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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars 2018 Position Group Breakdown: Defensive End

Demetrius Harvey

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May 22, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) gets ready to run a drill during organized team activities at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

One of the best, if not the best position group, on the Jaguars’ roster is the defensive line, and the defensive end portion of the defensive line is a formidable group. The only key addition to the defensive end position this off season has been Taven Bryan, drafted in the first round (29th overall).

The Jaguars use a “big end” for their strong side defensive end position and then a smaller weak-side defensive end on the opposite side of the line. The group accounted for 36 of the team’s 55 sacks last season.

Projected defensive end depth chart

*Note: Italics = starter, Underline = Acquired in 2018 FA/Draft

DE: Calais Campbell¸ Yannick Ngakoue, Dante Fowler, Taven Bryan, Dawuane Smoot, Lerentee McCray

While there are starter/backup designations for the defensive end position, the Jaguars generally implement a heavy rotation to keep each player fresh, therefore it is important for the group to be talented enough to play without much drop off from the starting corps.

Taven Bryan is the Jaguars newest edition along the DL. While he played 3-tech defensive tackle in the Gators 4-3 defense throughout college, he appears to be on track to play the Jaguars 5-tech – big end – position in base downs, before going inside on pass rush (3rd) downs. While many Jaguars fans suspected Bryan to be the eventual replacement for Malik Jackson, it is more likely to replace Calais Campbell in the future, as he’s set to turn 32 this season.

Campbell was one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL last year, accounting for 14.5 sacks which led the Jaguars and was good for third best in the NFL in 2017. For the 2018 season look for the Jaguars to continue their heavy rotation with a good amount of Campbell, Bryan and Smoot at the 5-tech position.

Yannick Ngakoue is easily the Jaguars most promising defensive linemen as far as future projections are concerned. He accounted for 12 sacks and six forced fumbles in 16 games last year. Ngakoue will continue to start at the weak-side defensive end position and is already one of the best pass rushers in the league, with only two seasons under his belt.

Ngakoue’s backup, Dante Fowler Jr., will continue in that role entering the 2018 season. Entering his contract year Fowler looks to capitalize on his career year at eight sacks and two forced fumbles. The Jaguars decided to decline Fowler’s 5th year option, so this will be his last opportunity to prove his worth as the 3rd overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.

The remaining of the Jaguars defensive ends such as Smoot and McCray will primarily be back ups as well as special teams players, however because of the Jaguars rotation heavy scheme, they will still have opportunities. McCray accounted for 1.5 sacks last year, and Smoot is looking forward to collecting his first career sack this season.


Check out the rest of the Locked On Jaguars position group breakdowns below:

Demetrius Harvey is a Locked on Jaguars writer focusing on game breakdowns as well as breaking news. Demetrius is a lifelong Jaguars fan. You can follow him at @Demetrius82 on twitter.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars announce Blake Bortles will remain the starting QB

Zach Goodall

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Sep 16, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) attempts a pass against the New England Patriots during the first half at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

24 hours removed from his first career benching, where he was clearly outplayed by his own backup in a 20-7 loss to the Houston Texans, Blake Bortles has been named the starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars for Week 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles in London, per the team.

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone announced in a statement: “I spoke to both quarterbacks this afternoon and told them that Blake will be our team’s quarterback. I believe this gives us the best opportunity to win.”

This comes under two hours removed from Marrone saying he had made his decision already but planned on addressing the team before releasing that information to the public. Bortles was benched after committing two turnovers against the Texans on Sunday, and Kessler completed 21/30 passes for 156 yards, a touchdown and an interception in his place.

Bortles has committed eight turnovers in the past three weeks.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Fanspeak: “Arrogance has ruined the Jaguars” from Wale Olaogun

Zach Goodall

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Oct 14, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone walks off the field in the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Long-time Jacksonville Jaguars fan Wale Olaogun (@theMCWale on Twitter) sent me this opinion piece he wrote this morning in the wake of the Jaguars 20-7 loss to the Texans, putting the team in a three game slide and the future looking far from bright. I decided this strong of an opinion deserved to be heard in more than 280 characters on Twitter, and am introducing this as “Fanspeak”. Fans can utilize Locked On Jaguars to post “Fanspeak” opinionative articles in the future, so long as they refrain from profanity and are relevant to the team.

Note: “Fanspeak” articles are opinionated and written solely by fans and are not reflective of the Locked On Jaguars’ writing staff.


Arrogance has ruined the Jacksonville Jaguars

The absolute arrogance of the Jacksonville Jaguars front office is starting to seep out of 1 TIAA Bank Place like an offensive stench. This group of decision makers took a look at the 2017 squad, a team that was ten minutes away from a Super Bowl appearance, and decided that they were only a few pieces away from reaching their ultimate goal.

Fast forward to Week 8 of the 2018 regular season. The Jaguars had to bench QB Blake Bortles after two turnovers and being largely ineffective in their game against the Houston Texans. Cody Kessler had to step in and lead this team to a 20-7 loss, dropping this “Super Bowl-bound” team to a 3-4 record.

Not to say that 3-4 is an insurmountable record that can’t be turned around, but it is proof that the leadership in the organization way underestimated how fast things would change if their plan for this season didn’t go perfectly.

Let’s recap the most arrogant moves the Jaguars made so far this season.

The Blake Bortles extension 

Bortles’ performance in 2017 put this team in a very difficult situation. He didn’t play well enough for the team to want to pick up his 5th year option but didn’t play poorly enough to move on from the inconsistent QB. The team’s solution was to re-sign the guy to a 3-year, $54M contract, with a potential out in 2020 with a $5M dead cap hit. If he were to be cut next season, that number is $16.5M. Good luck eating that number.

The Nonchalant Approach to Free Agency

We all knew that the Jaguars wanted to bolster their offensive line so that their running game could be even better than it was last year and to take some pressure off of Blake Bortles. So, they signed the best guard available in Andrew Norwell. Personally, I have no issue with this.

I do take exception to how they chose to handle the wide receiver position. Allen Robinson tested free agency and signed a deal with the Chicago Bears. The rest of the WR group started to move very quickly and thus the Jaguars had to do something. They hastily re-sign Marquise Lee to a multi-year deal and then sign castoff Dante Moncrief to a one year, $10M deal. At this point, they also cut Allen Hurns because his services were no longer needed.

Looking at TE, they were fortunate to land Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, but decided to part ways with long-time veteran Marcedes Lewis in a surprise cut.

The Lee signing was a panic move simply because the market was paying larger money than they wanted and because Robinson moved on, they had to have something. They also had the ability to address the QB position here with a few free agent players like Teddy Bridgewater, but instead traded a conditional pick to the Browns for Cody Kessler

NFL Draft: The Passing of Lamar Jackson

Let’s move to late April. Free agency has already occurred, and the teams are now focused in on the draft. The Jaguars pick 29th and whispers around the league are the Jaguars are potentially interested in Louisville QB Lamar Jackson.

Would the team actually pull the trigger on a QB after they re-signed Bortles and made a move for Kessler? Could this be the insurance pick that could keep the Jaguars as a team to watch? Nope, they pass over Jackson to take DT/DE Taven Bryan from Florida. The Baltimore Ravens end up trading back into the first round and select Jackson with the 32nd pick.

Had the Jaguars picked up Lamar, even just as a backup option, his rookie contract would have been a four year, $10M deal. Instead, the Jaguars drafted Nebraska Juggs Machine Tanner Lee, who is currently on the practice squad and not even thought of as a legitimate option to lead this team.

The Handling of Leonard Fournette

Week 1 of the 2018 regular season and 2nd year running back Leonard Fournette tweaks his hamstring. Knowing the history of hamstring injuries and running backs, it’s usually difficult to tell whether it’s going to be a two-week thing or a few month kind of thing. They give him two games to rest and he attempts to make a comeback Week 4 against the Jets. He tweaks the hamstring again and this time would be out for a longer period of time.

Common sense would say that if it’s going to be a few weeks and looking at the schedule you have in front of you, make the move to shelve Fournette on short term IR, make a move a running back and just try to keep things afloat. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen. The team decides to sign Jamaal Charles and bring up a practice squad player after back up RB T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant both get injured in the game against Kansas City. Then the team makes a trade for Browns’ RB Carlos Hyde on the Friday before the game against Houston.

Injuries have decimated this offense but their poor reactions to handling them only makes matters worse.

Ultimately, this team is at a major crossroad. Not just for their season, but for their future as well. For a lot of people, this season has a lot of similarities to a decade ago. A team that surprised the NFL, made a strong push in the playoffs and hoped to achieve their ultimate goal with a few select moves in the following season, only to have it blow up in the team and the fan bases’ faces.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Editorial: The Jaguars need to start Cody Kessler, now.

Zach Goodall

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Oct 21, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler (6) throws a pass during the second half against the Houston Texans at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

After 67 consecutive games of up-and-down quarterback play from their former third overall pick, the Jaguars did something they’ve never done in quarterback Blake Bortles’ five-year career: They benched him in the middle of a game, down 20-0 in the third quarter to the Houston Texans.

In came his new(ish) backup Cody Kessler, who Jacksonville traded for this offseason – with Chad Henne leaving town for Kansas City – to backup their freshly extended starting gunslinger. After inking Bortles to a three year, $54 million deal in February, the team sent Cleveland a conditional 2019 7th round pick for the third-year pro.

Kessler, who was flashy in the preseason and gave the Jaguars confidence in their backup quarterback, looked like five times the quarterback that Bortles has in the past three games. He completed 21 of 30 passes for 156 yards, a touchdown and an interception that sailed right through a wide open T.J. Yeldon’s hands and right into Texans safety Tyrann Mathieu’s.

Sure, the team was down a lot when Kessler took over, but there is no denying the team looked more in-sync. The receivers weren’t dropping as many passes as they did in the first half, and were fighting for yards after the catch. The passes were accurate and hitting receivers in stride.

And after looking gassed in the first half, the defense appeared to be more energetic with Kessler keeping the offense on the field for longer periods of time: The Texans were held scoreless after Kessler entered the game.

Does Kessler offer the starting experience Bortles does? No. Does Kessler offer the same mobility factor that Bortles does, an aspect of Bortles’ game that the team appreciates? No. Does Kessler have the same relationship with offensive coordinator Nate Hackett that Bortles has developed with the playcaller over three years? Probably not.

But none of those things should matter. Kessler looks to be the better quarterback of the two right now. And in a time where urgency is needed to save the Jaguars season that is currently low-lighted by a three game losing streak, Cody Kessler needs to be the Jaguars starting quarterback.

In a Jaguars offense that yields West Coast passing concepts, often utilizing play-action and targeting the short-to-intermediate levels of the field, with receivers running route combinations that open up the underneath game to create yards after the catch, an accurate quarterback with a quick release and consistently makes smart decisions is absolutely necessary to get things flowing.

If it isn’t clear yet, Bortles just doesn’t fit that description, despite the attempt to shove the square peg in the round hole. Bortles has 13 turnovers in six games: Eight interceptions, five fumbles.

Kessler does. His scouting reports after his days at Southern California screamed “West Coast QB”. His arm strength is far from great. He’s not overly athletic, but does possess the ability to climb a pocket and make throws on designed roll-outs. He’s extremely accurate: On short-to-intermediate routes yesterday, it’s hard to recall him not hitting a receiver in stride once. He got the ball out quickly to allow receivers to move after the catch.

Jaguars, Cody Kessler

Oct 21, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Cody Kessler (6) runs the ball during the third quarter against the Houston Texans at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Kessler fits this Jaguars offense better than Blake Bortles.

He may never produce the near-400 yard, four TD games that Bortles did against the Patriots, or games of that sort. At the same time, Kessler won’t produce the four interception games like Bortles did against the Chiefs. Kessler is the healthy medium that Jaguars fans have wanted Bortles to consistently hit for years, but never has.

Cody Kessler needs to be the Jaguars starting quarterback going forward. The position is currently labeled as “open” by head coach Doug Marrone, and if this team is truly looking for a way to “stop turning the damned ball over“; if this team is truly looking to “get a damned spark from this football team“, then the Jaguars need to pull the plug on the Blake Bortles experiment and hand the keys to the quarterback position to Cody Kessler.

Now, before it’s too late to save the 2018 season.

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