Going into last Sunday’s season opener against the Texans, there was a lot about his team that Jaguars coach Doug Marrone still wasn’t quite sure about.
At or near the top of the list was how an offensive line that made it difficult for Marrone and his staff to evaluate their running game and their quarterback play during the preseason would hold up.
As their 29-7 drubbing of the Texans suggests, it actually held up rather well, especially in the passing game, where quarterback Blake Bortles has seldom, if ever, received the kind of protection he had in this game.
The victory over Houston marked only the third time since he came to the Jaguars as their top pick in the 2014 – a span of 47 games – that Bortles has not been sacked in a game, and he absorbed only three hits on the day as well.
Now, you can argue that Marrone didn’t give the Texans all that many opportunities to get to and either hit or sack Bortles. After all, he was only asked to drop back and throw on 21 occasions, a career low.
But Bortles explained that on several of those occasions, he still managed to make long completions despite realizing early on in the play that the receiver he expected to be open wasn’t.
“We were expecting Marqise (Lee) to be open on (one) side (of the field) and he wasn’t,’’ Bortles said of two such plays. “We ran that same play back-to-back and (I had to go) to (my) third progression (both times).
“So (for the line) to have that kind of test and be able to hold up for that long, with me taking a five-step drop and going through three progressions, I felt that was incredible. I thought they did a good job.’’
Bortles added that the play of the tight ends, the backs and the success the receivers had in getting quickly getting off the line, into their routes and creating separation all played a part in his success as well.
Marrone agreed, but he also noted that it wasn’t just in the passing game where the line exceeded expectations. Though running back Leonard Fournette made some yards on his own, breaking four tackles, the line performed well in the run game, too.
“I was happy with the physicality of how they were going after it,’’ Marrone said of the line play. “I wish I would have known what that magic potion was earlier in training camp because I think that now the level of expectations of how they are going to play is going to be challenged each week and I think that is a good thing.
“I think when they go out and show that they can do this, then obviously, not only the coaches expect (more), but the players, their teammates and the people who support the program (expect more).’’
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?