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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars vs. Bengals: Five observations from Sunday’s 27-17 win

Demetrius Harvey

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Oct 20, 2019; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) celebrates his pick six in the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

In a must-win situation, the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4) were able to secure the victory against a very bad Cincinnati Bengals (0-7) team, 27-17.

Observations:

1. Jaguars’ defense finally takes advantage of their opportunities

The Jaguars’ defense had seemingly been allergic to the football prior to Sunday’s matchup against the Bengals. Prior to Sunday, the Jaguars had just one turnover on defense — an interception by safety Ronnie Harrison against the Denver Broncos.

Sunday, however, the Jaguars had four separate turnovers including three interceptions on the day. Jaguars’ defensive end Yannick Ngakoue had the play of the game after logging a pick-six near the end of the fourth quarter. Here is what Ngakoue had to say about the interception after the game on Sunday: “We always talk about reading screens. I noticed when 25 (Bengals HB Giovani Bernard) was in the game, they were looking pass. And when it was 28 (Mixon), they were looking run. So I thought it was going to be a screen.”

Harrison came away with his third turnover of the season after picking off Dalton on the very next defensive snap.

Jacksonville was able to come away with interceptions on each of the Bengals’ first three drives in the fourth quarter which ultimately sealed their win — starting with an interception by linebacker Myles Jack as the Bengals were driving.

Early on in the game, Jaguars’ nickel defensive back D.J. Hayden forced a fumble on Bengals’ wide receiver Tyler Boyd which was promptly recovered by Harrison. Hayden’s forced fumble was a complete effort-play — initially missing a tackle only to run Boyd down and knock the ball loose.

After the game, Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone lauded the seventh-year player indicating Hayden is playing at a very high level and doing everything the right way.

“He’s a guy that I kind of always say by the way he practices and the way he is around the building, we’ve got him in a really good place meaning he’s good,” Marrone said during his postgame press conference. “He communicates, he goes out and he practices hard and he does everything and then he performs well. At the end of the day, nobody’s going to say anything because he’s not getting a lot of balls caught on him and he’s doing a heck of a job.”

Hayden has been one of the Jaguars’ best players on defense, and it showed during their victory over the Bengals. When Hayden was asked after the game if this could be the turning point for the Jaguars this season he said, “Shoot — what do you think? I believe so.”

The Jaguars will hope Hayden is right as they look to face the New York Jets and the Houston Texans over the next two weeks.

2. Leonard Fournette is proving to be the team’s most valuable player

Coming into the season, many predicted receiver Dede Westbrook to be the Jaguars’ offensive MVP, however with seven games into the season, the clear-cut answer is running back Leonard Fournette.

An argument could be made for his former LSU teammate DJ Chark Jr., but over the last several weeks Fournette has put the team on his back en route to a few fantastic showcases.

On the year, Fournette has accumulated 144 carries for 715 yards and a touchdown. The former LSU superstar is ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards behind only Dalvin Cook. Fournette has also added 203 yards receiving on 28 receptions, which is more yards than the running back had last year in eight games.

Fournette has become one of the Jaguars’ leaders this season, even without a captain badge to show for it.

After the game, the Jaguars’ running back praised the team’s efforts over the past several weeks and indicated that when he Jaguars are working together as a team, there is plenty of fight, and definitely no quit.

“As long as we give it our best at the end of the day, the outcome is going to depend on us,” Fournette said after the game on Sunday. “I believe you should never quit, no matter what it is or how hard it is. You’ve got to keep fighting. A lot of us got here by fighting, by pushing, whether it’s high school or college. Get that demeanor back — grind, grit — that got us where we’re at.”

3. Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley heard the call

Last week, we indicated the Jaguars were still looking for a true number two receiver because neither Chris Conley nor Dede Westbrook was able to step up in the Jaguars’ loss against the New Orleans Saints.

This week, both players finished over 80 yards receiving on the day and proved to be major assets on a team with very few options.

The Bengals’ game planned around stopping Chark Jr. for much of the day, so it was up to Conley and Westbrook to carry the load.

Westbrook ended the day with six receptions on nine targets for 103 yards, and Conley finished with three receptions on eight targets for 83 yards, including a 43-yard catch and run in the on the first play in the fourth quarter.

The Jaguars will need to get the most out of the two receivers as more teams key on Chark Jr. moving forward.

4. Gardner Minshew played a rookie, and that’s okay

Simply put, Gardner Minshew played like a rookie once again on Sunday. Completing only 15 out of 32 of his passes for 255 yards and a touchdown, the Jaguars quarterback looked skittish in the pocket at times, and inaccurate at points throughout the game.

There were plenty of highs and lows for Minshew against the Bengals, however, his ability to remain calm even while having a poor play or two is what ultimately salvaged the team’s victory.

On a third-and-two early in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars were trailing by only one. Minshew was able to drive the football 50 total yards including a two-yard touchdown to receiver Keelan Cole and a two-point conversion to Conley in order to set the Jaguars up with a lead 17-10.

The Jaguars will have some decisions to make when Nick Foles returns after their bye week, but for now, Minshew is learning and still looks to make an impact with the Jaguars for years to come.

5. Injuries, penalties, and efficiency still plague this team

The Jaguar suffered numerous injuries throughout the contest, including an injury to starting weakside linebacker Najee Goode. Goode would ultimately exit the game with what Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone describes as “turf toe”. Left tackle Cam Robinson would also leave the game with turf toe and not return.

This is perhaps the worst moment for the Jaguars to have an injury at two key positions the team was just starting to see some consistency out of. Backup left tackle Cedric Obuehi and backup rookie linebacker Quincy Williams replaced the two starters in the lineup.

Marrone mentioned the surprising number of foot injuries the team had during the day and remarked it as bizarre.

Another one of the Jaguars’ issues on Sunday was yet again in the penalty department. The Jaguars had 11 penalties for 130 yards accepted against them.

Last week, the team had only two penalties for 30 yards accepted against them, which seemed to indicate they were on the right track. Taking a step back this week nearly cost the Jaguars the win, and will have to be adjusted moving forward.

Efficiency issues have always been a concern with Jaguars, but none were more apparent than in this game. On the day, the Jaguars converted only four out of 16 third-downs and were an abysmal one for six in red zone opportunities including one for three in goal-to-go chances.

Marrone mentioned the Jaguars’ turnovers being the ultimate key to success on the day due to their inefficiency on offense. “I thought offensively we moved the ball but situationally … you know, I just did the radio thing with Jeff and Jeff was like ‘red zone’ and red zone is also goal-to-goal, you know, and we went 0-for in the goal-to-goal and obviously we were one-for-whatever in the red zone.”

The Jaguars will have to get better and have a great opportunity in front of them as they play host to the visiting New York Jets next Sunday.

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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