You know it’s a big matchup in the NFL on TV, when Emmy award-winning CBS icon Jim Nantz is broadcasting the game. That will be the case for the Jaguars showdown at Kansas City Sunday afternoon.
For the second time in three weeks, Nantz and analyst and former Cowboys star QB Tony Romo will work the Jaguars game. And most of the country will see their broadcast.
Just as two weeks ago, when Jacksonville hosted and defeated the AFC Champion Patriots, CBS’ number one crew is assigned to this battle of the 3-1 Jags taking on the unbeaten Chiefs.
And while much of the attention, and rightfully so, is on Chiefs second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes taking the NFL by storm in the first month of the season, it was interesting to hear Nantz talk on Thursday morning about Jacksonville’s quarterback, Blake Bortles:
COMING UP NEXT:
CBS announcer Jim Nantz joins Jags Drive Time to discuss Sunday's game against the Chiefs. https://t.co/OnzQNNMGoo
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) October 4, 2018
On the “Jags Drive Time” internet show on the team website, Jaguars preseason television voice and internet host Brian Sexton, had a wide-ranging conversation with Nantz about the upcoming game, and when the conversation turned to the Jaguars signal-caller, Nantz did not hold back with some interesting comments:
“I’m glad that I’m the one that gets to address it… I think there has been so much negativity build up from those who cover the league closely… I feel sorry him.” Nantz continued on Bortles, “He doesn’t want anybody’s pity. This guy is as resilient as anybody can be. And, he has become, I think, a very good quarterback. And, I am waiting for that to suddenly gain some steam. What he did last year in the playoffs did not get enough acclaim. He went through three playoff games and didn’t turn it over once. He led this team. He did a brilliant job.”
No one should really feel sorry for Bortles as he is a massively paid NFL quarterback and has understood throughout his career that he would be a “lightning rod” for criticism, especially with poor play.
And, as has been well-documented, he was benched in the preseason last year by coach Doug Marrone and on the verge of being run out of North Florida. Bortles obviously played solidly, and at times well in 2017, his performance in the two playoff road games at Pittsburgh and New England silenced a lot of his critics.
Further, in that match up with the Patriots two weeks ago, and even without star running back Leonard Fournette, Bortles again shined with a 300-plus yard and three passing touchdown day against the Pats.
It will definitely be loud and hostile at Arrowhead Stadium, and you can bet scrutiny will be on Bortles, particularly, if he makes mistakes like throwing interceptions.
However, the more he succeeds and wins games like this one, the critics won’t have ammunition to come back at him.
And you get the feeling that Jim Nantz will be backing him on the air when Sunday’s broadcast begins.
If Jaguars are going with QB Cody Kessler, they better stick with him
There’s not much going right right now in Jacksonville. It’s obvious that the offense is sinking to the bottom of the sea like an anvil. However, after a third straight loss and four out of five, where the Jaguars offense has gone nowhere, it may very well be time for starting quarterback Blake Bortles to take a seat.
Oh, he already took a seat in the second half of Sunday’s latest loss 20 – 7 to the Texans. And rightfully so, as Bortles was putrid again throwing just 6 – 12 for 61 yards and lost two fumbles. And, the sputtering Jaguar offense was shut out for the third consecutive week in the first half.
Coach Doug Marrone bluntly declared the quarterback position “open” in his post game press conference.
So, it’s a week of uncertainty for the Jaguars, as they get ready to head to London to play the Eagles.
But, as much as it seems like the logical, if not even the “no risk thing to do,” to start Cody Kessler next Sunday, here’s a quick word of caution:
Be ready to stick with it.
The Jaguars season is teetering on the verge of becoming completely lost, and currently, it appears that it only needs only “one final straw to break its back.”
Sure Kessler could succeed, but he could have the same or even worse results this week at Wembley. But, if Marrone is not willing to stick with him, Jaguar locker room that already had players screaming at each other Sunday, as the media came in, may be done in 2018 once and for all.
Kessler does have six career starts for Clevleand in the 2016 season. And maybe the “spark” that we briefly saw on a TD drive in the second half will turn into something more.
And look. It’s no secret that Bortles existence as the Jags quarterback was in serious Jeopardy last August, but he played solidly, if at times not great, football during what turned out to be a magical turnaround 2017 season.
And Bortles did respond well after a shaky first postseason victory over Buffalo to play brilliantly in Pittsburgh in the upset of the Steelers. And then, he played good enough football to have the Jags in position to win the AFC Championship game at New England the following week.
However, right now, it doesn’t seem like Bortles will be around for 2019, much less longer term.
So if you’re now saying he’s not good enough to help you get out of this tailspin against Philly and beyond, you’re going to have to stay committed to Kessler trying to make it work.
That’s because if you go to Kessler, but end up benching him after one game and going back to Bortles, Marrone will be signaling that they don’t have much of a clue and much belief in anyone to save the situation.
That’s worse than giving Bortles one more shot at this point.
It’s a shot late August 2017 that worked for Bortles and the Jags.
It’s the shot Kessler should get, in full, to turn it around, this year.
Gameday- Jaguars try to bounce back at home against hot Texans
Who: Jaguars (3-3) at Texans (3-3)
When: Sunday 1 p.m.
Where: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville
Spread: Jaguars by 4 points (Courtesy of Vegasinsider.com)
What to watch:
Can the Jaguars run?
Another week and more uncertainty about who and how the Jaguars will get their run game going. It was a dismal offensive showing in Dallas and a 40 – 7 loss.
As you probably know by now, Leonard Fournette is still inactive and out for another game with his injured hamstring. This is the fifth time in six games that he is not available for offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and the attack.
Reserve running back T.J. Yeldon has filled in solidly but not spectacularly. Veteran Jamaal Charles was signed two weeks ago but carried just five times for five yards in the lost to the Cowboys.The Jaguars did trade for Cleveland running back Carlos Hyde on Friday giving up a mid-round pick in next year’s draft. Hyde will not be available to help them in this match-up, but perhaps in the future.
The Jaguars have to try to get some kind of run game going to help set up the play action of quarterback Blake Bortles.
Stopping DeShaun Watson
In the Jaguars season sweep of the Texans in 2017, they had the good fortune of not playing the Texans top weapon on offense, quarterback DeShaun Watson (above) either time. Watson had not yet taken over the starting role in the opening game, when Jacksonville blew Houston out. He then was injured for the season with a torn ACL, when the second meeting came around later in the year.
Watson has now helped lead the Texans to three consecutive victories and is still a threat with both his arm and his wheels. It will be important for the Jaguars front seven to keep him not only in the pocket but also from making great runs on broken plays.
Get the Swagger back
There is no doubt that the good will and momentum of a great 2017 is gone. The Chiefs and the Cowboys pounded it out of the Jaguars the last two games.
Jacksonville is back at home, and they have to give the home fans something to cheer about early and often in this game. Whether it is a big hit defensively, a big play on offense or both, the Jags have to get something going to get out of their funk.
The Texans have won three straight, have other play-makers besides Watson like J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins and they aren’t just going to roll over.
Jaguars acquired RB Carlos Hyde from Browns Friday
Desperate to kick-start their offense, the Jaguars continue to overhaul their banged-up backfield. On Friday, Jacksonville acquired running back Carlos Hyde from the Cleveland Browns.
Hyde, a former second-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, had signed with the Browns in March on a three year $15.2 million deal. And, he had modest success in Cleveland’s first six games, with his best game coming in week 3 against the Jets where he ran for 98 yards on 23 carries and scored two touchdowns.
The Jaguars are parting with a fifth round draft pick in return for the former Ohio State Buckeyes star to give them a “shot in the arm” offensively.
We have well-documented that the Jaguars run game is undermanned and underwhelming. With Leonard Fournette still battling an injured hamstring and already ruled out for Sunday- meaning he will miss his fifth game in the last six, Coach Doug Marrone and staff are looking for answers on the ground.
A week ago in Dallas T.J. Yeldon had 8 carries for 41 yards and newly-acquired Jamaal Charles carried five times for just 5 yards. Yeldon has been limited in practice with a nagging ankle injury, and Charles is approaching 32 years of age and there is still concerned about how much he has left to offer.
With Hyde being acquired on Friday afternoon, he will be first be able to be active and able to help next week, when the Jaguars head to London to play the Philadelphia Eagles.
Hyde is slated to make $5.5 million dollars on this year’s cap, including the prorated 3.5 million signing bonus in the deal he did with Cleveland. The Jaguars are now going to be responsible for a little more than half of that money with 10 games to go in the regular season.
As for their offense, it has registered just 21 points in the last two games- both blowout losses to the Chiefs and the Cowboys. And, off of three losses in four games, if the Jaguars don’t get something going quickly, it may not matter which running back is in the backfield for the stretch run.
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