The Jacksonville Jaguars opened training camp Thursday morning to the veterans, as they join the rookies who reported nearly a week ago. Heading into camp, there are a few questions looming around the practice fields. What is to come from Blake Bortles this season? Will Leonard Fournette share playing time in the backfield? How will the veteran acquisitions from this offseason impact this young defense?
The biggest question mark circulating Jacksonville is the status of Bortles’ future with the team. Expectations were high when he was selected with the third overall pick in 2014. However, things got off to a slow start for Bortles and the Jags as they have only won 11 games with Bortles under center.
This season is now make-or-break for Bortles after the Jags picked up his fifth-year option this offseason, meaning he will be under contract until 2018. With a sub-60 completion percentage and sub-80 passer rating in his career, there is certainly speculation as to if Bortles is worth keeping around until then. Yet, head coach Doug Marrone is optimistic about Bortles’ improvement. He spent the offseason working with quarterback gurus Tom House and Adam Dedeux. He has plenty of weapons to throw the ball to and the acquisition of Fournette should solidify the running game.
Speaking of Fournette, there is speculation surrounding if Jacksonville will run with a feature-back formation or if it will be a shared system. The Jags took Fournette with the fourth overall pick in this years draft after ranking 22nd in total rushing yards with T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory sharing the workload. Both Yeldon and Ivory are still under contract with Jacksonville which is why the possibility of splitting the workload with Fournette is still possible.
While at LSU, Fournette shared his playing time in all three seasons so he is accustomed to earning his time on the field. His freshman year he earned playing time behind starter Terrence Magee and then split carries with Derrius Guice in both 2015 and 2016. However, with Ivory moving into the back half of his career at age 29, he may not be as big of a factor for Fournette. As the competition will begin during training camp, Fournette will need to show why he was a Heisman candidate if he wants to earn the starting role.
The final thing to watch during training camp will be how the defense begins to work together. There were multiple veteran signees that joined Jacksonville this offseason, including Calais Campbell, A.J. Buoye and Barry Church. These pieces add to a defense that is stacked with young talent at its core lead by Dante Fowler, Myles Jack, and Jalen Ramsey. We have seen already that this defense has the potential to be great for many years to come.
When looking at the defensive line, adding Campbell now makes the D-line one of the most ferocious in the NFL. A healthy Fowler working on the end with Campbell as well as Malik Jackson working the interior, this will make for a quarterback’s nightmare. Having the stout line backing group of Jack, Paul Posluszny, and Telvin Smith bolsters up the front seven and provides a cushion for the secondary.
Buoye can bring his five years of experience to the secondary and groom Ramsey into the top tier cornerback that he has the potential for. Church will add veteran knowledge as he plays alongside Tashaun Gipson at the safety position. These veterans will now inherit a large amount of responsibility in preparing this young Jags defense for the future.
Jacksonville has a lot of young talent that will look to improve on their 3-13 record from last season under new head coach Marrone. This is only the start of a bright future for the Jaguars.
Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue hinting he’s gone again?
One of the key free-agent questions for the Jaguars continues to be whether or not they’re going to allow their best pass rusher, Yannick Ngakoue, to test the free-agent market coming up? And, once again, the player may be giving a clue that he’s going to do just that.
Ngakoue tweeted Wednesday morning the following phrase, which seems to indicate, yet again, that he will be playing somewhere else in 2020:
— Yannick Ngakoue (@YannickNgakoue) February 26, 2020
This goes along with something that we wrote earlier in January. That’s when just a couple of days after the season Ngakoue posted essentially a goodbye message to Jaguar fans. This came on the heels of him having held out for a new contract for the first few days of training camp last August, but not receiving a new deal during the season, etc.
Ngakoue, whose 37.5 career sacks are the most by a Jaguars player after 63 career games, is sure to be a sought-after player from many different teams. GM Dave Caldwell said at the end of the season when asked about re-sgning his star pass rusher, “He is a tremendous player and even a better person. How he handled his business this year was tremendous. But, I would say that’s priority No. 1, to make sure he comes back to Jacksonville. Hopefully, we can get that done. ″
It’s also worth noting that at Tuesday’s NFL Scouting Combine at media availability in Indianapolis, coach Doug Marrone repeated that he wants Ngakoue to remain in Jaguars teal and white:
Doug Marrone: ‘’No doubt where I stand or the coaches.”
—They want Yannick Ngakoue back. pic.twitter.com/vOorH4hH95
— John Reid (@JohnReid64) February 26, 2020
However, it remains to be seen if Marrone and Caldwell are willing to “pony up” huge money for him or even potentially, put the franchise tag on him before free agency begins next month?
Ngakoue figures to want a contract close to what the top ends are getting paid right now. Demarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark both signed five-year, over $100 million deals in 2019 and received guaranteed money that exceeded $62 million. That is massive for Jacksonville.
If the Jags opt for the “franchise tag,” then the talented end will be making around $19 million dollars, which is the current average of the top five players at his position. The Jaguars could also put the tag on him and then work on a longer term, salary cap friendly, deal that would replace the tag later in the off season.
Jaguars confirm they are declining option on DT Dareus
At Tuesday’s media session at the NFL Scouting Combine, Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell made official what had been rumored for the last couple of days regarding defensive tackle Marcell Dareus: he will not be brought back for a fourth season in Jacksonville.
Caldwell confirmed the Jaguars are not picking up DT Marcell Dareus' option.
— John Reid (@JohnReid64) February 25, 2020
Dareus only played briefly in 2019, as he suffered a core muscle injury that sidelined him after only six games and he was placed on injured reserve. The former number one pick of the Buffalo Bills had played for coach Doug Marrone for a couple of seasons in Western New York.
Marrone and Caldwell traded for Dareus during the 2017 season and he helped them with their rise to the AFC South title and two playoff wins. This included Darius registering two sacks and four other tackles-for-loss in the Jaguars three playoff games that year.
Dareus made the Pro Bowl twice in Buffalo in 2013-14.
However, he has not lived up to his hefty contract that was reworked Jacksonville last February. Last season, Dareus made over $8 million dollars and the team would have been on the hook for $20 million this year had they picked up the option. That obviously wasn’t going to happen.
Dareus also has had legal troubles off the field, including a civil suit against him in Tampa for alleged sexual misconduct. As we wrote previously, a woman alleged that Dareus had sexually assaulted her in January of 2018 at a North Tampa Florida home, while Dareus was in town for the Alabama-Clemson College Football Playoff Championship Game.
However, that suit filed in Hillsborough County court was “dismissed with prejudice” last April, which means it cannot be re-filed.
Dareus, if healthy after the core muscle injury rehab, may have some value as a defensive tackle on the free agent market.
As for the Jaguars, they have former #1 pick defensive tackle Taven Bryan to play more in the middle and are trying to decide if free agent-to-be, DE Yannick Ngakoue, can be afforded for their 2020 salary cap?