The much speculated benching at least for now, of Blake Bortles was confirmed Wednesday night by the team, but, bear with us. It doesn’t mean that he’s done in Jacksonville, once and for all. And, it also may not even mean that he’s on the bench week one against the Texans, either.
First, the team chose to release the info on it’s website on the night before it hosts Carolina in their third preseason game.
OFFICIAL: Chad Henne will start at quarterback against the @Panthers tomorrow.
— #Sacksonville (@Jaguars) August 23, 2017
Interesting that with closed practice (even to the media) all week, coach Doug Marrone would not be made available to at least comment Wednesday night on the plan for the Panthers game. Instead, his first likely comments about why on this decision will come in the Jaguars Radio Network pregame interview tomorrow night.
Now let’s examine what was announced.
Chad Henne is the starter for this preseason game and he’s obviously got lots of previous experience with the Dolphins and the Jaguars having done so 53 times in the regular season in his career. Clearly, Marrone (and more importantly Tom Coughlin up above) wants to see if the first team offense responds to the veteran.
But notice in the story, Bortles is scheduled to still play with the first teamers and that likely would be in the first half Thuraday night, too. And, for those who think this is the final chapter for the former third overall pick? It’s not necessarily.
If Henne is ineffective, which is entirely possible, then, he’s no lock to be named the week one guy. And even if he is effective, Bortles could still lead a scoring drive (hey, maybe a TD?!) himself Thursday night to continue the debate.
There is also the possibility, although not likey, Henne could get hurt against the Panthers. Obviously, that would put Bortles back in the starting position it would appear.
We wrote coming off the poor performance by the first team last Thursday against the Bucs that perhaps second year QB Brandon Allen would be an option to go to soon. He clearly is more mobile than both Bortles and Henne, and has looked good against second and third team competition so far this preseason.
But, the fact that Marrone isn’t planning to try Allen against the first team Thursday night, signals they aren’t ready for the youth movement until forced later. Again, that’s good for Bortles in the short term, too.
Also key to him sicking around in North Florida, Bortles doesn’t have any trade value at this point. And, after picking up his fifth year option in the off season, the Jaguars would look completely foolish to just release him. So, that isn’t going to happen at this stage.
Therefore, at worst Bortles is the backup waiting to see what happens.
The Jags hope Henne is the spark, but they also desperately want Blake Bortles to respond to threat to his job/lively hood Marrone laid out after the Buccaneers game and play well Thursday.
And if Bortles does? He’s still possibly playing or even starting this season.
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?