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Jacksonville Jaguars

Some of the hate for Blake Bortles should tone down after Sunday

Olivia Stacey

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Bortles seems to be the quarterback everyone loves to hate. Unless you’re a Jaguars fan, of course.

Entering Sunday’s playoff game against the Steelers, Bortles faced some harsh criticism — he was called “trash” among other names that aren’t worth repeating.

After Bortles rushed for 88 yards and threw for only 87 in the Jaguars’ wild-card 10-3 victory against the Bills, many thought the 25-year-old quarterback would hold the team back from having a chance against the Steelers.

Some analysts, opposing players and football fans said he would choke. But he didn’t.

Instead, he calmly took the field, doing exactly what any franchise quarterback would need to do. He made several big plays, avoided turnovers and didn’t panic — leading the Jaguars to a 45-42 win in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.

He was especially productive in the fourth quarter, converting several key third downs.

At the end of the day, Bortles was 14 of 26 for 214 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 35 yards on five carries.

“I’m just happy to win,” the quarterback said after the win, via USA Today. “I have no animosity against anyone who said anything. I’m happy to be able to come here and do this with this team. There are a lot of guys home on the couch watching this. I’m sure they are wishing that they could play. I know in years past I have been. So the opportunity to be able to continue to play feels awesome. … Everybody is in the NFL here. It’s the highest level of football there is in the world. It’s tough to say that someone is not a good football player or is trash. Everybody is a professional football player and is able to do it for a living. I will always be respectful of everyone we play.”

Sunday’s win was a moment Bortles, and Jaguars’ fans have waited on for quite some time. In his first three seasons, Bortles didn’t perform up to the expectations of a No. 3 overall draft pick. His ability to develop into a franchise quarterback was questioned by many, as the Jags were quite often the laughing stock of the NFL.

As fans and media analysts debated if Bortles was the one for the job, the organization had a chance to make some moves last year. With the number four pick in the 2017 NFL draft, Jacksonville could have drafted Deshaun Watson, who had just led Clemson to a national title or Patrick Mahomes out of Texas Tech who had outrageous college stats.

However, the Jaguars stood by Bortles, and chose powerful running back Leonard Fournette last April. And as Jacksonville prepares to face the Patriots in the AFC Championship, it’s looking like more and more that was the right move.

While Bortles still has his work cut out for him, he’s shown he can do enough to support a team with a dominant defense. He’s limited his mistakes and remains confident enough to take big shots when needed.

“I like to watch a lot of NFL Network and ESPN, and when you talk about defense and Ben (Roethlisberger) all week and the only thing you have to say about Blake is negative, one thing I learned is when you talk negative about him, he just comes out and proves you wrong,” cornerback A.J. Bouye told USA Today. “I got a lot of respect for him.”

After yesterday’s upset over the Steelers, maybe others will have some respect for him too.

Olivia is a multi-faceted sports reporter based in Tampa Bay where she has covered events from the College Football National Championship to the Stanley Cup Final. A native Floridian, she grew up rooting for Tampa’s sports teams, and graduated from East Lake High in Tarpon Springs. Olivia continued her education at the University of Florida where she received her broadcast journalism degree.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. crosseyedlemon

    January 15, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    As a coach would you rather have a hard working QB with no sex appeal such as a Billy Kilmer and Blake Bortles or some prima donna who is more interested in his public image than making a commitment to his teammates?

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Steelers add to Jaguars frustrations with late comeback

Florida Football Insiders

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Any hope that the Jaguars were going to turn their season around on a November Sunday in North Florida ended abruptly, as Ben Roethlisberger fueled a 16-point second-half comeback and the Steelers handed Jacksonville their sixth straight defeat.

The Jaguars controlled most of the first three quarters, but unfortunately had only three Josh Lambo field goals to show for their excellent play in the first half. And, their 9 – 0 lead going into the 3rd quarter came back to haunt them later on.

Outspoken but talented defensive back Jalen Ramsey stepped up big with two interceptions of Roethlisberger, while being matched up head-to-head on Antonio Brown of Pittsburgh. This came on the heels of a Sunday morning ESPN report that the Jaguars would likely try to trade the third year cornerback this off season to rid themselves of his antics off the field.

The Jags denied the report in a statement, and Ramsey looked up to the challenge early

However, Brown did shake loose for a 78-yard bomb in the third quarter with that Pittsburgh back in the game at 16 – 6. It was the beginning of the end for Jacksonville.

And, unfortunately for the Jaguars, an all too familiar theme took shape, again, in the second half. This, as Blake Bortles was once again virtually ineffective throwing for just a 104 yards and was sacked six times on the game.

Then, when Roethlisberger led the Steelers to another touchdown with under six minutes remaining hitting TE Vance McDonald on an 11-yard score, it wast 16-13.

Once more, Jacksonville’s offense could do nothing and gave the ball back to Pittsburgh for one more opportunity for Roethlisberger to play the hero. He hit Juju Smith Schuster-with a long completion inside the Jacksonville 25 yard line, and then, another pass over the middle Bryant put them down inside the 4-yard line with under :20 to play.

Two plays later Roethlisberger scrambled just into the end zone with only :05 remaining in the game and the comeback was complete.

In stunning the Jaguars and their home fans, Pittsburgh won its six consecutive game. Further, they dealt a likely fatal blow to Jacksonville’s hopes to get into the playoff race, as they now stand at 3-7.

Despite Leonard Fournette having a strong day with almost a hundred yards rushing and the lone touchdown on an “Up and Over” dive in the third quarter, the Jags once again showed that their biggest flaw is: that can’t throw the football with any down-filled success and get quick scores with any regularity.

And unlike 2017 when they’re plodding, run-based offense was effective, time and again, it’s been exposed in 2018 for losses.

With the win the Steelers do get a measure of revenge after being swept last year by Jacksonville including a while 45 – 35 playoff loss in the divisional round at Heinz Field.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Report- Jaguars will explore trading DB Jalen Ramsey

Florida Football Insiders

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The soap opera involving controversial and outspoken Jags defensive back Jalen Ramsey took another turn Sunday morning. That’s when ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Jags are going to seriously consider trading Ramsey at the end of this season.

Schefter made the comments on ESPN’s Sunday morning “NFL Countdown” pregame show and also wrote about it on ESPN.com, citing League sources:

As we wrote earlier this week, Ramsey made waves when he tweeted Monday after the Jags fifth consecutive loss that Jaguar fans were going to “miss me when I’m gone.”

Ramsey tried to downplay the controversy, when he met with the media on Thursday, and said that he was only talking to “fake Jaguar fans.” And further, he said that he wants to finish his career in Jacksonville.

We’ve documented the off-season of headaches that included: Ramsey not showing up to OTAs, delaying arriving to training camp by 5 days after the birth of his daughter, and being outspoken in an article on GQ.com criticizing multiple quarterbacks including the Jaguars opponent today, the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger.

And he and former teammate Dante Fowler were both suspended for a week during the preseason for their behavior at a Jags training camp practice, where Fowler was trying to get into a fight with teammate Yannick Ngakoue.

Earlier this week, Coach Doug Marrone took an unusual step for him and actually specifically mentioned Ramsey by name, as having blown a key coverage in the first half on a Colts touchdown pass to tight end Eric Ebron.

Later Sunday morning, the Jaguars released a statement denying the trade rumor:

Ramsey was a top-10 pick of the Jaguars in 2016 and is in the third year of his four-year rookie deal. So that makes the rumors about a possible trade after the season even juicier, because he’s much more affordable for another team to acquire right now.

The Jaguars will take on the Steelers later today at TIAA Bank field.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Gameday- Jaguars rematch Steelers looking stop losing streak

Florida Football Insiders

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Who: Jaguars (3-6) vs. Steelers (6-2-1)

When: Sunday 1 p.m.

Where: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville

Spread: Steelers by 5 1/2 points (Courtesy of VegasInsider.com)

Here’s what to watch:

Build on last week’s offensive success

The Jaguars came to life on the offensive side of the ball in Indianapolis. Even though it was a 29 – 26 loss, Leonard Fournette was back for the first time in five weeks, ran tough and ended up with two touchdowns. As we have well-documented, he also help set up the play-action pass that has been sorely missed on a consistent basis for Jacksonville.

Blake Bortles (shown above in January’s playoff win) was able to hit Donte Moncrief with an 80-yard touchdown and the Jags had their best offensive output, since game four of the season.

More than likely, the Steelers will put some points on the board, and Jacksonville has to be ready to keep up with them.

Slow down Big Ben

In their two wins last season at Pittsburgh, the Jaguars defense was more than opportunistic against Ben Roethlisberger. They had five interceptions in the regular season win and then, two more takeaways in the AFC divisional playoff win were all critical.

The Jags come in with only eight takeaways in nine games, so far. And, it’s one of the big reasons they are on a five game skid.

If Jacksonville gives Roethlisberger time to throw without sacking and knocking him down or at least pressuring him into early errant bad decisions, it’s going to be a long day.

Get the Swagger back.

Somewhere along the way, the Jaguars have lost part of what made them good in 2017. They played as a confident, almost cocky, football team, especially on defense.

They have been humbled in one decisive loss after another, recently and that swagger is not there.

Playing at home Sunday, can Jacksonville revive some of that attitude in front of the home fans by making some big plays early? There will be a large contingent of Steelers fans on hand, as they always travel well.

Let’s see if it makes a difference being back at home for the first time in almost a month.

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