When you lose a close dramatic game like the Jaguars did Sunday night to New England 24-20, everything is going to be scrutinized. Doug Marrone knows this, already.
However, a fair amount of scrutiny and debate is correctly being given to the end of the first half Sunday night in Foxboro.
To set the scene, after trailing 14-3, Tom Brady and the Pats finally did damage to the Jaguars defense and with the aid of two correct penalty calls on the Jacksonville defense, got their first TD on a James White run to make it 14-10.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski kicked off out of the end zone and it was the Jags ball at their own 25 yard line.
With 55 seconds remaining in the first half and two timeouts to utilize, the Jacksonville Jaguars now, had a choice to make.
Their head coach, who had gone with a “full throttle”offensive mindset for the win the previous week in Pittsburgh, decided to have QB Blake Bortles, who had the Patriots on their heels in the second quarter, kneel on the ball and head to the locker room (photo above) with that 14 to 10 lead.
Now, with the understanding that each team was going to have the ball five or six or more times, at least, in the second half and that would decide the game, that decision at the end of the first half is worth debating.
Despite having completely outplayed the Patriots offensively in the first half, did Marrone send a signal to his team?
The signal? Unlike last week, when we kept stomping on the gas on the road even after having scored a bunch of points, we are not going to take risks to beat ourselves, today.
Instead, the Jaguars coached and played a lot of the second half, like a team relying on their tremendous defense alone to try and win the game for them.
Yes, ultimately Tom Brady did solve the Jaguars D by getting New England in the end zone not once, but twice, after trailing by 10 in the 4th quarter. As we wrote last night, Brady’s heroics were not unexpected.
Again, when you come up short you, as the Jags did, you can scrutinize any significant part of your loss.
Immediately after the game, Marrone was asked about having regrets about the decision to “play it safe” up 14-10 or was he looking to the second half and getting the ball first?
“I think it was more the second half kickoff. They had come down (Patriots scoring quickly). We had to make some adjustments at halftime… we just wanted to go in there knowing we’d get the ball back.”
In fairness, they did take the second half kickoff, picked up two first downs, and Josh Lambo kicked a 54 yard field goal, anyway for a 17-10 lead before Brady and Co. ever saw the field.
Still, the argument is: you needed aggressiveness and touchdowns, especially against a great team like New England at their house.
Clearly, Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and really everyone in the Jaguars building, will shake their head for a while that beginning with the kneel downs at the end of the first half, the Jaguars were not as aggressive, as they could have been from then on.
Yes, there was an attempt at a flea flicker pass later in the third quarter that the Pats were ready for and it only ended up being a short Bortles completion.
However, overall the risks/play calling toned down late in the first half and continued throughout the second half, including the Jaguars last four possessions of three punts and losing the ball on downs at the end.
In the end, after a tremendous turnaround in the regular season and two playoff wins, you cannot be too cruel about losing to arguably the greatest QB and head coach ever in Brady and Bill Belichick.
But ask yourselves this: same scenario reversed, Pats up 14-10, giving up a late score at the end of the half, knowing they get the ball to start the second half, does Belichick have Brady kneel?
We don’t think so, either.
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?