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Film Room: Why Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue deserves to be paid

Brandon Carroll

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Dec 2, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) motions to the fans during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

A big Jaguars storyline headed into the offseason break within the NFL is the looming contract negotiation between premier pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue and the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Ngakoue burst onto the scene after being drafted in the third round by the Jaguars in the 2016 draft. He quickly asserted himself into the competition for a starting role with Dante Fowler Jr. — a former 1st round pick and a guy the Jaguars looked at as a perennial defensive end from his days at Florida. 

Due to Fowler struggling to climb back his ACL tear during his rookie season, Ngakoue took advantage of the opportunity of being on a level playing field with Fowler when he touched down in Jacksonville. 

Soon after, Ngakoue took the starting defensive end spot and never looked back. 

In the 2018 season, Ngakoue recorded 25 tackles and 9.5 sacks for a Jacksonville team that disappointed not only their fans but many of those around the league. After a quick start to the season, they hit a wall and began to roll downhill. 

Throughout all of the ups and downs in Ngakoue’s first three seasons in the NFL, he has stayed committed and healthy to play in all 48 regular season games. Not to mention the three playoff games in 2017. Over those 48 games, he has recorded 80 total tackles, 29.5 sacks, and 10 forced fumbles. Monstrous numbers for a guy that came into the league with low expectations. He blew those expectations out of the water and continues to be a force on the defensive side of the ball for Jacksonville. 

Ngakoue presents a very interesting skill set as a pass rusher. While a multitude of edge rushers look to throw away the blocker and pressure the quarterback through pure strength and technique, Yannick has used his undeniable speed and length to get underneath the pass protection and hurry the quarterback. He has made a name for himself as one of the most feared defensive players in the eyes of quarterbacks in the NFL while focusing on parts of the game that are vital for winning. 

Ngakoue uses three approaches in particular to his pass rushing technique. He looks to jump off the line of scrimmage as the ball is snapped and utilizes his quickness to cause pressure in the pocket, create turnovers to flip field position for his offense to flourish, and has a never say die attitude when it comes to every down. 

In this play, Ngakoue fires off the line of scrimmage and gets underneath the offensive lineman before they even have the chance to get a hold of his pads to execute the block. By doing this, he is able to use his momentum gained from his jump off the line to push back the defender and get him on his heels early in the play. Ngakoue then blows past him and is able to get the strip sack on the quarterback. His speed on this play allows him to drop off the offensive lineman and have a straight path to the QB. Being lined up on the quarterback’s blind side, Ngakoue shows that he can shed off blocks and surprise the quarterback with forceful hits or bat the ball out of his hands for a potential swing in momentum. 

Yannick has shown a knack of being able to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands. Leading the NFL in forced fumbles in the 2017 season, he showed his talent of creating turnovers and giving the offense great starting field position, if those forced fumbles don’t result in a score by the defense. 

In these plays, Yannick displays that knack by rounding the corner and using his reach to knock the ball out of Kiser’s hand not once but twice. 

Creating this type of pressure in a game where the offense hasn’t had much production is too much to go unnoticed. Ngakoue has a zeal to be able to shift the momentum of the game to his teams’ favor. Especially in the second play where he wraps around the outside of the offensive line, knocks the ball out of Kiser’s hand, and allows Telvin Smith to recover the fumble in the end zone to escape a near upset loss to the Cleveland Browns. 

Ngakoue commented on that game by saying “To be elite, to do it consistently in one game, that’s pretty special.” And he’s definitely right about that. 

Ngakoue is a generational talent at defensive end and continues to lead by example on a Jaguars team that at times can lack a leader in the locker room. He shows the uncanny ability to do whatever it takes for his team to win. In 2017, Yannick was one of only 2 players in the NFL with 10+ sacks and 5+ forced fumbles (six). Who was the only other player? None other than Aaron Donald, who’s arguably the best defensive player in the NFL at the moment. Yannick’s skill set and production on the field are up there with the best. Therefore, his salary should be as well. 

“Being able to change the game, and being able to get that ball out the quarterback’s hand, that wins games and for a player to be able to do that, that’s pretty special,” Yannick says during his interview with NFL network after being voted the number 88 player of the season in 2017. 

While there are many abilities that the former Maryland student-athlete possesses, one that may be the most important to his success may be his mindset. He has a mamba mentality of never quitting. Not on a play, not in a game, not in a season. You will never see the man give up. This may be the biggest reason as to why the Jaguars need to pay him. For all 60 minutes of the game, he will give his team 110%. 

In this clip, Ngakoue shows that never-say-die attitude by overcoming being initially taken out of the play by the offensive lineman. It looks like he may have been out of an impactful position but, he wills his way back into the play to make a big stop on third down. Seeing Jacoby Brissett step up in the pocket as Yannick is making his way around the outside, he plants his foot and comes back towards the play to turn what could’ve resulted in positive yardage from a quarterback scramble into being a loss of a yard. Being able to fight past adversity from play to play is what separates the good from the great. Yannick has proven that he is a great player, especially in his last two years. 

In this play against the Bengals, Ngakoue shows great perseverance as it looks like he overshot the play. Despite hitting the ground he has the strength and ability to bounce up and get a tackle for loss. A play that could’ve turned into a big run if Yannick had not given so much effort. Being able to bounce back up and make a play as big as this one shows how hard he works to be one of the best in the league. 

Ngakoue continues to be one of the most under-appreciated players in the NFL and is an elite rusher who will do anything to help his team win. While we saw a bit of a drop off from him in 2018, he still ranked 23rd in total sacks throughout the NFL with 9.5 and was a gigantic piece to the puzzle on a defense that ranked top 5 in a 5-11 season. 

With many players in today’s NFL going in and out due to injury or off the field issues, Yannick has stayed consistent and put his heart and soul into the Jaguars organization. He’s shown his potential and consistency needed to really be a solid playmaker for this strong Jacksonville defense for years to come. This creates even more of a reason to sign him to a big contract extension this offseason. 

Brandon Carroll is an 18-year-old college student aspiring to be a sports journalist. Has written articles over the past few years for fun and had two published within In The Game magazine. Locked On Jags is his first real opportunity to showcase his writing and love for sports.

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53 Man Roster

Jaguars 2019 position group breakdown: Running Backs

Brandon Carroll

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Dec 23, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) runs down the field during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Similar to their quarterback situation, the Jacksonville Jaguars have attempted to answer some questions in terms of the run game in this year’s offseason. Jacksonville went through a full remodel in an attempt to add veteran presence that can sustain the ground attack if injury strikes the team yet again in 2019. 

Two years ago, the Jaguars were a team that led the NFL in rushing at 527 attempts throughout the regular season. Nearly 50 carries ahead of any other team in the league. On those 527 attempted the Jaguars saw heights in production not seen since the Maurice Jones-Drew. 

That production staggered in yardage and overall sustainability of the offense with their lackluster quarterback play last season. This was all due to the injuries of star running back Leonard Fournette and the majority of the offensive line. Without Fournette, the Jaguars only accumulated half the yardage in 2018 Fournette produced in 2017 with T.J. Yeldon and Carlos Hyde leading the affair. 

Being a strong part of the offensive system, the Jaguars win total saw a sharp decrease and the team swagger that carried them to the 2017 AFC playoffs had vanished.

Jacksonville looked to replenish their running back room and get back to the strong, effective run game they saw in 2017 that made them so successful. 

Adding Alfred Blue, Benny Cunningham, Thomas Rawls and more through free agency, as well as, drafting former Temple running back, Ryquell Armstead the Jaguars made a good move in adding reliable to back up Fournette in the backfield. 

Projected Running Back Depth Chart:
*italicized indicates starter, underline indicates picked up via draft/free agency
Leonard Fournette, Alfred Blue, Benny Cunningham, Ryquell Armstead.

Leading the pack coming into 2019 is Leonard Fournette. Fournette is a player that has all the major attributes to be a star player in the NFL if he could just stay healthy. Fournette missed eight games last season and seven due to injury which caused the Jaguars offense to stall in his absence. 

He is a player that combines strong downhill running with game-breaking speed. Abilities not many can combine nevertheless replace. He is a generational talent who looks to return to his rookie form in 2019. 

Fournette looks to be getting back on track this season and “refocused on football.” Him being able to stay on the field will be a huge plus for a Jaguars team that has struggled offensively for many years. 

The next two players on the depth chart are veteran backs Alfred Blue and Benny Cunningham. 

Blue being a signee from the Houston Texans roster and an experienced back who knows how to get yardage necessary to sustain drives. While receiving very little touches in the Houston offense he played the backup role well and was a reliable source of receiving out of the backfield.

Blue will be used more as a third-down back in the Jaguars offense. 

The same goes for Cunningham. Coming over from the Bears, which last season saw two top-caliber running backs in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen sharing carries, Cunningham got lost in the shuffle. Cunningham is a great receiving threat out of the backfield and can play solid minutes in his role on his new team. 

Having two players that can play roles, and play them well is vital for any team in the NFL. Taking fatigue and potential injury into account getting Cunningham and Blue was one of the more important moves the Jaguars made this offseason. The Jaguars acquired two reliable backs for new quarterback Nick Foles to work with on downs where Fournette is not in the game. 

Next on the team’s depth chart is the Jaguars 2019 fifth-round pick out of Temple, Ryquell Armstead. In his senior year, Armstead scored 13 touchdowns and averaged nearly 6.5 yards per carry. Armstead’s progression through his college career was a sight to see. After starting his career as a bulkier strong runner, Armstead slimmed down to become a more complete back and utilized his opportunity at Temple to make it to the NFL. 

Posting 2,987 yards and 34 touchdowns over his career, Armstead looks to carry on those impressive numbers at the next level. Armstead is a runner with great field vision and patience behind the line of scrimmage. He bursts through the open hole and is willing to lower the shoulder to gain extra yardage. Armstead says that he models his game after former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs. 

He describes himself as an angry runner. “I run angry, I run violent. I look for contact— that’s something that makes me unique.” Armstead stated in an interview with CBS sports. 

The type of physical running Armstead brings to the table is something the Jaguars have had success within recent memory. That willingness to create contact and run hard for his team to succeed is an attribute any team would love to have with their running back. 

A player that very strongly resembles Leonard Fournette in terms of running style was a guy the Jaguars looked at as a potential steal in the fifth round. An aggressive, one-cut runner who can run over opponents or bounce it to the outside and take off down the sideline. 

Armstead had the second-fastest time in the 40-yard dash among eligible running backs at the 2019 NFL combine at 4.49 seconds. Being a player with blazing speed mixed with a downhill running style, Armstead could see minutes directly behind Fournette later in the season. Armstead is an intriguing prospect but his development as a pass-catcher out of the backfield will need to improve for him to solidify the playing time this season. 

While the Jaguars have many running backs on the roster, all of them cannot stay. Unless there is a huge jump of progression when training camp starts later in the month, Thomas Rawls and Taj McGowan have very little shot of making the team. 

After last season, the Jaguars have done whatever it takes to assure they have depth at this position. Being able to provide multiple sources of production is important for any team. By providing this depth, the Jaguars hope it can get the job done and they can return to the success seen in the running game just two seasons ago. 

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Jacksonville Jaguars

REPORT: Jaguars to sign former WVU WR Marcus Simms

Demetrius Harvey

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Oct 13, 2018; Ames, IA, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Marcus Simms (8) runs the football against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars have made a roster move signing former West Virginia WR Marcus Simms according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Simms was slated to participate in the supplemental draft after filing the paperwork on June 20th.

Simms will make for interesting competition for the Jaguars as we inch closer to training camp. Simms accumulated 87 receptions for 1457 yards and eight touchdowns in his three-year career at West Virginia. Simms has also made his name known in the return game totaling 992 yards as a kick returner. According to reports, Simms ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4-4.49 seconds, with a vertical jump of 36″, a broad jump of 10-2 and three-cone time of 6.91 seconds. After his physical tomorrow, the Jaguars will have to make a corresponding move.

Simms will look to compete for a bottom-of-the-roster position with players such as Terrelle Pryor and Keelan Cole. If the Jaguars intend on retaining six receivers Simms will have a good shot at making the roster. By all accounts, Simms was a draftable player.

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Fantasy

2019 Jacksonville Jaguars Fantasy Football: Nick Foles Preview

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Jan 6, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) throws a pass against the Chicago Bears in the first half a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Nick Foles signed a four-year, $88 million dollar contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason. Foles is a much-needed upgrade behind center and may be the best signal-caller the franchise has had in the past decade. Jaguars fans have high expectations for how he’ll do on his new team. Here’s what you should expect how he’ll do on your fantasy team.

Poor Fantasy History

Throughout the entirety of Foles’ career, his fantasy football production has been underwhelming. Foles has only finished as a top-25 fantasy quarterback once in his seven years in the league.

Part of the reason Foles never produced solid fantasy numbers due to the fact he has never played a full 16-game season — the most games he’s played is 13 back in 2013 when he was fantasy’s QB9. Foles played more than eight games just one other season. To remove the effect of the number of games played, we can look at fantasy points per game (PPG), but those statistics are also disappointing:

-Foles averaged 20.46 PPG in 2013, his best fantasy season. His second-best fantasy season was last year when he scored 15.00 fantasy PPG, which was tied for 24th  — with Eli Manning. His career mark is 13.04 fantasy PPG.

-For comparison, Blake Bortles’ best fantasy season was in 2015, when he finished with 20.25 fantasy PPG. In 2018, he scored 13.31 fantasy PPG, which was 28th. His career mark is 15.88 fantasy PPG.

Bortles has been a viable fantasy option partly because of garbage-time opportunities in his first couple years and increased rushing production in the last couple years, but it’s still a tough look for Foles to have worse career fantasy numbers than Bortles by over two points. Long story short, Foles has frankly been a bad fantasy quarterback throughout his career save for one good season.

Fewer Passing Attempts

 Another warning sign for Foles is a likely decrease in passing attempts after playing for the Philadelphia Eagles the past two seasons.

-In five regular-season starts last season, Foles had 39.0 attempts per game and averaged 15.04 fantasy points per game.

-In 12 regular-season starts last season, Bortles had 33.0 attempts per game and averaged 13.32 fantasy points per game.

-Foles and Bortles each averaged 0.35 fantasy points per dropback, per Player Profiler.

Foles finished with more fantasy points per game than Bortles, which was partly due to Foles simply throwing the ball more often. Foles’ higher passing rate can essentially be boiled down to two factors: team defense and rushing rate. Jacksonville’s 8thranked defense last season allowed the Jaguars the freedom to run more often and Philadelphia’s 18thranked defense sometimes forced the Eagles to pass more often (weighted defensive efficiency rankings via Football Outsiders). Additionally, Jacksonville (49%) ran at a higher rate than Philadelphia (43%) in game-script positive situations (rushing rates via Sharp Football Stats). To summarize, due to differences in defensive production and offensive play calling, the Eagles pass a lot more than the Jaguars.

Despite the new additions of Foles and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, the Jaguars will likely continue to rely on running and defense. As a result of transitioning from Philadelphia to Jacksonville, Foles will almost certainly throw fewer passes, and therefore is unlikely to produce numbers like he did last season- which already weren’t exceptional.

Fewer Red Zone Opportunities

Foles also isn’t likely to have as many opportunities to score in the red zone as he did with the Eagles, which is another fantasy red flag.

-In the past two seasons, 36.1% of Foles’ fantasy points have come from in the red zone, while 32.5% of Bortles’ fantasy points have come from in the red zone, per fantasy data.

-In the past two seasons, the Eagles passed on 53% of red-zone plays, while the Jaguars passed on 47% of red-zone plays. The Eagles passed on 57% of red-zone plays in games Foles started, and the Jaguars passed on 42% of red-zone plays in games Leonard Fournette started.

-In the past two seasons, the Eagles averaged 3.4 red zone attempts per game, while the Jaguars averaged 2.6 red zone attempts per game, per Team Rankings.

Based on the 2017-18 seasons, Foles may not reach the red zone as much nor pass in the red zone as much as he was accustomed to in Philadelphia.

Offensive Talent Downgrade

One of the more talked about storylines regarding Foles’ signing with the Jaguars is his prior supporting cast in Philadelphia compared to his current one in Jacksonville. Foles must transition from a receiving core of Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, and Nelson Agholor to Dede Westbrook, Marquise Lee, and rookie tight end Josh Oliver. The difference in each group’s production is obvious:

-Ertz, Jeffery, Agholor, and Golden Tate (who played for Philadelphia in the second half of last season) all surpassed 100 fantasy points and 60 receptions last season. They have four combined career Pro-Bowl appearances.

-Westbrook was the only Jacksonville receiver to surpass 100 fantasy points and 60 receptions last season. In fact, he is the only player on the current roster who caught over 40 passes last season. The Jaguars receivers have zero combined career Pro-Bowl appearances.

The argument that Westbrook is as good as Agholor is feasible, but Agholor was Philadelphia’s third receiving option at best last season, and Jacksonville has no weapons who can come close to the skillset or production of Ertz and Jeffery. Additionally, Foles targeted Ertz a lot and he generated impressive numbers – which creates a lot of buzz for the imminent Foles-Oliver connection – but Ertz’s success was likely due more to his own talent than Foles’ supposed rapport with tight ends:

Per Sports Info Solutions, Foles targeted tight ends at the highest rate in the league (35%) last season. However, he posted a worse completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown percentage, interception percentage, and quarterback rating when throwing to a tight end than the wide receiver or running back last season.  Foles also ranked 42ndamong all quarterbacks (min. 10 attempts) in passer rating when targeting tight ends. Ertz finished top-three in targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns, and total fantasy points among tight ends last season. However, he ranked only 20thin fantasy points per target and 18thin yards per target among tight ends (per Player Profiler), which suggests that his massive target volume was a big benefactor towards his production. That large target volume combined with Ertz’s individual talent masked Foles’ below-average efficiency when targeting tight ends.

Now Foles is in Jacksonville, and his top tight end has yet to play an NFL snap. 2019 third-round pick Josh Oliver has a lot of potential to succeed in John DeFilippo’s tight end-friendly offense, but it is unreasonable to expect him to approach Ertz’s skill level or production in his first season. It should also be noted that rookie tight ends historically don’t have a large impact– in the past 15 years, only two rookie tight ends have surpassed 600 receiving yards, and only two have finished as a top-five fantasy tight end. Consequently, Foles may have even worse ratings when targeting tight ends this year. Foles’ supposed strength of throwing to tight ends could be revealed to simply be a result of having an All-Pro tight end to throw to ten times a game in Philadelphia. Overall, Foles is leaving a group of proven/productive receivers and joining a group of young/inconsistent receivers.

One last personnel issue to consider is the strength of Foles’ offensive lines. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles ranked 17thin pass protection last season and gave up 40 sacks. The Jaguars ranked 27thin pass protection and gave up 53 sacks. Jacksonville’s linemen couldn’t stay healthy as it seemed like backups of backups were starting late in the season. If rookie tackle Jawaan Taylor makes an impact and the starters stay healthy this season there shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but it is worth mentioning that Foles’ new offensive line is just one more variable that could hypothetically make 2019 harder on him and hinge his fantasy potential.

Foles Overall Outlook

Foles ranks 12thin career winning percentage (per Football Database) but 34thin career fantasy points per game among all active quarterbacks (minimum 10 starts). Foles can win games without having to put up lucrative passing numbers, which is exactly what the Jaguars are expecting of him. Based on his past fantasy performances and his new environment in Jacksonville, Foles doesn’t have much of a fantasy ceiling and should not be drafted in single quarterback leagues. He has value as a streaming option/cheap DFS play when he has favorable matchups against weak pass defenses, but for the most part, it’d be wise to look elsewhere when finding a fantasy quarterback.

Note: All fantasy numbers are in standard format (non-PPR). Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are via Pro Football Reference

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