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Jacksonville Jaguars

’16 Jags for real? Test with Packers right away Sunday!

(Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire)
Christopher Fischer

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It’s a statement game right out of the shoot for the Jaguars. Facing the Packers in the season opener, Jacksonville has the chance to prove they are no longer the young cats who’ve toiled at the bottom of the AFC South.

“I think it’s a good chance for us to go out and rise to the level of our expectations,” said Blake Bortles. “We expect to play well.”

The expectations of going from a 5-11 record a year ago to a playoff contender has hounded this team through out the preseason. General Manager Dave Caldwell did little to turn down the pressure by saying, “We can match up with virtually almost anybody.”

That confidence will be put to the test as Aaron Rodgers leads Green Bay in to Everbank Field five and half point favorites.

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While the storyline of Gus Bradley’s job security will hover over the Jags’ through out the season, here are the top three storylines for Sunday:
How will the Jaguars defense handle Aaron Rodgers?
Aaron Rodgers is coming off statistically his worst season of his 12-year career. Now that he has a healthy Jordy Nelson to throw to, Rodgers will try to make a statement that he is back to his old self.

The Jaguars over the off-season upgraded their defense which ranked 29th overall. The upgrades to the secondary in signing Tashaun Gipson and drafting Jalen Ramsey should help a unit that gave up the second most points per game (27.3 ppg) in the NFL last season.

The key will be getting pressure on Rodgers. Dante Fowler Jr. showed speed and power off the edge during the preseason. Now the former first round draft pick will need to keep his motoring running high against one of the leagues’ best offensive lines.

Look for Paul Posluszny to spy on Rodgers to keep him contained. If the defense can keep pressure on Rodgers in the pocket, the upgraded secondary should give them the ability to get off the field.

Bortles and the Allens’ aerial assault
It’s time to take the next step. Blake Bortles is coming off a year in which he set a franchise record for passing touchdowns (35) and passing yards (4,428). His weapons haven’t changed with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, but Bortles is hoping his propensity for throwing interceptions has.

Bortles provided insight on how he plans to cut down on the turnovers:
“Pre-snap knowing where your going with the ball, kind of having an idea of a visual playing out in your head what happens before it happens,” said Bortles.

Despite not facing a 3-4 defense during the preseason, the Packers system is nothing new for Bortles and Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson.

They know Hurns and Robinson will give them the ability to spread the field. But keeping Bortles upright with Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews barreling down on him will be crucial.
Olsen said he wants a quick tempo to dictate the pace of play to the defense. So look for Bortles to call plays at the line to allow the the Allens to use their speed to get down field.

The Rookies affect

Top draft picks and injuries have grabbed headlines going in to training camp the past two years. First round picks Dante Fowler Jr. and Jalen Ramsey, as well as second round pick Myles Jack appear to be healthy heading in to the opener.

All three are expected to make an immediate impact. Ramsey’s physicality and length gives the secondary a lock down cover corner Bradley’s defense has been missing.

Jack will bring depth to the linebacking core. His ability to go side to side shouldn’t allow for a drop off when Posluszny needs a blow.

These three rookies will be leaned on more when Rodgers drops back to pass.

Overall
This is a chance for the Jaguars to come out and assert themselves. A lot of pundits have picked Jacksonville as their “sleeper” team to make the playoffs.

No better chance to prove they’re for real, than to come out on home turf and punch the Packers in the first game of the season.

A native Floridian who graduated from Clearwater High School and the University of Florida, Chris Fischer has spent nearly 15 years in Sports Televison, including the last five as Sports Reporter and Anchor with the CBS affiliate in Tampa Bay-WTSP. He is a multi time AP Sports and Local Emmy award winner and will be seen this season as a sideline reporter on CBS-TV’s network coverage of the NFL.Chris brings enthusiasm and passion (particularly when it comes to his Gators) to College and NFL coverage to F.F.I.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Titans smother Jaguars in low scoring win

Florida Football Insiders

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not a game that will go in “the Time Capsule” for NFL fans to watch decades from now, but Tennessee’s recent Mastery over the Jaguars continued Sunday with an ugly 9 – 6 win.

Both defenses played hard and played well, but in the end, the third of three Ryan Succop field goals with just over six minutes remaining was the difference, as Tennessee handed the Jaguars their first loss of 2018.

The Titans did not start franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota who has still been battling nerve problems from his elbow after a hit in the week one lost Miami. However, Mariota was forced into duty, when backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert suffered a concussion in the first quarter and could not return.

Mariota was not particularly effective finishing just 12 – 18 for 100 yards and did rush for another 51 yards for the game.

Speaking of not effective, the Jaguar offense would also qualify in that category. Playing for the second straight game without Leonard Fournette due to his injured hamstring, Jacksonville mustered only six first downs, 100 yards and 3 points in the first half.

The second half was about ball control and time-consuming drives. And Jacksonville punted twice and had a Josh Lambo field goal, but it was not nearly enough.

Blake Bortles, off of a four-touchdown game against New England last week, was mostly ineffective at sustaining drives, must less getting them in the end zone. He was 21 – 34, but for 155 yards only.

Backup running back TJ Yeldon carried seven times for 44 yards and third string running back Corey Grant 6 times for 11 yards. And, the credit goes to Tennessee’s defense, which smothered Jacksonville for much of the day at TIAA Bank Field by forcing eight punts for the game.

With the road win, the Titans assumes first place in the AFC South on the tiebreaker over the Jaguars, which combined with their season sweep last year means they’ve beaten Jacksonville three straight times.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Gameday- Jaguars host Titans in AFC South showdown

Florida Football Insiders

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Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Who: Jaguars (2-0) vs. Titans (1-1)

Where: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville

When: Sunday 1 p.m.

Spread: Jaguars by 9 1/2 (Courtesty VegasInsider.com)

The 2-0 Jaguars are ready to play host to AFC South rival Tennessee on Sunday and try to break the Titans 2017 headlock they put around Jacksonville in sweeping them.

Here’s what we are watching in their first match-up of the year Sunday:

Who’s running the ball in Jacksonville?

As we documented, both Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon are banged up and were limited in practice this week. Fournette is unlikely to play or even if he is, he may not be that effective with a hamstring injury suffered two weeks ago.

Yeldon had 51 yards rushing last week against the Patriots in Fournette’s absence, but he has a sprained ankle. Yeldon is also listed as questionable.

If Yeldon cannot go, the third running back is Corey Grant, a four year veteran, who has only started one game in his career. Grant did have six catches and four runs last week in the New England win.

QB Blake Bortles played well without Fournette throwing four TDs in the win. He desperately needs some rushing attack for drive momentum and to set up play action.

Who’s the QB for the Titans?

Marcus Mariota has been battling an injury to the nerve in his elbow after taking a hit in the week one loss to the Dolphins. Mariota did not play in their win last week against Houston and is officially questionable for this game in North Florida.

If he cannot play, veteran backup Blaine Gabbert will fill in as he’s done the last two games. Gabbert was just 13-20 for 117 yards and a TD pass against the Texans, but he didn’t have to have great numbers.

The Titans got a fake punt TD pass, played solid defense and still won.

It’s possible that Mariota may try to play, but Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel will have use of both QBs, too.

Which leads to, will the Jaguars D lock down the Titans?

It’s no secret that the Jags want to win with defense, and this game is no exception. They were really good against the Patriots last week holding Hall of Famer Tom Brady in check for much of the day. Jacksonville is fifth in points allowed and seventh in yards allowed in the NFL.

Plus, Jacksonville still has one of the most feared pass rushes in the league, as Brady found out the hard way last week. In a critical third quarter sequence, Bortles had thrown an interception, but right away, defensive end Dante Fowler got the ball back on a strip sack of Brady.

They will need plays like that to get the win and keep their perfect season in tact.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars may have to go deeper into running back depth chart Sunday

Florida Football Insiders

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

More concern for the Jaguars running back situation at the conclusion of Friday’s practice. This is because not only is Leonard Fournette still questionable to play with his injured hamstring, but now so too is his backup, T.J. Yeldon.

Both players were limited in practice on Friday for Sunday’s game with the Titans. Yeldon has a sprained ankle suffered during Sunday’s win over New England 31-20. He did carry the ball 10 times for 58 yards rushing last week, which was a solid performance.

Coach Doug Marrone was his usual non-forthcoming self post Friday practice, when it came to conversation about the injured backs. However, you can use previous precedence and injury designation to draw some conclusions.

For example, Fournette’s hamstring was bad enough that he never returned to the opening game with the Giants, and even though he and the Jaguars said the right things leading up to last week’s game, he was unable to practice fully, was listed as questionable, and they held him out of the Pats game.

And with the understanding that we are not in the Jacksonville training room and don’t know the full updates, the fact that now Fournette and Yeldon were unable to practice fully at all this week, has to be a concern for the Jaguars running attack.

If neither of those two are active or, let’s say they are active but not effective, the third string running back is fourth year veteran Corey Grant. The former undrafted player from Auburn has been active for 35 games in his career including all 16 a year ago and the first two in this season.

He has only one career start, but Grant against the Patriots last week had six catches for 56 yards and four carries for 13 yards. And he’s clearly who Marrone and offensive coordinator Nate Hackett will turn to to establish the ground game and the play-action for quarterback Blake Bortles.

Again, there’s always the possibility that they were just being precautionary with Yeldon’s ankle this week and that with 48 hours more rest and treatment, he will be ready to start.

But, let’s just say that if you have the former Bama tailback or Fournette, you might need to look at other options for your Fantasy Football lineup this week.

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