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Could the Jaguars Repeat Their Own History In Pittsburgh?

Christopher Thornton

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Oct 8, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) dives over the line for a two yard touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars have a chance on Sunday to do something only they have done before…

Beat Pittsburgh, in Pittsburgh, twice in one season.

For many, all other 30 teams to be exact, the feat has never been done, winning twice at Heinz Field in the same season. Only the Jaguars have done it, all the way back in 2007, and they have chance to do it again.

On October 8th, 2017, the 2-2 Jacksonville Jaguars walked into Heinz field with a sense of uncertainty. Following an embarrassing loss in overtime to the New York Jets the week before, Jaguars fans and most of the nation had no clue what to expect of this team. “Are they good, or are they lucky?” The Jaguars had shown the nation (and the world, after beating the Ravens in London) both sides of the team in the first four weeks of the season.

They opened the 2017-18 season with a bang, walking into Houston and dismantling the Texans, forcing rookie sensation Deshaun Watson to make his NFL debut earlier than planned. The following week, the Jaguars had their home debut, in which they were anything but good, falling to the Tennessee Titans by a score of 37-16 (garbage time helped the Jaguars look a little competent on the box score). This was the first time that fans had asked themselves: “Was Week 1 a fluke or did we just have a bad game?”.

The Jaguars flew across the pond in Week 3 and took care of business against the Baltimore Ravens, beating them by a score of 44-7. The team had picked up steam and as fast as it was there, it was gone by the time the 23-20 OT loss to the Jets had ended. How could this team go into Pittsburgh and beat the 3-1 Steelers?

Then, on the 8th day of October, the Jaguars arrived into Heinz Field — and they did not disappoint. Following a slow start by both teams, entering half time by a score of 7-6 favoring the Jaguars, the real Jaguars showed up in the second half.

Oct 8, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) makes an interception of a pass intended for Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald (89) in the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 8, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) makes an interception of a pass intended for Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald (89) in the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Following a field goal by Steelers kicker Chris Boswell, the Jaguars defense began to make some noise. Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith and safety Barry Church both recorded pick 6’s on Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. To seal the game with 1:29 left in the 4th quarter, rookie running back Leonard Fournette broke off the longest run of the season across the entire NFL, scampering 90 yards to cap off a 181 yard performance.

Now, why exactly does any of this matter? In the NFL, they say “Any given Sunday”, which is true. However the cards seem to be stacked against the Jaguars and it really shouldn’t be the case. The Jaguars have not gotten worse since the Steelers game, they’ve in fact gotten stronger. Since that game, the Jaguars have made some key roster moves:

  • Traded for run stopping DT Marcell Dareus,  who has helped in improving the team’s run defense from ranking 32nd in the NFL to 21st since Week 9
  • Cut K Jason Myers and replaced him with Josh Lambo, who has gone 19/20 on field goals since his signing — In other words, he’s been phenomenal
  • Activated rookie WR Dede Westbrook, and discovered the talents of undrafted rookie WRs Keelan Cole and Jaydon Mickens

The Jaguars had no problem stopping Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell the first time, holding him to 47 rushing yards as well as only 46 receiving yards. The addition of Marcell Dareus should make it that much harder for Bell to get yards on the ground, which means The Steelers might have to win the game through the air.

That is not going to be easy by any means. Jacksonville boasts what many deem as the “Best Cornerback Tandem In The NFL” and they’re not wrong. All-Pro cornerbacks A.J Bouye and Jalen Ramsey have made opposing quarterbacks lives miserable for much of the season. The last time these two teams squared off, The Jaguars ferocious defense intercepted Ben Roethlisberger five times, which then led to some talk of Roethlisberger possibly contemplating retirement.

If the Jaguars defense can replicate what they did just three months ago, the game with fall on the shoulders of QB Blake Bortles, and more importantly, the shoulders of 4th overall pick RB Leonard Fournette. Fournette has been stagnant as of late, averaging 3,18 yards per carry since the start of November. His production is going to have to spike this week if the Jaguars want to see themselves in the AFC Championship game.

Blake Bortles and Co. face a weaker Steelers defense this time around however. The Steelers lost star LB Ryan Shazier to a devastating neck injury and that leaves a big hole right in the middle of the Steelers defense. With Pittsburgh possibly losing DE Stephon Tuitt for this game as well, two major defensive pieces of the Steelers defense could be missing, potentially tipping the proverbial scale even more in Jacksonville’s favor.

The key matchup will be Steelers WRs Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Jaguars CBs Jalen Ramsey and A.J Bouye. If Ramsey and Bouye can lock down Brown and Smith-Schuster and allow “Sacksonville” to get to Big Ben, I strongly believe the Jaguars’ can pull off their second upset in Pittsburgh of the season, thus repeating history.

To always stay up to date with Locked On Jaguars news and more, Follow myself on Twitter, as well as my co-host Zach Goodall and the official Locked On Jaguars handle.

Christopher Thornton Is the Co-host for Locked On Jaguars. Christopher lives in Jacksonville and is currently a season ticket holder for the Jacksonville Jaguars. You can find me on Twitter (@Mistochristopho) and contact me at [email protected]

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue has plenty of leverage, wont use it

Demetrius Harvey

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Jul 26, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) runs a protection route during training camp at the Dream Finder Homes practice facility outside of TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

As the Jaguars began voluntary OTAs today there was at least one major storyline. Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue was present at practice today and plans to be present for the entire offseason. With Ngakoue ready for a new contract, many speculated he would be holding out until the contract is signed. That is not the case and Ngakoue stated today at his media presser, “I don’t have to be here, but I chose to be here.”

Showing up for voluntary OTAs is significant as it is typically a time when a player up for a contract would be almost expected to sit out due to the risk of injury. Jalen Ramsey, for example, works out in Nashville where he is most comfortable. Although he would be in Nashville regardless of contract, it is still an incentive to stay away for now.

“Just trying to build some team camaraderie, being a leader — that’s the main reason I came back” Ngakoue stated when asked why he was back for voluntary OTAs. Ngakoue taking more of a leadership role this offseason is already off to a roaring start. Showing up and leading by example for young players such as Josh Allen, Taven Bryan, etc, will pay dividends for the Jaguars future.

Earlier this offseason two players — Frank Clark and Demarcus Lawrence — earned contracts of upwards to $100M and Ngakoue is prepared to accept the same. Although he will ultimately let his agent perform the heavy lifting. When asked about the contracts of Clark and Lawrence and the prospect of getting a similar $100M contract, Ngakoue said, “It’s not a secret, we all can go on the computer and see what they did — that money don’t mean nothing but I know what I’m worth.”

This is great for the Jaguars and sets the tone for a potential future extension for Ngakoue. He is saying all of the right things, and this should give Jaguars fans something good to feel about as they continue throughout the offseason. Ngakoue is entering his fourth year and has accumulated 29.5 sacks through his first three seasons in the NFL. Ngakoue has shown the Jaguars no reason not to pay him as soon as possible. And they absolutely should.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Five significant Jaguars storylines heading into OTAs

Demetrius Harvey

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Jul 26, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) runs with the ball following a catch as Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack (44) runs behind during training camp at the Dream Finder Homes practice facility outside of TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The first of the Jaguars ten Organized Team Activities (OTAs) are starting today.  As the players get set to hit the field, there will be a multitude of storylines worth watching. This will be the first time the Jaguars coaches and their players can take part in 11 on 11 activities. Although there will be no pads for any of these practices.

The Jaguars will use this time to get better in terms of on-the-field performance, but their camaraderie as they get set to go with an abundance of new players, including the starting QB will be just as important.

The team’s OTAs will begin Tuesday (Today), May 21 and conclude on Friday, June 7, while the Jaguars’ three-day mandatory minicamp will take place June 11 – 13.

1. Nick Foles and the Jaguars offense

The Jaguars entered the 2019 offseason with a splash; signing quarterback Nick Foles to the highest guaranteed money a Jaguars player has ever received. Since then, they have made moves to allow for him to succeed, such as selecting tight end Josh Oliver and right tackle Jawaan Taylor in the draft just last month.

Quarterback is the most important position group on the team, and with Nick Foles at the center, all eyes will be on him from now on. It will be important for the Jaguars — and their fans —  to get a good look at the new offense under offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, and how well Foles can execute it. Although many fans feel the Jaguars did not adequately address the weapons on offense, there is a possibility the quarterback was holding the team back.

With Marqise Lee not ready yet, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, and D.J. Chark will be the only Jaguars receivers on the Jaguars roster last season participating. It will be interesting to see their connection with Foles even as early as today.

2. How will the linebacker group shake out?

This storyline has almost as much intrigue as the quarterback situation. This is because of Telvin Smith posting an impromptu Instagram post revealing his intentions to sit out the 2019 season. The Jaguars have addressed the position during the offseason seemingly as a response to Smith not being in contact with the team prior to the draft. Selecting LB Quincy Williams at the bottom of the third round was the icing on the cake.

The Jaguars will look for a new weak-side linebacker and there have been plenty of questions of whether they will turn to a rookie, a new vet, or even Myles Jack to take over the position. Who takes over will be very important and we should get an answer sooner rather than later.

3. Rookies

The rookies are always a storyline and with the Jaguars selecting two premier players — Josh Allen and Jawaan Taylor — all eyes will be on them. Rookies are not typically thrust into starting positions too early, so do not it will not be a shock if Taylor is taking second-team reps or if Allen is not out there with the defensive line/linebacker group. However, it will be important to see exactly what position Allen plays as there has been speculation of him playing SAM since they drafted him.

Rookie TE Josh Oliver will be someone worth watching on offense. As mentioned earlier, he was a part of the Jaguars plan to get an influx of talent on offense. Quincy Williams, as previously mentioned, might be one of the more underrated rookies to watch for. How he plays during the offseason could change the entire linebacker group.

Obviously all eyes will be on the Jaguars rookies during the 10 OTAs starting today, however, these are the most important to keep an eye out on how they perform.

4. Safety situation

Probably one of the most talked about situations as far as depth on the roster this offseason has been safety. Before the end of the 2018 season, the Jaguars released strong safety Barry Church and circled back to release Tashaun Gipson earlier this offseason. This allowed then-rookie Ronnie Harrison to start in place of Church, and Jarrod Wilson to start in place of Gipson. How Wilson performs in this new role will be vital to the Jaguars success at free safety.

The Jaguars in this offseason have not addressed the safety position at all besides signing former AAF safety Josh Brown. How Jaguars undrafted rookies and other depth players attack this position will be important to watch out for as we begin OTAs.

5. No injuries, please

Seriously. If there is one thing the Jaguars cannot afford, it is an injury to a pivotal position. These practices are not supposed to be extensive but as we have seen in the past, anything can happen. If the Jaguars come out of these OTAs with no injuries, it will be a huge win entering mandatory minicamp in June, and training camp in July.

Keep a close eye on Jaguars players who are already injured. Players such as Marqise Lee, Jake Ryan, and Cam Robinson will be going through various levels of rehab. Lee will not be on the field, however, Ryan or Robinson might be closer to returning.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Should the Jaguars sign Gerald McCoy when he’s released?

Demetrius Harvey

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Dec 24, 2017; Charlotte, NC, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) reacts after a sack in the first quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive tackle  Gerald McCoy has recently been informed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers according to Adam Schefter at ESPN. According to Schefter, the Jaguars are one of the spots that “make sense”. This list includes the Patriots, Browns, Cowboys, and Chargers. McCoy wants to sign with a playoff team and the Jaguars were in the AFC Championship game in the 2017-2018 season.

There are a variety of factors to take into account if the Jaguars do intend to do their due diligence on Gerald McCoy. McCoy has been one of the most dominant defensive tackles since he was drafted third overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2010. Last season, McCoy accounted for 28 combined tackles and six sacks in 14 games. Although his sack production has not fallen off yet, he is 31 years old and has not been as dominant as he was in his younger days.

In 2018, the Jaguars drafted Taven Bryan in the first-round, and due to the salary cap, they released veteran defensive tackle Malik Jackson who immediately signed with the Philidelphia Eagles. If the Jaguars were to bring in McCoy the cost would almost assuredly be steep, and although they have ways to manipulate the cap, the question would be if Dave Caldwell or EVP Tom Coughlin would be willing to pay.

With Taven Bryan already locked into the starting role, it would also come down to how the Jaguars feel about the depth at the defensive tackle — specifically three-tech — position. The Jaguars only have Taven Bryan, Marcell Dareus, and Abry Jones entering this season at DT who have played significant roles. Calais Campbell also plays a role on specific downs.

Would Gerald McCoy make sense for the Jaguars? In theory, sure, but only at the right cost and if the player falls in their laps. The Jaguars released Malik Jackson due to cap reasons. Jackson is a younger player who — although he had a down year in 2018 — has had similar production to Gerald McCoy in recent years. Would they be willing to spend on the older player instead?

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