Ouch. When your own team website comes out with a recap that starts “for three quarters on Sunday the Jaguars looked like the Jaguars,” that tells you expectations are low.
Instead, the site should’ve been in defense of Jacksonville’s defensive effort, and ballyhooed the Jags stunning come from behind fourth quarter victory.
“It was a good team victory,” said Blake Bortles.
No, it wasn’t. It was a defensive victory. Gus Bradley’s defense saved the day to compensate for the lack of offense and 2 turnovers. Chicago could’ve made it a blowout, but the Jaguars stood their ground to force three Connor Barth field goals all shorter than 37 yards.
“I think the big stat was (Chicago) one for four in the red zone,” said Bradley. “For them to come away with just field goals gave us a chance to get back in the game.”
It didn’t matter that Bears’ quarterback Brian Hoyer passed for over 300 yards. What did matter was Jacksonville was able to withstand Chicago dominating the time of possession (Chicago: 35:47 to Jacksonville: 24:13).
What needs to improve for Jaguars:
Their third down conversions have been horrendous this season. The Jaguars rank dead last in the NFL when the down marker reads 3. Bortles and company have converted just 27% (17 of 63), the next worse percentage is Philadelphia with a rookie quarterback and not nearly the wide receiver weapons Jacksonville possesses.
Running the football
You have to appreciate Bradley’s honesty when asked about the poor rushing attack.
“I can’t argue about the run game, it’s not coming along,” said Bradley. “It all comes back to execution and technique but there isn’t just not a certain speed or urgency in our play.”
After 5 games the Jaguars are second to last in the league in rushing yards (355 yards). Only Minnesota is worst, and only by two yards. Chris Ivory carried the rock 11 times in Chicago, leading the way with a mere 32 yards. It’s hard to set up the passing game when you can’t run the football.
“Something is holding us back playing as aggressively as we need to in the run game,” said Bradley. “I think that’s where our attention now is, how do we get this fixed.”
Switching to a no huddle offensive attack in second half proved to be a smart move.
“Sometimes a unit needs to be stimulated,” said Bradley.
Coming off back to back three and outs, Bortles and the offense kept the Bears on their heels by running the hurry up. In three of those final 4 drives, the Jags put points on the board.
Sure the witch to the no huddle was dictated by the fact that Jacksonville trailed by 13 heading in to the final frame of the game. But if this is how offensive coordinator Greg Olsen’s offense is finding success, it would be worth re-visiting from the on set against the Raiders this Sunday.
Where Have you Benn:
Kudos to wide receiver Arrelious Benn for scoring what would be the game winning touchdown on Sunday. Here is a guy who hasn’t been able to stay healthy for years. That 51-yard trip to the end zone is the first time he’s scored a touchdown since President Barak Obama’s first term.
He’s always been a speedster chopped down by nagging knee and leg injuries, but Sunday he gave Jags fans a taste of what Tampa Bay fans were promised when Benn was drafted in the second round in 2010.
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?