A year ago at this time, Jaguars Pro Bowl defensive tackle Calais Campbell was a prized free agent signing, who had yet to suit up in Jacksonville. A year later, he’s now the leader of a sudden resurgence for the Jags and eager to get 2018 rolling, soon.
On Tuesday, Campbell announced his involvement in an upcoming bowling fundraiser to benefit his foundation and also, answered some questions about new draft pick defensive tackle Taven Bryan and other subjects for the season.
In particular, Campbell’s personality showed in a humorous reaction to where he was ranked in a recent NFL.com list of top pass rushers from former Patriots Superbowl winning defender, Willie McGinnest.
McGinnest had Campbell 10th, with likes of Von Miller of the Broncos, Aaron Donald of the Rams and Khalil Mack of the Raiders leading the list. “I felt like I could’ve been rated a little higher….Couple of the guys in front of me, I was like, eh, I don’t know.” However he finished with, “it’s always an honor to be considered one of the best.”
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) May 8, 2018
Campbell certainly played like one of the best in 2018, with 14.5 sacks, which was good enough for a tie for second in the NFL. And, he also finished his first season with the Jags with another 14 tackles for loss. This lead a young, hungry Jaguars defense to an AFC South championship and the franchise’s first playoff berth in over a decade that included two wins.
And Campbell’s message for the Jaguars fans about getting ready for 2018? “Very high expectations. I have a lot of confidence in this football team….We work really hard. So, it’s going to be a fun year. We just have to take it one day at a time and earn the right to have a chance.”
You can bet that just like a year ago, he’s getting that point about putting in the work across to his teammates. However, unlike last year, Campbell has personal results and the team has it’s accomplishments to point to showing what hard work, even in the off season means.
Jaguars searching for RB depth after second preseason game
With preseason game number two in the books, it’s apparent the Jaguars have real issues with running back depth due to injury. This after veteran Alfred Blue left the first half of the 24 – 10 Thursday night loss to the Eagles with an ankle injury and did not return.
Blue carried the ball four times for just five yards has Jacksonville offense once again sputtered behind a makeshift offensive line. Coach Doug Marrone was so concerned about that line situation and their ability to protect/block that starting quarterback Nick Foles and running back Leonard Fournette never saw the field for a single play during Thursday night.
That means that veteran at Thomas Rawls (above Thursday) was called upon to carry the ball a little more, and he did so, seven times for 19 yards including a long run of 11 playing in the first half.
Rawls is a 5th year veteran who had some modest success with the Seahawks, including rushing for 830 yards his rookie year in 2015 with a 5.6 yard per carry average. His numbers tapered off in 2016 – 17 with ankle and foot injuries, as he only played in 21 games in those two years. Rawls was later released and picked up by the Bengals, but injured again last season, and never carried the ball in Cincinnati.
Obviously, the Jaguars are wanting to implement Fournette, as the primary ball carrier, but they will need someone else to spell him on a series or two. Also, Fournette has had durability questions, as he missed parts or all of eight games last year with a hamstring injury.
The Jags were also hoping to bring along Temple rookie running back Ryquell Armstead, but after he carried eight times for 22 yards last week, he suffered a concussion in the preseason opening loss to the Ravens. Armstead hasn’t practiced since, and is still being evaluated with no further update Thursday.
Speaking of updates, we await how serious Blue’s ankle injury is coming off this second preseason game. Meanwhile, the likelihood is that Fournette, backed up by Rawls, will be the two running backs when the Jaguars play at the Dolphins next Thursday night.
Jaguars dilemma with injuries vs preseason playing time
The Jacksonville Jaguars will play their second preseason game tonight against the Philadelphia Eagles at TIAA Bank Field. At least, some of them will play against the Eagles.
And therein lies “The Dilemma” facing coach Doug Marrone, his staff and a team trying to shake off an awful 2018 season.
How much are his guys going to play, if at all, in this second exhibition contest? This is a week after 20 of his 22 starters did not play a down in the preseason opening loss in Baltimore.
And while everybody has been looking at the possibility of former Eagles Super Bowl MVP, and now Jaguars free agent star QB, Nick Foles going against his old team, it quite possibly won’t materialize.
As Mike Dirocco, ESPN beat writer for the Jaguars, wrote about earlier this week, Foles all the conceded he may not be out there very much due to injuries on the Jaguars offensive line and concerns over being able to protect him.
However, you cannot replicate the “live fire of a game,” like in the preseason, where Foles can work on timing at full speed with his reads and throws to young receivers like D.J. Chark, DeDe Westbrook and Chris Conley.
Further, it’s not as if the Jags have a season, much less several seasons, of experience with Foles with his personnel to lean on. No, he’s trying to get used to them, and they’re trying to get used to him.
And, let’s not forget that star running back Leonard Fournette wants to have a bounce-back 2019 and he didn’t play a down last week. Yes, there were injury issues with his hamstring all last year.
So what will Marrone and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo do with Fournette tonight? This is especially with a banged up O-Line.
And, maybe it will be, a series or maybe, none at all that we see the former LSU number one pick, who wowed everyone in his rookie season of 2017.
It’s fully understood that weeks from now, this Thursday night’s second preseason game isn’t going to matter. But for right now?
The first unit Jaguars need to be able to work together under a game tested circumstance, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to do much of that in North Florida Thursday night.