jacobs is someone the Jaguars consider experienced in his role that is without a doubt capable of playing at a high level. 

Jacksonville doesn’t look for Jacobs to be a dominant playmaker on the defense side. All they ask of his is to make plays when needed and use his coverage skills against tight ends out in space. 

Najee Goode: 

Throughout the preseason, Najee Goode has seen extensive action for Jacksonville for a mixture of reasons. One is due to the Jaguars starting unit only playing in one of four preseason games in an attempt to avoid injury that derailed their season last year. Another reason being that Quincy Williams sustained an injury on the fourth day of training camp and needs six weeks to recover. 

Taking advantage of Williams’s injury has nearly solidified his spot on the roster as a backup.

After bouncing around the league since he was drafted in 2012, Goode has had the opportunity to learn multiple different approaches to playing defense. Bringing in a lot of knowledge to the Jaguars locker room to be a leader in the film room in diagnosing and countering play calls the opposing team may make. While his impact on the field may be minimal, his impact on the field is much larger for a young linebacker group. 

Goode has experience coming off the bench for a successful team making him a viable option for the Jaguars in case anyone goes down. Goode will be a rotational piece at weakside linebacker barring injury of any sort. 

Joe Giles-Harris: 

After an impressive preseason, Joe Giles-Harris is the last player to earn a spot on the Jacksonville Jaguars 53-man roster. The undrafted rookie out of Duke has shown the Jacksonville staff that he is focused on earning a spot on the team. 

While at Duke, Giles-Harris tallied 313 tackles, eight and a half sacks, 2 interceptions and one forced fumble. A player that was considered the number eight overall linebacker in the 2019 draft class has the talent to be a sleeper in making the Jacksonville roster especially with the lack of depth at the position. 

The 22-year-old from Nyack, New York has been battling with D.J. Alexander for the final spot on the linebacker group where they are neck and neck. With the mixture of veterans and inexperienced players on the linebacker unit, Jacksonville has the freedom to go either way with this one. 

The biggest thing Jacksonville will look at is the potential to develop these two players which will ultimately give Giles-Harris the upper hand. Being a rookie, he has more room for improvement and will continue to develop under the tutelage of Jaguars linebacker coach Mark Collins. Whereas Alexander has shown what his potential is, recording only 43 tackles in his four years in the NFL with three different teams. 

The fresh young talent of Giles-Harris who plays at the same level as the veteran Alexander will give him the nod to make the final roster cut going into the 2019 season. 

Players not making the team: 

While there are many talented linebackers on the Jaguars, not all can stay. Among those will be former Packer Jake Ryan, who is scheduled to be a seven million dollar cap hit next season and will ultimately be let go because of that. Others that will not make the team includes Ramik Wilson, D.J. Alexander, Connor Strachan, and David Tull. 

The Jaguars have had a rebuilding of sorts with the linebacker unit in the offseason. 

With Telvin Smith set to sit out for the 2019 season, Jacksonville hopes they have built a sustainable unit of linebackers to compliment Myles Jack and what they look to do in Todd Wash’s system. 

 If the unit can carry on the success seen at the position and sustain a strong front seven, Jacksonville’s defense will once again remain the top five in the National Football League. 

Brandon Carroll is a 19-year-old college student aspiring to be involved in sports media. He has been writing for Locked On Jaguars for about many months now and has published multiple articles during his time. His love for the game of football is apart of who he is as a person and he continues to showcase that love through writing.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars vs. Texans: Five observations, red zone issues remain

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) throws under pressure from the Houston Texans defensive line men during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn--USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) will be left with a lot to work on during their bye week. There was plenty to gather from the team’s 26-3 loss against the Houston Texans (6-3) in London.

1. Jaguars red-zone woes are still prevalent and have no fix in sight

In the red zone this season, the Jaguars have completed 34.5% (10/29) of their opportunities for touchdowns.  This ranks only better than the Cincinnati Bengals (33.33%) in the entire NFL.

While quarterback play is an issue in this area, the Jaguars have not made the most of their play-call opportunities either. The Jaguars entered the Houston Texans’ red zone only twice in 11 drives on Sunday.

During the two drives in the red zone, the Jaguars completed 0 passes and ran the ball one other time with Leonard Fournette for three yards. Simply not good enough.

Jaguars’ offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has spoken about the team’s ineffectiveness on red zone opportunities. “We moved the football well, but we need to do a better job in the red zone,” DeFilippo said on Thursday following the team’s week seven victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. “I need to do a better job of helping our guys get open. We need to do a better job executing and being more detailed and throwing the ball on time and all of those things. Again, all of that starts with me, and I will do a better job with that.”

Two weeks later and the team’s struggles have continued.

2. Gardner Minshew might take a backseat

Already discussed, the Jaguars might be in for a quarterback change coming out of their week 10 bye week. Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew struggled mightily in Sunday’s game, and head coach Doug Marrone will have a tough decision to make.

Although Minshew was playing with a sore right shoulder, he was able to practice in full all week leading up to their matchup at Wimbley. Regardless, the Jaguars will have to make a decision, and everything points to Nick Foles being the team’s starting quarterback against the Indianapolis Colts in week 11.

Now completely Minshew’s fault, his struggles in the red zone have been evident for the past several weeks. Foles — during the 2017 and 2018 seasons when he started for the Philidelphia Eagles — was efficient in the red zone, which could point to his maturity as a passer more than anything.

The Jaguars will want to see what they can get out of their veteran quarterback, and there is a reason to believe the Jaguars’ head coach is leaning in this direction. If Foles is not named the starting quarterback next Sunday, it is very likely the veteran will never start for this Jaguars team, at least not under the current staff.

3. Jaguars’ run-defense regressed

Without starting nickel corner D.J. Hayden and SAM linebacker Leon Jacobs, the Jaguars were forced to remain in their nickel package for much of the day. Rookie cornerback Breon Borders replaced Hayden in the starting lineup and while he was not the reason why the run defense suffered, not having a competent linebacker on the strong side of the ball impacted the team greatly.

Texans’ running back Carlos Hyde gashed the Jaguars’ defense 19 times for 160 yards during Sunday’s matchup. Part of the reason why the Jaguars were unable to stop the Texans’ running game late was the sheer amount of plays the Texans ran to begin the game.

In the first quarter, the Texans ran 20 total plays while the Jaguars offense was only able to produce nine total plays.

4. Jaguars cannot rely on penalties, but two changed the course of the game

While the Jaguars should not, and cannot rely on penalties, the team had two costly controversial calls in the third quarter of Sunday’s matchup.

With an opportunity to score, Minshew threw a beautiful back-shoulder pass to Jaguars’ receiver DJ Chark Jr. who was able to haul in the pass but was called for offensive pass interference. A few plays later the Jaguars would botch a field goal attempt and give the Texans the football at the 50-yard line.

Following the change of possession, Jaguars’ defensive end Calais Campbell was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Specifically, Campbell was called for lowering his head to initiate contact with a defenseless rusher. The Texans would net only a field goal on this drive, but it was a potential 10-point swing as Chark’s interference call was questionable, and Campbell did not even touch Watson on the play.

5. Keelan Cole shines in Dede Westbrook’s absence

Although the Jaguars clearly missed their 1B receiver in Dede Westbrook, rarely-utilized receiver Keelan Cole was able to step up to the plate and put on his best performance of the season, and possibly since 2017.

While it was not sensational, Cole hauled in five out of six of his targets for 80 yards on the day. The Jaguars could not get anything going down the field, however, Cole was able to get open on routine crossing routes.

In the coming weeks, look for Cole to have a bigger role in the Jaguars offense, especially with veteran receiver Chris Conley playing so up-and-down (2 receptions on 7 targets for 32 yards).

DeFilippo recently spoke about Cole and understands the third-year receiver may be frustrated with his snap count.

“I am proud of the way he stayed in it and even though he has not gotten the playing time,” DeFilippo said after the Jaguars victory over Bengals. “Everyone wants to play every snap. I’m sure he wants [more playing time]. He has done a great job staying in it.”

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Jaguars to make tough decision next week, Minshew Mania over for now

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) throws a pass in the first half against the Houston Texans during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) were embarrassed early Sunday morning via a 26-3 loss to the rival Houston Texans (6-3). Minshew-Mania may be over for now, but it won’t be the last time the rookie sensation starts for the team.

To put it simply, rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew did not play well at all yesterday. Completing 27/47 (57%) of his passes for 309 yards, two interceptions, and two fumbles lost, Minshew looked lost during the second half of the game on Sunday.

Minshew has been everything the team could have hoped for — and much more — out of a sixth-round quarterback, but between what transpired yesterday, and a few of his past performances — against winning teams –, the Jaguars will likely see what they can get out of veteran quarterback Nick Foles.

For three quarters, Minshew looked okay. While there was plenty that went wrong, the rookie was able to make key throws, during key situations. One play, in particular, stands out. With a little over five minutes left in the second quarter, the Jaguars could not seem to get anything going before Minshew scrambles around and eventually finds a wide-open Ryquell Armstead in the middle of the field. Armstead would take the ball 31 yards and set the team up for their only points of the game.

Minshew’s ability to improvise has been his bread and butter this season, and although he was not able to work his magic often against the Texans, these were the types of plays that gave pause in the Minshew/Foles debate.

During the fourth quarter, the Jaguars and Minshew were forced to take more shots downfield in a sort of desperation move while trailing 19-3. Although playcalling can certainly be questioned, the decision making of the Jaguars’ rookie quarterback was equally perplexing. Throwing two interceptions and losing two fumbles, Minshew had no chance at making a little magic to lead the team to another come-from-behind victory.

Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone will be forced to make a decision on his quarterback, but not right now. After the game, Marrone indicated he will wait until the Sunday before the team returns from their week 10 bye week to talk to both quarterbacks.

“I think after those 48 hours are over, I’m going to step away a little bit, take a break because I don’t have to make a decision and have time,” Marrone said shortly after the game when asked about making the quarterback decision. “That’s what I’m going to talk to the quarterbacks about, and then I’ll tell them probably right before we come back on Sunday, we’ll be able to discuss where we’re going to go. That’s pretty much my plan.”

While Minshew did not have a great game yesterday, the decision will be made on more than just one game, Marrone said.

The Jaguars’ head coach is stuck with an incredibly tough decision. At 4-5, the team needs a spark. The Jaguars need to win down the stretch and having to rely on a rookie — still going through ups and downs — is exhausting. While Foles may not be “the answer”, he is the only other option at this moment, and the Jaguars absolutely believe in the veteran.

Although this may be the end of Minshew starting in Jacksonville this season, his achievements — 188/307 (61%) completions for 2,285 yards, 13 touchdowns, and four interceptions — should not go unnoticed. The team absolutely still believes in the rookie quarterback, and he has a golden opportunity — if not this season — next year to prove everyone wrong.

One of the best, most fun performances out of a Jaguars’ quarterback over the first half of the season ever, is nothing to get upset about. Minshew provided spectators with Minshew-Mania, Minshew-Magic, and any other Minshew-ism one can think of.

For now, it is very likely Foles will make his Jaguars’ debut once again after breaking his left clavicle during the opening game of the season. In 11 plays this season Foles completed five out of eight of his passes for 75 yards and a touchdown.

It may be over for now, but this is just the beginning, and having the problem of deciding between a former Superbowl MVP and a rookie sensation at quarterback is a good thing. Depending on how Foles plays — if he is to be named the starter next Sunday –, Minshew could get yet another opportunity as the Jaguars progress from their 4-5 record.

Bonus clip:

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Jaguars fail to seize opportunity in London, falling 26-3 to Houston Texans

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) rushes for a first down during the first half of the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn--USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) fell to Houston Texans (6-3) in a disappointing pre-bye week game in London, England. The Jaguars absolutely did not have home-field advantage on the day. 

The Jaguars took to their annual London voyage with a lot of optimism, however, all of that optimism was quickly quieted by the Houston Texans (6-3) as they were able to bottle up Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars, holding the team to just three points on the day.  The Texans would win 26-3 and kill any chances the Jaguars may have had at earning the division title in a few weeks.

To begin the game, the Jaguars opted to start out on defense with the Texans struggling early on in games this season. Holding the Texans to just three points to start the game, the Jaguars defense showed up big, especially as Jaguars’ cornerback A.J. Bouye shadowed Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins who finished with just eight receptions for 48 yards. The Jaguars seemed to find a groove early on during the first half of the game, but their inability to score in the red zone reared it’s head yet again.

In what is likely his last game starting for the Jaguars this season — at least for now — Jaguars’ rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew completed just 27 out of 47 of his passes for 309 yards and two interceptions. Minshew also fumbled the football two times near the end of the game, which would ultimately end it at Wembley stadium.

While the Jaguars defense played well early on, they stood no chance against Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson who completed 22 out of 28 of his passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Extremely elusive, Watson was able to escape from the Jaguars pass rushers all day long. The Texans effectively ended any chance of the Jaguars coming back after Watson completed a long throw to Hopkins for 21 yards to the Jaguars’ one-yard line. The Texans would score on a one-yard run by Duke Johnson putting the team up 19-3 late in the third quarter.

All four of Minshew’s turnovers would come in the fourth quarter as the Jaguars attempted to climb back in the game. Missing their second-most targetted wide receiver in Dede Westbrook, the Jaguars and Minshew couldn’t seem to get anything going in the passing game.

The Jaguars’ run game was equally disappointing today as running back Leonard Fournette could only edge out 40 yards on 11 rushes.

Perhaps the best play of the game by the Jaguars’ defense, near the end of the game Texans’ running back Carlos Hyde sprinted free and was looking to go into the endzone when Jaguars’ safety Jarrod Wilson showed incredible hustle to force a fumble at the last second, turning the ball over to the Jaguars’ offense.

The good fortune wouldn’t last long, however, as Minshew would go on to throw his final interception of the game to completely seal the game for the Texans offense.

The Jaguars’ offense simply did not get anything going today, similar to their game against the New Orleans Saints in week six earlier this year. Minshew was sacked only four times on the day as the Texans did not want him to escape the pocket.

The team will have a very tough decision to make during their week 10 bye week. Ultimately, the team will need to decide between veteran quarterback Nick Foles or the rookie quarterback in Minshew.

Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone will be making the decision, and after falling 26-3 today largely due to the play of the team’s quarterback, it may be a no-brainer.

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