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Jacksonville Jaguars

Gameday- Jaguars battle Steelers for spot in AFC Championship Game

Roy Cummings

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Who: Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)

What: AFC Divisional round playoff game

Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.

Spread: Steelers (-7 1/2) U/O (41 points)

Why to watch:

The above makes it obvious. A chance to meet the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game is at stake, as the Jaguars get set to rematch the Steelers. As you probably know by now, Jacksonville shocked Pittsburgh 30-9 in week five intercepting QB Ben Roethlisberger five times in the game. The build up has included Roethlisberger saying he wants another crack at the Jaguars defense. Well, he’s about to get it. And the Jaguars, who smothered the Bills last week in their wildcard game, are more than ready to attempt to stifle Big Ben and the Steelers. If they do, it’s their first trip to the AFC Title Game since January of 2000, when the lost to the Tennessee Titans 33-14.

Key Matchup:

LeVeon Bell vs. Jaguars front seven

Despite all the talk about the Jaguars interceptions of Roethlisberger (two of them returned for TDs) in game one, equally impressive was they held Bell to just 93 total yards in October. If Roethlisberger’s top weapon, WR Antonio Brown, is limited with his calf injury, then it will be even more important that Pittsburgh gets Bell going early and often. For all of it’s overall monster accomplishments on defense in 2017 (Sacks, points allowed, takeaways, etc.) their run defense is 21st in yards allowed per game this season. They also are allowing 4.3 yards per rush, which is 26th. So, that’s the challenge up front. Can they stuff the Steelers nearly 1,300 yard rusher, again? If the Jags do, then they are in great shape to win this one.

Statistically speaking:

We laid out the rushing numbers for Bell and the Steelers above. As for the Jaguars, RB Leonard Fournette had 181 yards on 27 carries in game one. Now, 90 of them game at the two minute warning on his electrifying breakaway touchdown run to clinch the win. But up until that time, he had only 91 yards on 26 carries or only 3.5 yards per carry.

And along those lines, here’s the recent disturbing trend for the Jags arguably best offensive weapon in Fournette: He had 21 carries for just 57 yards (2.7 avg.) last week against the Bills. The previous week at the Titans 19 attempts 69 yards (3.6 avg.) and in week 16 at San Francisco 18 carries 48 yards (2.7 avg). So, that’s three straight games without at least 70 yards on the ground and didn’t come close to four yards per tote in any of them. None of that is good news. The Jaguars must get something, themselves on the ground.

The Steelers run defense is pretty solid at 10th on average at 105.8 yards per game.

Talk all you want about QB Blake Bortles not being able to throw it very much or very well. And, he hasn’t. But, the Jaguars want to run and play defense to set up the offense. So, those numbers above must change.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars “cornerstone” player for 2018?

Florida Football Insiders

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The third installment of our “cornerstone” players series takes us to North Florida. And, as the Jaguars get ready to start up 2018, we wondered which impact player would be the one to build around.

You could make arguments for last year’s top free agent acquisition defensive tackle Calais Campbell, or lock down corner Jalen Ramsey, as being that player. However, it’s a player on the offensive side of the ball that appears to be everything that Jacksonville could have hoped for in a running back. That running back is Leonard Fournette.

Fournette, whom the Jags took fourth overall in the draft, is fantastic physical talent at 6’0 230lbs. with a blend of speed and power. And in his debut season, repeatedly showed why you would want to have your offense centered on his ability pound on a defense.

He made a tremendous impact from the beginning of the Jags breakout 2017 with a 100 yard game in the opening win at Houston, and three more 100 yard games in the first nine.

There was lull in Fournette’s productivity due an ankle injury and he also missed a game in Indianapolis due disciplinary reasons, but eventually, Fournette got back on track. He ran for 109 yards and 3 TDs in Jacksonville’s statement win over Seattle in December that clinched the first playoff spot for Jacksonville in 11 seasons.

Then, in the post season Fournette was just okay against the Bills in the AFC Wildcard game with 57 yards on 21 carries. However the next week in Pittsburgh, Fournette set the tone early and often with two first quarter TDs. He finished with 109 yards and 3 rushing TDs, and Jacksonville stunned the Steelers to advance to the AFC Championship Game.

The Jags sledgehammer back scored another early TD and finished with 76 yards rushing as the Patriots rallied to win 24-20 scoring in the final three minutes to knock the Jaguars out of the Superbowl.

Of course there will be great scrutiny on the play of quarterback Blake Bortles, and rightfully so.

However, much of the Jaguars success offensively, the identity of what they want to do, will be centered around Leonard Fournette.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Why is Jalen Ramsey Twitter feuding with NFL Network analyst?

Florida Football Insiders

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

There is no mistaking that Jaguars defensive back Jalen Ramsey is talented, and in 2017 he was named as an All-Pro by his peers and most recenlty in the player polled “Top 100.” So, that’s a validation that doesn’t need a whole lot else.

Yet, an NFL Network analyst and a former NFL defensive back himself, is questioning part of his game.

And, Jalen Ramsey got annoyed. Like, really annoyed.

It all began when, Bucky Brooks, who hosts a successful podcast and appears regularly on the NFL Network questioned another player, DB Casey Hayward of the Chargers, and whether he was a “transcendent talent” in coverage.

The exchanges with Hayward on Twitter Thursday went on for a bit and then, Ramsey jumped in here:

 

And, when Brooks tweeted about Ramsey and why he was drafted two years ago in the top five by Jacksonville, things cranked up on social media:

Next, Ramsey questioned whether Brooks believes Ramsey is only a product of the Jaguars “defensive system” and not of his ability to shutdown the opposing team’s top wideout, one on one:

Brooks referenced former fellow Noles All American and Pro Football Hall of Famer, Deion Sanders as one of those rare “lock down” corners, and of course, that someone that Ramsey, two years removed from FSU, wants to be compared to with his own game.

Brooks then explained further about his own analysis and teams/GMs/personnel executives thinking:

In the end, Ramsey, who is not bashful about expressing his opinions on or off the field, finally gave some props to Brooks for having an informed opinion:

The bottom line is that analysts get paid to analyze. And the good ones are always soliciting the opinions of others, who are actually coaching and working in the NFL Front office.

And further, if Ramsey keeps “locking down” the likes of the Texans DeAndre Hopkins, and the Colts T.Y. Hilton, who he sees twice a year, then he will continue to get the respect he wants. And, he’ll get the second contract dollars that come with it, too.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL Network will show Jaguars preseason game at Minnesota nationally

Florida Football Insiders

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a tremendous surprise turnaround season that included a division win and two playoff victories, the Jaguars have everyone in North Florida buzzing for 2018. And the NFL Network is interested enough that it has announced it will be showing their second preseason game, at the Vikings, to the nation on Saturday August 18th.

This information was included in the NFL’s announcement that NFL Network will televise a total of 15 preseason games live, nationally:

The Jaguars will practice against the Vikings in Minnesota on Wednesday and Thursday (8/15-16) prior to playing the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Minnesota, who won the NFC North and made the NFC Championship Game last year, signed arguably the top free agent on the market last March. That’s when they inked former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins to a massive three year fully guaranteed $84 million deal.

Jacksonville will open the preseason the previous week against the NFC South champion Saints at newly renamed TIAA Bank Field in North Florida.

The good news in addition to the practice time with the Vikes, most of the starters on both sides of the ball will see action into the second quarter, if not halftime of the second preseason game.

This will be good work for QB Blake Bortles and his new assortment of targets like WR Donte Moncrief and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who both signed with the Jags in March.

And for the stout Jaguars defense led by DT Calais Campbell, LB Telvin Smith and CB Jalen Ramsey (all of whom made the Pro Bowl last year) will get a good opening half challenge from Cousins, and receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. It will also be curious to see if second year former FSU star running back Dalvin will be fully recovered from his ACL tear. And, we’ll see if the Vikings want to give him some work or rest him completely in August.

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