Coming off of an exciting 2017 season for each of them, the Jaguars and the Vikings were already playing in the preseason this August, and now they will try to benefit from that, even more.
On Thursday, the teams that each won their division and made their conference title game a year ago, jointly announced that they will be practicing together in Minneapolis in advance of their August 18th preseason game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Jags announced the move on social media around lunch time:
For more on the joint practice:https://t.co/JU8jLhBw4I
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) May 17, 2018
There are some intriguing elements and benefits. And Jacksonville coach, Doug Marrone laid those out in the team release:
“We look forward to traveling to Minnesota to work with Coach Zimmer and his team at their new state-of-the-art facility, the Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center,” said Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone. “Having the opportunity to practice with another conference finalist during training camp will allow us to compete with great players and coaches and continue to push ourselves. We believe that these joint sessions will provide us with an opportunity to improve as a football team, which is always the goal for training camp.”
He’s absolutely right that by the third week of training camp, the mundane repetition of practicing against yourselves day after day in the summer heat needs to be broken up. And many teams for years have begun to do with with another club.
In fact, last season, the Jaguars hosted the Bucs in joint practices prior to their August exhibition match-up at their facilities adjacent to what’s now, TIAA Bank Field.
However, things don’t always go as intended for either or both teams.
Example, during those practices last August, as was documented on the HBO training camp all access “Hard Knocks” that featured the Bucs, coach Dirk Koetter was displeased with the effort and the execution of his team against the Jags in the workouts.
Even worse though, Jacksonville played terribly as a team, in the first half of the actual game, and QB Blake Bortles looked so bad, that Marrone and the coaching staff decided to bench him for the following week in favor of veteran backup Chad Henne.
Henne was largely ineffective in that role to end the preseason, and the Jags went back to Bortles. And, he went on to a solid start to the regular season and was good, not great, for the most part in 2017.
As for the Vikings, they are anxious to get all of the work in that they can for new high priced free agent QB Kirk Cousins, as this would be his second exhibition game. And there work with the Jaguars should benefit them, leading to the game.
Still both teams won’t show much, to each other in practice, and usually the second preseason game sees starters gone by half time.
So, how much will really be gained by this?
Coaches will tell you it helps evaluate. Players will tell you they like limited blocking and tackling someone else.
Fans will get to see the practices for free.
Other than those points? Not a lot else will be.
It is after all, practice.
Titans smother Jaguars in low scoring win
It’s not a game that will go in “the Time Capsule” for NFL fans to watch decades from now, but Tennessee’s recent Mastery over the Jaguars continued Sunday with an ugly 9 – 6 win.
Both defenses played hard and played well, but in the end, the third of three Ryan Succop field goals with just over six minutes remaining was the difference, as Tennessee handed the Jaguars their first loss of 2018.
The Titans did not start franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota who has still been battling nerve problems from his elbow after a hit in the week one lost Miami. However, Mariota was forced into duty, when backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert suffered a concussion in the first quarter and could not return.
Speaking of not effective, the Jaguar offense would also qualify in that category. Playing for the second straight game without Leonard Fournette due to his injured hamstring, Jacksonville mustered only six first downs, 100 yards and 3 points in the first half.
The second half was about ball control and time-consuming drives. And Jacksonville punted twice and had a Josh Lambo field goal, but it was not nearly enough.
Blake Bortles, off of a four-touchdown game against New England last week, was mostly ineffective at sustaining drives, must less getting them in the end zone. He was 21 – 34, but for 155 yards only.
Backup running back TJ Yeldon carried seven times for 44 yards and third string running back Corey Grant 6 times for 11 yards. And, the credit goes to Tennessee’s defense, which smothered Jacksonville for much of the day at TIAA Bank Field by forcing eight punts for the game.
With the road win, the Titans assumes first place in the AFC South on the tiebreaker over the Jaguars, which combined with their season sweep last year means they’ve beaten Jacksonville three straight times.
Gameday- Jaguars host Titans in AFC South showdown
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 may have to go deeper into running back depth chart Sunday
More concern for the Jaguars running back situation at the conclusion of Friday’s practice. This is because not only is Leonard Fournette still questionable to play with his injured hamstring, but now so too is his backup, T.J. Yeldon.
Both players were limited in practice on Friday for Sunday’s game with the Titans. Yeldon has a sprained ankle suffered during Sunday’s win over New England 31-20. He did carry the ball 10 times for 58 yards rushing last week, which was a solid performance.
Coach Doug Marrone was his usual non-forthcoming self post Friday practice, when it came to conversation about the injured backs. However, you can use previous precedence and injury designation to draw some conclusions.
For example, Fournette’s hamstring was bad enough that he never returned to the opening game with the Giants, and even though he and the Jaguars said the right things leading up to last week’s game, he was unable to practice fully, was listed as questionable, and they held him out of the Pats game.
And with the understanding that we are not in the Jacksonville training room and don’t know the full updates, the fact that now Fournette and Yeldon were unable to practice fully at all this week, has to be a concern for the Jaguars running attack.
If neither of those two are active or, let’s say they are active but not effective, the third string running back is fourth year veteran Corey Grant. The former undrafted player from Auburn has been active for 35 games in his career including all 16 a year ago and the first two in this season.
He has only one career start, but Grant against the Patriots last week had six catches for 56 yards and four carries for 13 yards. And he’s clearly who Marrone and offensive coordinator Nate Hackett will turn to to establish the ground game and the play-action for quarterback Blake Bortles.
Again, there’s always the possibility that they were just being precautionary with Yeldon’s ankle this week and that with 48 hours more rest and treatment, he will be ready to start.
But, let’s just say that if you have the former Bama tailback or Fournette, you might need to look at other options for your Fantasy Football lineup this week.
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