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Jacksonville Jaguars

Day after with Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone: Noticeable improvement

Demetrius Harvey

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Oct 27, 2019; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone (black shirt) looks on prior to the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Jaguars’ head coach typically does a weekly conference call with the local Jacksonville media to discuss the previous week’s matchup and aspects of the team moving forward.

After the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4) defeated the New York Jets (1-6) on Sunday, the Jaguars stayed put in third-place within the AFC South, however, there is room for advancement thanks to how close each team is to each other in the race.

During a conference call with the local media on Monday, Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone addressed plenty of topics including the team’s impending annual venture across the Atlantic.

To begin the conference call, Marrone addressed the injuries surrounding the team. Earlier today, the Jaguars placed receiver Marqise Lee on injured/reserve, however, the rest of the injuries will be updated on Wednesday.

“We think a couple of those guys we’ll have a little bit more information on later today because of MRIs, just checking on things,” Marrone said. “I don’t believe that we’ll know for sure. I don’t think there’s anything long term. I think everyone has a chance to play this week, so I think I’ll probably have a better update on Wednesday when guys are practicing.”

Four Takeaways:

1. AFC South is a much better division than given credit for

While the AFC South has been the punching back of the national media for years, it has quickly become one of the most competitive divisions in all of football. Marrone spoke of the competitive nature of the AFC South division which has a relatively short history together due to the realignment. Before 2017, the Jaguars had never won the division which was routinely dominated by Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Now, the division has completely changed, going from a weak division to one of the strongest in the NFL.

With the Jaguars playing host to the Houston Texans in London this week Marrone was asked about the history of the AFC South and how important divisional matchups are in the NFL. “There’s a lot of tracking, there’s a lot of things that – probably more tape, more things to research within the division than anywhere else,” Marrone said. “I think right now you’re looking at a division that a couple years ago people were calling a weak division, to probably one of the strongest, if not the strongest, division right now with the way all of the teams are playing.”

Currently, all four teams are .500 or better, including the Jaguars who currently sit at 4-4. The Jaguars will have an ample opportunity to regain a foothold in the race to become the AFC South champions.

2. Young players are stepping up in run-defense

Last week, the Jaguars lost four key contributors on defense in one game. Linebackers Najee Goode and Quincy Williams missed last week’s matchup against the Jets, and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was lost for the season due to a core-muscle injury.

Before they went down, however, the team struggled mightily against the run, allowing Carolina Panthers’ running back Christian McCaffrey to rush for 176 yards. Since then, the Jaguars have limited Alvin Kamara, Joe Mixon, and Le’Veon Bell to a combined 56 rushing yards.

“Obviously, we know that Marcell [Dareus] is injured, and he’s always done a really good job for us,” Marrone said. “And Abe’s [Abry Jones] been really consistent in there at the nose [tackle] position. Taven Bryan’s stepping up and doing a nice job and causing some penetration. Akeem Spence comes in off the street and did a nice job the other day for us. [Dawuane] Smoot has done a really good job when he’s been in there, he’s playing extremely hard, so we’ve got guys that are stepping up on the inside, and doing a good job of creating some penetration at the line of scrimmage and being able to get off blocks and make plays. So, at the end of the day, it’s a trend that obviously we work extremely hard at and we have to keep it going.”

The Jaguars will need their young – and old – players to continue playing at a high level as more powerful rushers come into town.

3. Jawan Taylor has been impressive and is still improving

Marrone cautioned on calling offensive tackle Jawan Taylor a “rookie” still, the tackle has been through the gauntlet thus far this season facing multiple high-level pass rushers. While Taylor has struggled some — allowing two sacks against Cameron Jordan in week six –, the young tackle has held his own against plenty of competitive pass rushers such as J.J. Watt and Cameron Wake.

“It doesn’t feel to me that he’s a rookie with [how] he’s playing,” Marrone said. “And really, I always looked at is as, once you get halfway through the first part of the season you can take that ‘R’ off of everyone. They’re not really rookies anymore even though they’re in their first year. So, he’s been a really good addition to our team, a good addition to the locker room and we hope to be coaching him for a long time.”

Marrone mentioned the first-year player’s growth week-after-week as evidence for him being able to handle the rigors of the NFL. While practice is always a fantastic way to get better, being able to face some of the best pass rushers early in a player’s career is invaluable.

Taylor has done well in terms of film study and has been able to react to moves he may have not seen while playing in college.

4. Staying healthy this week and through next week’s bye week is important

One of the major themes of the week from Marrone was health. The Jaguars have not been fortunate this year in terms of health, but they’ve done a fantastic job of getting players back and ready to play when needed. Currently, the team has 13 players on injured reserve, including five players who were expected to make significant contributions to this year’s team: wide receiver Marqise Lee, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, quarterback Nick Foles, and tight ends James O’Shaughnessy and Geoff Swaim.

Still resistant to the impending Foles-Gardner Minshew decision, Marrone mentioned the team’s health as one of the major issues he is concerned with currently.

“I haven’t really thought about it,” Marrone said when asked if the decision to play Foles or Minshew is one of the toughest he’s had to make. “but I think every decision’s always a tough decision, unless it’s an injury thing where someone just has to go in there. Again, I’m trying to focus on what we have going this week, which is a unique week, going to London. We have a lot of guys that are kind of banged up, obviously by your first question, so right now my focus is on trying to make sure – see how we can get these guys healthy, and feeling good, and preparing them for this trip across the pond and really getting to this bye week where we can kind of get healed up again.”

The Jaguars will need to be as healthy as possible as they continue the season. After their week 10 bye week, the Jaguars will face the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans in back-to-back weeks. The divisional matchups are the most important of the season, and the team, at 4-4, is in must-win mode.

Demetrius Harvey is the lead editor for the Locked on Jaguars website covering breaking news, breakdowns, and more. You can follow him at @Demetrius82 on twitter.

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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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Jacksonville Jaguars

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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Jacksonville Jaguars

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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