Who: Jaguars (2-0) vs. Titans (1-1)
Where: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville
When: Sunday 1 p.m.
Spread: Jaguars by 9 1/2 (Courtesty VegasInsider.com)
The 2-0 Jaguars are ready to play host to AFC South rival Tennessee on Sunday and try to break the Titans 2017 headlock they put around Jacksonville in sweeping them.
Here’s what we are watching in their first match-up of the year Sunday:
Who’s running the ball in Jacksonville?
As we documented, both Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon are banged up and were limited in practice this week. Fournette is unlikely to play or even if he is, he may not be that effective with a hamstring injury suffered two weeks ago.
Yeldon had 51 yards rushing last week against the Patriots in Fournette’s absence, but he has a sprained ankle. Yeldon is also listed as questionable.
If Yeldon cannot go, the third running back is Corey Grant, a four year veteran, who has only started one game in his career. Grant did have six catches and four runs last week in the New England win.
QB Blake Bortles played well without Fournette throwing four TDs in the win. He desperately needs some rushing attack for drive momentum and to set up play action.
Who’s the QB for the Titans?
Marcus Mariota has been battling an injury to the nerve in his elbow after taking a hit in the week one loss to the Dolphins. Mariota did not play in their win last week against Houston and is officially questionable for this game in North Florida.
If he cannot play, veteran backup Blaine Gabbert will fill in as he’s done the last two games. Gabbert was just 13-20 for 117 yards and a TD pass against the Texans, but he didn’t have to have great numbers.
The Titans got a fake punt TD pass, played solid defense and still won.
It’s possible that Mariota may try to play, but Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel will have use of both QBs, too.
Which leads to, will the Jaguars D lock down the Titans?
It’s no secret that the Jags want to win with defense, and this game is no exception. They were really good against the Patriots last week holding Hall of Famer Tom Brady in check for much of the day. Jacksonville is fifth in points allowed and seventh in yards allowed in the NFL.
Plus, Jacksonville still has one of the most feared pass rushes in the league, as Brady found out the hard way last week. In a critical third quarter sequence, Bortles had thrown an interception, but right away, defensive end Dante Fowler got the ball back on a strip sack of Brady.
They will need plays like that to get the win and keep their perfect season in tact.
Jaguars acquired RB Carlos Hyde from Browns Friday
Desperate to kick-start their offense, the Jaguars continue to overhaul their banged-up backfield. On Friday, Jacksonville acquired running back Carlos Hyde from the Cleveland Browns.
Hyde, a former second-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers, had signed with the Browns in March on a three year $15.2 million deal. And, he had modest success in Cleveland’s first six games, with his best game coming in week 3 against the Jets where he ran for 98 yards on 23 carries and scored two touchdowns.
The Jaguars are parting with a fifth round draft pick in return for the former Ohio State Buckeyes star to give them a “shot in the arm” offensively.
We have well-documented that the Jaguars run game is undermanned and underwhelming. With Leonard Fournette still battling an injured hamstring and already ruled out for Sunday- meaning he will miss his fifth game in the last six, Coach Doug Marrone and staff are looking for answers on the ground.
A week ago in Dallas T.J. Yeldon had 8 carries for 41 yards and newly-acquired Jamaal Charles carried five times for just 5 yards. Yeldon has been limited in practice with a nagging ankle injury, and Charles is approaching 32 years of age and there is still concerned about how much he has left to offer.
With Hyde being acquired on Friday afternoon, he will be first be able to be active and able to help next week, when the Jaguars head to London to play the Philadelphia Eagles.
Hyde is slated to make $5.5 million dollars on this year’s cap, including the prorated 3.5 million signing bonus in the deal he did with Cleveland. The Jaguars are now going to be responsible for a little more than half of that money with 10 games to go in the regular season.
As for their offense, it has registered just 21 points in the last two games- both blowout losses to the Chiefs and the Cowboys. And, off of three losses in four games, if the Jaguars don’t get something going quickly, it may not matter which running back is in the backfield for the stretch run.
Jaguars coach Marrone offered little Thursday about possible turnaround
It’s definitely “circle the wagons” time for the Jaguars after they’ve lost two straight and three of their last four games. The Jags are at home Sunday with division rival Houston and will try to put 60 minutes of football together to get back to their winning ways.
However, if you were looking Thursday for any insight, much less encouraging words, about possible improvement starting Sunday from head coach Doug Marrone, keep looking.
As is customary on Thursdays, Marrone was not made available to the media for a press conference, because he talks extensively on his radio show that is simulcast on the Jags website.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) October 18, 2018
But, not much was learned about improving the struggles during the 15 minutes or so of conversation with the internet hosts J.P. Shadrick and former Jags defensive star/analyst Jeff Lageman.
For example, Marrone was never asked about quarterback Blake Bortles, much less his recent struggles, and most importantly, what’s being done by offensive coordinator to Nate Hackett and quarterback coach Scott Milanovich to try to get the passing game back on track?
Likewise, Marrone was never asked about the Jaguars running game, with the problems that it has had with Leonard Fournette out of the lineup with his bad hamstring.
As we continue to monitor, Fournette did not practice at all again on Thursday and it appears the Jags are going to rest him for an extended period of time. This is out of concern to not re-injure the hamstring, like he did three weekends ago trying to play after two weeks of rest on the injured hammy against the Jets.
Still, you would have liked to of heard what have heard what Marrone thought of RB Jamaal Charles’ limited time and performance last week, how he’s looked in his second full week of practice and what the prospects are of him being able to help the Jaguars win this game with Houston?
Alas, there was nothing Thursday night.
The media will get one final opportunity in advance of the Texans game to talk to Marrone on Friday and see what the updates are on any of those subjects above?
In the meantime, we realize that most Jags fans are only concerned with whether the Jaguars are going to turn it around, get a victory and still maintain at least a tie for the lead in the division.
But the ones that were looking for reassurance from the head coach that it is going to turn around starting Sunday and how?
Well, they, like us, are still waiting.
VIDEO- Jaguars trying to snap out of it leads our weekend preview
College football is cranking up with two state teams undefeated still, and all three state NFL teams will host games this Sunday, too. Is Florida State over that collapse two weeks ago against Miami? Will the Jaguars rebound after two bad performances in K.C. and Dallas?
It won’t be easy as Jacksonville welcomes AFC South rival Houston, who has won three straight games themselves. Meanwhile, “Brock-tober” continues at QB in Miami and will the Buccaneers get well with the Browns coming to town?
Here are hosts, T.J. Rives and Todd Grasley to preview all of the in state action, college and NFL, on the latest edition of the F.F.I. preview:
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