When the smallest crowd to see a regular season Jaguars home game in the last eight years showed up (or didn’t show up) Sunday, theories abounded as to why?
First, let’s get to the facts. As this item on the Florida Times-Union website pointed out Monday, Sunday’s loss to the Rams was the smallest crowd (56,232) to see a Jaguars home game since 2009. And, as the article states, there are many factors that should be considered and likely contributed.
Without a doubt, Jacksonville has been terrible and has beaten down their fan base over the course of the last 7-8 seasons. This is going to drain your season ticket core and diminish the number of people who want to “walk up” in a gameday decision to go to a Jaguars game.
Also without a doubt, despite their quick turnaround, the L.A. Rams are absolutely not a draw in North Florida. If the opponent had been a noteworthy team: the Cowboys, the Patriots, the Steelers, the Packers (who visited last year), etc. then the bigger “names” would have enticed many more fans who aren’t Jags fans.
But, the obvious point is that protests of the National Anthem across the NFL and by the Jaguars have to be having an effect.
NFL combined television ratings are down 7.5% through six weeks from last season, but even scarier for the league, almost 15% over the first six weeks in 2015. That’s a sobering downward trend for the league offices in New York. And, no spin from anyone anywhere can counterpoint that some fans have stopped watching and going to games, because of the perceived insult to the flag and the military.
It’s real. And it’s a problem.
It’s so much of a problem that on Tuesday afternoon, it came to light that Jaguars President Mark Lamping and V.P. of Football Tom Coughlin, had met with Bill Spann, director of Jacksonville’s Military Affairs and Veterans, and several other active and retired military leaders in the area on October 5th at the team facility.
The reason that it came to light is that Spann sent an email copy of an October 6th follow up letter sent by Lamping to Spann, to the Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. Then, the local media got wind of the letter and because the mayor is a public official, requested a copy.
Lamping and the organization’s follow up was an attempt to quell the outrage after Jags players knelt for the U.S. National Anthem and then stood for the British anthem “God Save the Queen” during their September 24th London game.
And to their credit, the Jaguars had not publicized the meeting to “score points” with the public and specifically, the active and retired military in the area. They intended for it to stay private. But, the letter did come out and in it, the team did not apologize to the fans and specifically, the military. It rather stated they were “remiss” in understanding how kneeling for the U.S. anthem, but standing for a foreign one, would be taken by the military.
Well, now that the letter and the contents are out, there are numerous retired or active military, who did speak out to the local media Tuesday. Most did so negatively, but some also are defending the Jaguars efforts and the NFL’s for that matter.
And as you probably know by now, the NFL, the NFLPA and numerous players met Tuesday afternoon in New York to discuss the protests and moving beyond it in upcoming weeks. It’s also interesting that Jags owner Shad Khan was part of the ownership representation at the discussions that included Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Giants owner John Mara among others.
Commissioner Roger Goodell told the media after the meetings that the league is not looking to alter its policy and make players stand for the anthem saying, “we didn’t ask for it. We spent today talking about he issues players are trying to bring attention to, issues in our communities, to make our communities better.”
It remains to be seen if the owners and the commissioner will change their mind and the “must stand” language to the policy or not.
Finally, back to the Jaguars and their attendance.
Their play is clearly better to start this season, and if they continue that good start with a win in Indianapolis, they will be 4-3 headed to their bye week.
Then, they will host the Bengals and the Chargers in back to back weeks. Again, as we mentioned above, those aren’t big draws either, but if there are smaller crowds still for those games?
Then, the anthem controversy and the anger of fans and specifically, the active and former military gains more credibilty.
For now, all the team can do is win games. A lot of games. That always cures most everything.
Titans smother Jaguars in low scoring win
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.
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.
Gameday- Jaguars host Titans in AFC South showdown
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.
Jaguars may have to go deeper into running back depth chart Sunday
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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