Major QB news coming out on Thursday in the AFC South. Perhaps the most important injury so far this season to occur was the news that Texans QB Deshaun Watson will miss the remainder of the year with an ACL tear. He sustained the injury at practice in a non contact play. The news is absolutely devastating for the city of Houston, which isn’t even 24 hours past celebrating the Astros first World Series in franchise history. With that said the Watson injury puts the Jacksonville Jaguars in the drivers seat to win the AFC South.
The Jags are currently tied for first place in the division with the Tennessee Titans at 4-3, however with the way that Watson had been playing especially against the elite teams in the NFL, there was no question the Texans were the biggest threat to win that division.
In addition to the Watson injury it was also learned that Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck who has been out the entire year due to a shoulder injury was put on IR, officially ending his season. Clearly the franchise didn’t see much of a chance in this division to risk rushing Luck back. Plus there’s speculation that this shoulder injury could indeed be a career threatening one for the start QB.
The Jags certainly have the most explosive defense in the NFL as they lead the league in sacks, and have officially been given the nickname “Sacksonville.” In addition they also traded for All-Pro Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus before the deadline making their defensive line the strongest in the league.
With the biggest offensive threat in the division gone for the year, the Jags defense will be able to prey on opposing offenses. In addition to that, their offense is getting healthy as Leonard Fournette and DeDe Westbrook returned to practice this week.
Despite sharing the same record as the Titans, it’s clear the advantage is going to swing toward the Jags now. Their defense is just too good and determined at this point. Their offense is starting to also pick up with TJ Yeldon giving them another option in the backfield alongside Fournette. For a team that couldn’t run the ball a year ago, boy have the tides changed.
We know that the Jaguars were expecting to have a culture change this year having such a strong offseason. Now it seems that the chips, be it tragic for Watson and Luck and their respective teams are starting to stack in the Jaguars direction. Who would have called Blake Bortles being the longest tenured QB in the division when the season started? Now that’s a prop bet that would have paid off
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?