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Jaguars vs. Panthers preview: keys to victory, matchups, and mailbag

Demetrius Harvey

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Sep 29, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) takes a hand off from Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the most important game of the season, the Jaguars will have their hands full as they go to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers.

There are no questions regarding the status of cornerback Jalen Ramsey as the Jaguars head to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers. The star cornerback was ruled out by head coach Doug Marrone on Friday. Ramsey will go see a specialist sometime this week as he continues to recover from a back injury suffered against the Tennessee Titans earlier this season.

As for the game, the Jaguars will face a Panthers team coming off a two-game win streak of their own with second-year backup quarterback Kyle Allen at the helm. It will truly be a battle of the backups this week and Jaguars rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew will need to get everything out of his offense on Sunday.

Yesterday, Jaguars nickel back D.J. Hayden was added to the game status report with a foot injury. His status heading into Sunday is questionable. If he cannot play, the Jaguars will be down to their second, fourth, and fifth “best” defensive backs starting. The Jaguars may want to move second-year cornerback Tre Herndon to Hayden’s nickel position and using cornerback Breon Borders outside.

Game Time info

  • When: Sunday, October 6th, 1:00 PM  ET
  • Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Watch: CBS47  (Click)
  • Listen: Jacksonville 1010XL AM, 92.5FM

Five Keys to Success

Stay healthy
While Minshew has looked fine during portions of the practice open to the media this week, he is still sporting a brace on his left knee. Keeping him from further injury will be the most important task on Sunday against the Panthers’ vicious defensive line.

The Jaguars can also ill-afford to lose another defensive back on Sunday. Potentially down two starters heading into Sunday, if there are any more injuries the Jaguars could be looking at using one of their safeties as a primary backup.

Otherwise, the Jaguars are still taking our advice on staying healthy for the most part, and getting out of the game without further injuries should be a primary goal.

Slow down Christian McCaffrey

Unlike Phillip Lindsay a week ago, slowing down McCaffrey is much easier said than done. The third-year running back is having yet another incredible year and could very well be the NFL’s best running back. Receiving or running the football, McCaffrey is a threat no matter what down and distance the Panthers are in.

Unlike his Jaguars’ counter-part, McCaffrey is very versatile and can run anyone over just as well as he can make a defender miss. If the Jaguars slow him down, they will have a fantastic show at coming back to TIAA Bank Field 3-2.

Protect Gardner Minshew at all costs
Well, last week this was just a precaution, and the Jaguars offensive line did not listen. After surrendering five sacks to the Denver Broncos, Minshew-Magic suffered an injury to his left knee. Luckily for the Jaguars, the AFC Rookie of the Month is good to go for their matchup against the Panthers.

Tied for first in the NFL in sacks with 18, the Carolina Panthers have a vicious defensive line. The Jaguars will need to protect an already wounded rookie quarterback in order to have any success in Sunday’s game.

Continue to play distraction-free

The Jaguars have done a terrific job this season at playing without being distracted by outside noise. Coming into Sunday, the team will be without Ramsey for the first time since he was drafted in 2016. While he was unable to suit up last Sunday against the Broncos, at least he was in attendance. This time, Ramsey did not travel with the team as he searches for a second opinion on his injured back.

The Jaguars have a very close-knit locker room, so this should be a very simple task.

Keep the run game going

The Jaguars finally figured out their run-game struggles last week against the Denver Broncos. Running back Leonard Fournette rushed for a staggering 225 yards, including 190 in the second half — the most in one half in franchise history. The team will need to keep it up this week against one the Panthers who have given up 130 rushing yards per game this season.

If the Jaguars can establish the run, it will help the Jaguars pass protection as defenders will be more hesitant to get upfield due to the threat of Fournette barreling down on them.

Key Matchups 

  • Jaguars linebackers vs. Christian McCaffrey
    As noted in the ‘keys to victory’, the Jaguars need to stop McCaffrey at all costs. Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack was recently named the Locked On Jaguars key player of the week, and he will need to have the best game of his career if he is matchup up early and often with the Panthers’ bread and butter running back. Rookie linebacker Quincy Williams struggled last week against angle routes by the Broncos’ running backs, and if he is matched up with McCaffrey this week, he knows he has to get better. Keep an eye out for how the Jaguars use their linebackers in the middle of the field on Sunday.
  • Leonard Fournette vs. Luke Kuechly
    Fournette will be going up against arguably the most talented middle linebacker in the country on Sunday. After his performance against the Denver Broncos, the former LSU superstar will have to dig deep to grind out tough yards against the potent Carolina Panthers front seven.
  • Jaguars defensive line vs. Panthers offensive line
    Let’s try this again. The Jaguars defensive line put up a giant goose egg in the sack column last week against a very weak Broncos offensive line. This week, the Jaguars will face yet another beat-up offensive line who will be without their now-starting left tackle Greg Little along with their starting pro-bowl guard Trai Turner. If the Jaguars want to once again be known as “sacksonville”, they’ll need to produce more than zero sacks in North Carolina.

Locked On Jaguars Mailbag!

You asked, and we have the answers. Demetrius Harvey answers the burning questions Jaguars fans may have in this week’s edition of the Locked On Jaguars mailbag.

From: @asthebroflies: What was the true extent of Josh Oliver’s hamstring injury, and does he look like he has the same burst and speed he had before the injury?

Answer: Good question. Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone only mentioned during training camp that Oliver had suffered a “serious” hamstring injury. Beyond that, the team has no obligation to tell the media, or the general public, the severity of the injury.

In the time we have been allowed to watch during a practice open to the media, Oliver has moved around fine. The majority of what we see are positional drills, not necessarily any actual team activities. There is no way to determine how fast Oliver actually looks, but the fact that he was out there on a limited basis this week, should be promising.

From: @1MalcWilliams: Is Jalen is a no go Sunday? How concerned should we be with Tre Herndon? Is he bad or did he just have a bad game against Denver?

Answer: This question was submitted on Friday before Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone ruled Jalen Ramsey out for Sunday’s matchup against the Carolina Panthers due to a back injury. The Jaguars should be very concerned with Tre Herndon, especially considering Hayden is nursing a foot injury. In general, however, Herndon has looked good more often than he has looked bad. While his play against Denver left a lot to be desired, it is not time to panic. Yet.

From: @CaliforniaJaguar: Name a player you would trade Jalen Ramsey for straight-up that would be a fair trade for both sides.

Answer: This is the toughest question so far. There really is no precedence for a trade of this caliber — at least not player-for-player. The Jaguars hope to get at least two first-round picks for the superstar cornerback, and if that is their baseline, I am unsure what player they’d want in return. The only players worthy of two first-round picks tend to be defensive ends or quarterbacks.

I have a feeling regardless of which player I say either Jaguars fans or the opposing team’s fans will have a cow. A shot in the dark guess at what it would take, considering their price point, would be Odell Becham Jr. The Browns would never do it, however, that is the caliber of player the Jaguars would be looking for.

From: @Joacogorina: We need more from the defense than the offense for this match?

Answer: The Jaguars need to play well on both sides of the ball on Sunday, however an all-pro performance from the defense should get the job done. I do not like the idea of the Jaguars attempting to go toe-to-toe with the Panthers offense if they have to. The Panthers are deploying one of the best defenses in the NFL, and the Jaguars need to match it.

From: @Casscd88: Which CB do you like in rounds 2/3 for the Jags to replace Jalen next year.

Answer: It is October and draft questions are already rolling in due to the ongoing dispute between the team and Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey. If Ramsey is going to leave the Jaguars at some point, they would be smart to select a cornerback in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. I truly do not know many of the cornerbacks available in this year’s draft, but I do like Florida Gators cornerback Chris Henderson.


Official game prediction: Jaguars 17, Panthers 24 — The Jaguars have been fortunate the past couple of weeks in not allowing the game to get out of hand late, however having to face the best running back in the league will be no easy task.

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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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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