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Jacksonville Jaguars

Bortles may be key to unleashing Jaguars running game

Roy Cummings

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Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire

As we’ve pointed out a couple of times here before, those eight- and sometime nine-man stacked boxes that opposing defenses have been throwing at the Jaguars really have slowed down their running game.

The Jaguars have been held to less than 100 yards rushing in each of their past two games and since his return from an ankle injury four games ago, Leonard Fournette is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry.

Maybe Blake Bortles can help. Not by running, but by passing. Really, that’s what Jaguars coach Doug Marrone is thinking, and as odd as it may sound, he may actually be on to something.

Look, Bortles is having a typically ordinary Blake Bortles kind of season this year, one in which he again ranks in the bottom third in the league in most of the meaningful statistical passing categories.

But there have been times this year when Bortles has had to do more than just hand the ball off to his backs, manage the game and avoid turning the ball over to keep the Jaguars in the playoff race.

Last week was one of them. With the Colts shutting down the Jaguars running game, it was all but left to Bortles to keep the Jaguars from losing a second straight game and he delivered.

In what was arguably his best game of the year, Bortles completed 26-of-35 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns and was absolutely money on third down, where he was 11-of-14 for 166 and the two TDs.

He was also sharp against the blitz, where he completed seven of the 11 passes he threw, according to ESPN, and on the deep ball, where he completed 66.7-percent of the passes he threw 20 or more yards downfield.

Now, that is out of the ordinary for Bortles, but what Marrone believes is that for right now at least, teams have to respect the possibility that Bortles could come back any time with another game just like that.

They also have to respect the possibility that Marrone just might dial up another game plan like that, if only because it would force defenses to empty out the box and put a couple more defenders in coverage.

That in turn, would create some more room for the likes of Fournette, T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory to run and that might finally spark their running game back to life.

 “At the end of the day, from a defensive standpoint, you (now) have to be worried about both (our run game and our passing game), at least from the balanced aspect of it,’’ Marrone said.

Marrone isn’t wrong about that. Bortles’ level of play could slip back to is normal levels and for a week or two at least still be effective enough to get the running game back on its feet so to speak.

No, that’s not playing to Bortles strength, but if that’s what it takes it takes to open the running game the Jaguars build their attack aroundm then Marrone just may have to give it a try.

And why not. After all, when they have had to lean on Bortles this year, he has delivered. His numbers for the season overall are, as we said, very Bortles like but when they’ve had to lean on him, he has delivered.

 “Everyone says the identity of our team is to play good defense, run the football and control the clock,” Bortles said. “But I think when we’ve been put in a couple of situations where we’ve had to throw the ball and we’ve delivered. We’ve done some good things.’’

That they have and if the running game continues to get bogged down they’re going to have to do a lot more.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars “cornerstone” player for 2018?

Florida Football Insiders

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The third installment of our “cornerstone” players series takes us to North Florida. And, as the Jaguars get ready to start up 2018, we wondered which impact player would be the one to build around.

You could make arguments for last year’s top free agent acquisition defensive tackle Calais Campbell, or lock down corner Jalen Ramsey, as being that player. However, it’s a player on the offensive side of the ball that appears to be everything that Jacksonville could have hoped for in a running back. That running back is Leonard Fournette.

Fournette, whom the Jags took fourth overall in the draft, is fantastic physical talent at 6’0 230lbs. with a blend of speed and power. And in his debut season, repeatedly showed why you would want to have your offense centered on his ability pound on a defense.

He made a tremendous impact from the beginning of the Jags breakout 2017 with a 100 yard game in the opening win at Houston, and three more 100 yard games in the first nine.

There was lull in Fournette’s productivity due an ankle injury and he also missed a game in Indianapolis due disciplinary reasons, but eventually, Fournette got back on track. He ran for 109 yards and 3 TDs in Jacksonville’s statement win over Seattle in December that clinched the first playoff spot for Jacksonville in 11 seasons.

Then, in the post season Fournette was just okay against the Bills in the AFC Wildcard game with 57 yards on 21 carries. However the next week in Pittsburgh, Fournette set the tone early and often with two first quarter TDs. He finished with 109 yards and 3 rushing TDs, and Jacksonville stunned the Steelers to advance to the AFC Championship Game.

The Jags sledgehammer back scored another early TD and finished with 76 yards rushing as the Patriots rallied to win 24-20 scoring in the final three minutes to knock the Jaguars out of the Superbowl.

Of course there will be great scrutiny on the play of quarterback Blake Bortles, and rightfully so.

However, much of the Jaguars success offensively, the identity of what they want to do, will be centered around Leonard Fournette.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Why is Jalen Ramsey Twitter feuding with NFL Network analyst?

Florida Football Insiders

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

There is no mistaking that Jaguars defensive back Jalen Ramsey is talented, and in 2017 he was named as an All-Pro by his peers and most recenlty in the player polled “Top 100.” So, that’s a validation that doesn’t need a whole lot else.

Yet, an NFL Network analyst and a former NFL defensive back himself, is questioning part of his game.

And, Jalen Ramsey got annoyed. Like, really annoyed.

It all began when, Bucky Brooks, who hosts a successful podcast and appears regularly on the NFL Network questioned another player, DB Casey Hayward of the Chargers, and whether he was a “transcendent talent” in coverage.

The exchanges with Hayward on Twitter Thursday went on for a bit and then, Ramsey jumped in here:

 

And, when Brooks tweeted about Ramsey and why he was drafted two years ago in the top five by Jacksonville, things cranked up on social media:

Next, Ramsey questioned whether Brooks believes Ramsey is only a product of the Jaguars “defensive system” and not of his ability to shutdown the opposing team’s top wideout, one on one:

Brooks referenced former fellow Noles All American and Pro Football Hall of Famer, Deion Sanders as one of those rare “lock down” corners, and of course, that someone that Ramsey, two years removed from FSU, wants to be compared to with his own game.

Brooks then explained further about his own analysis and teams/GMs/personnel executives thinking:

In the end, Ramsey, who is not bashful about expressing his opinions on or off the field, finally gave some props to Brooks for having an informed opinion:

The bottom line is that analysts get paid to analyze. And the good ones are always soliciting the opinions of others, who are actually coaching and working in the NFL Front office.

And further, if Ramsey keeps “locking down” the likes of the Texans DeAndre Hopkins, and the Colts T.Y. Hilton, who he sees twice a year, then he will continue to get the respect he wants. And, he’ll get the second contract dollars that come with it, too.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL Network will show Jaguars preseason game at Minnesota nationally

Florida Football Insiders

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a tremendous surprise turnaround season that included a division win and two playoff victories, the Jaguars have everyone in North Florida buzzing for 2018. And the NFL Network is interested enough that it has announced it will be showing their second preseason game, at the Vikings, to the nation on Saturday August 18th.

This information was included in the NFL’s announcement that NFL Network will televise a total of 15 preseason games live, nationally:

The Jaguars will practice against the Vikings in Minnesota on Wednesday and Thursday (8/15-16) prior to playing the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Minnesota, who won the NFC North and made the NFC Championship Game last year, signed arguably the top free agent on the market last March. That’s when they inked former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins to a massive three year fully guaranteed $84 million deal.

Jacksonville will open the preseason the previous week against the NFC South champion Saints at newly renamed TIAA Bank Field in North Florida.

The good news in addition to the practice time with the Vikes, most of the starters on both sides of the ball will see action into the second quarter, if not halftime of the second preseason game.

This will be good work for QB Blake Bortles and his new assortment of targets like WR Donte Moncrief and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who both signed with the Jags in March.

And for the stout Jaguars defense led by DT Calais Campbell, LB Telvin Smith and CB Jalen Ramsey (all of whom made the Pro Bowl last year) will get a good opening half challenge from Cousins, and receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. It will also be curious to see if second year former FSU star running back Dalvin will be fully recovered from his ACL tear. And, we’ll see if the Vikings want to give him some work or rest him completely in August.

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