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

(Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire)
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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

Report- Jaguars DB Jalen Ramsey demanding trade

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The continued soap opera of Jaguars defensive back Jalen Ramsey had another chapter on Sunday and now, the Pro Bowl defensive back has apparently demanded a trade.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport says that Ramsey’s agent contacted the club Sunday night after the team’s latest loss, 13 – 12 to the Houston Texans, wanting his client to be moved:

The latest dust-up involving the former Florida State first round pick and the club happened on the sidelines in the first quarter of the game. That’s when Ramsey was apparently upset the coach Doug Marrone did not challenge a completion to Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on a key third-down with Ramsey covering him.

Television replays showed the ball may very well have been on the ground and the pass incomplete. Marrone and Ramsey had to be separated, not once but twice, after Marrone confronted him on the bench next to teammates:

Then, Ramsey came back to argue with Marrone, while he was standing near midfield resuming his coaching duties. And, he had to be walked back to the bench area by an assistant coach.

The ongoing saga included reports last season that the Jaguars have been shopping Ramsey themselves for possible premium draft picks during a dismal 5 – 11 finish.

Ramsey was also suspended for a week of training camp a year ago for conduct detrimental to the team after he screamed at Jaguars beat reporter Philip Heilman. Heilman was filming an altercation between teammates Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler after a training camp practice.

Ramsey is making $3.6 million for this season, earlier in April the Jags picked up Ramsey’s $13.7 million option for next season.

The Jaguars send a message to their locker room last October when they dealt Fowler, former number 1 pick defensive end out of Florida to the L.A. Rams. So, it is not too far-fetched to think that VP of Football Tom Coughlin and Marrone would do the same with Ramsey soon.

However it’s not likely that something like that would happen this week, as the Jaguars are hosting the Tennessee Titans in the Thursday night game at TIAA Bank Field.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Credit Jaguars Doug Marrone for gambling on two point play

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

All too often, coaches deserve criticism for being way too conservative or not being willing to take any chances. So, when a coach does what Doug Marrone did in the final :30 Sunday in Houston, we say “raise a glass for him.”

To set the scene: the Jaguars had played a pretty subpar offensive game for much of the day behind rookie backup quarterback Gardner Minshew. However, Minshew rallied the team in the final two minutes down 13 – 6 to get into scoring range. This included Minshew scrambling on his own and running 18 yards down to the Houston at 13-yard-line with :52 left.

Then with :30 left, Minshew found second-year receiver D.J. Chark alone in the back of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown to pull Jacksonville within one point.

And that’s when Marrone, the Jags third-year head coach, decided to gamble on trying to win the game, right then.

Marrone called for a two-point play, and it was briefly halted when Texans coach Bill O’Brien called time out. Still, after the brief break and time to think about it, Marrone stuck with his plan and did not try to tie the game with a Josh Lambo extra point.

Instead, out of the shotgun formation Minshew handed inside to power back Leonard Fournette, who was stopped by a Texans double team tackle led by safety Justin Reid, just short of the goal line.

That stop preserved the win for Houston and dropped the Jags 0-2.

After the game was done, Marrone met with the media and almost immediately was asked about the risk he took going for the two-point conversion, especially on a road. Marone answered that he had been contemplating going for two the entire time the Jags were driving inside the final two minutes.

As for Fournette, he said postgame that he felt like he had reached the ball across the goal line, but briefly, to give Jacksonville a 14 – 13 lead. Alas, the officials didn’t see it and replays couldn’t clearly show him getting the ball across.

No matter that goes as a loss, Marrone was trying to win a game that his team had no business being in.

This is especially, with the loss of QB Nick Foles to a broken clavicle last week, and then, not playing the game with the likes of DE Yannick Ngakoue, DB A.J. Bouye, WR Marqise Lee and LT Cam Robinson, who are all injured and still trying to recover.

So, shorthanded, and off a season that fell apart at 5-11 last year, Marrone sent the message to his team: “I want to win, right now.”

But. the Texans stopped it.

Yes, you can question the play call/formation to hand Fournette the ball.

However, you cannot argue with a coach showing guts to go for victory, when his team needs a spark.

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