Sometimes people don’t realize just how fortunate they are to have something until it’s taken away from them. Take Blake Bortles and his job as the Jacksonville Jaguars starting quarterback, for example.
Bortles temporarily lost his starter’s job after he continued to struggle at the start of the preseason this year, but he’s got that job back – at least for now – and he seems more grateful than ever to have it.
Asked on Wednesday ahead of the Jaguars opener against the Houston Texans if the ordeal he’s been through since the start of last season has changed him, Bortles admitted it’s changed the way he values and approaches his job.
“It’s easy to say that nothing changes but when something like that happens, when that situation occurs, there’s a little extra appreciation taken now when you go to take each snap in practice,’’ Bortles said.
“So (now I’m) really just working on that. I’m focusing and really just trying to be locked in on each and every play and trying to get the most out of it.’’
In order to get the most out of any play, Bortles will have to change more than just his appreciation for the job. He’ll have to continued to change his footwork, throwing mechanics and execution of passes, too.
All will have to be better, much better than they have been the last year or so and if we are to believe what coach Doug Marrone says, they have been better since Bortles was given the job back.
The trick now is for Bortles to transfer the improvements he’s supposedly made on the practice field to the game-day field on Sundays. The Jaguars hopes of making something out of the 2017 season depend on it.
The Jaguars believe they can be playoff contenders this year. Perhaps, if their defense plays to the level it’s capable of and they can run the ball as effectively as they hope to, they will be.
At some point, though, they’re going to need their quarterback to make big plays and win games for them. That’s when Bortles will be put to the test, and according to him he’s more prepared than ever for it.
But not just from a physical or mechanical standpoint. Bortles said that as a result of the difficulties he’s faced the last couple years, he will go into the 2017 season stronger mentally than he ever has been as well.
“If not it would have ruined me going through all that stuff,’’ Bortles said of trials and tribulations he’s been through since the start of the Jaguars disastrous 2016 season.
“I think that old saying, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ – as cliché as i is, I think when you go through that and survive it you are stronger for it, (as long as0 you don’t let it eat at you and ruin you.’’
There’s no denying Bortles was falling into ruin prior to regaining his job a couple weeks ago. And really, it was only because Chad Henne blew his chance to take that job from him that Bortles got it back.
But it’s because of that, Bortles says, that he now has a greater appreciation for that job and all indications are he’s more physically and mentally prepared to carry it out than ever before. All that’s left for him to do is prove it.
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?