As Jaguar training camp get set to open up next week, one of the dominant storylines will be: what is the status of arguably their best pass rusher the last three seasons, Yannick Ngakoue?
If you’re looking for a simple answer, there isn’t one, yet.
And it was further complicated on Tuesday, when Ngakoue, who skipped to the team’s mandatory mini-camp last month, was apparently at the Jaguars facility working out.
Jacksonville beat writer for the Athletic, Phillip Heilman pointed out, from Ngakoue’s defensive teammate, linebacker Myles Jack’s Instagram photo, that he and and the disgruntled defensive end were working out there on Tuesday:
FWIW, Yannick Ngakoue was in the building yesterday, per Myles Jack’s IG story. Ngakoue skipped minicamp looking for a long-term deal. Would make sense for that to get done before the start of training camp on July 25. Maybe this means something. Maybe it doesn’t. #Jaguars pic.twitter.com/e4qmxiZs49
— Phillip Heilman (@phillip_heilman) July 16, 2019
As we have written previously, and Ngakoue was a no show in June, while seeking a massive pay raise from small salary in the final year of his four-year rookie contract.
Ngakoue is slated to make $2 million this season. Or, roughly about an eighth of what the top 5 defensive ends in the NFL make on average ($15.5 million).
He’s been Jacksonville’s best pass-rusher over his three-year career accumulating 29.5 sacks (9.5 in 2018) and 70 quarterback hits. This after being an unheralded 3rd round draft pick out of Maryland in 2016. So, you can understand his frustration and wanting a new deal.
But, what exactly is the truth?
Well, if you’re looking at Ngakoue’s social media for clues, it’s also mixed signals. He repeatedly sends out one sentence “Mantra messages” including this on Tuesday:
Can’t be worried about the wrong things. Put stuff beneath you.
— Yannick Ngakoue (@YannickNgakoue) July 16, 2019
Further, V.P. of Football Tom Coughlin has shown little/to no tolerance for players that are being counted on to not be present and ready to go. He already spoke out on that subject earlier this off-season with defenders Jalen Ramsey and Telvin Smith skipping the offseason program with the team.
Coughlin was rebuked by the NFLPA and eventually warned by the NFL about trying to make “voluntary” offseason workouts appear to be mandatory and potentially, punitive if a player doesn’t show up.
And then to further compound things, Smith has decided, at least for the last three months, to tell everyone that he’s not going to play at all this year. This despite being a captain, in the prime of his career and slated to make over $9 million for 2019.
But, all of this isn’t voluntary starting next week. And, it’s important to remember in Ngakoue would be holding out, while under contract and the Jaguars have been negotiating with him.
So, we’re about to find out how serious they are about getting a deal done, and how serious he is about really staying away and being fined, while he awaits the possible new deal from the Jags?
Jaguars injury woes continue- LB Myles Jack to IR
The bad news on the injury front for the Jaguars continued on Thursday, when they placed star linebacker Myles Jack on injured reserve.
Source: #Jaguars LB Myles Jack (knee) is going on Injured Reserve today. A hit to the Jacksonville defense.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 5, 2019
Jack missed Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers with a knee injury that was believed to be a sprain suffered in the loss to the Colts two weeks ago. However, the move to IR indicates it may be more serious.
The Jaguars season has unraveled over the course of the last month with injuries to their defense and the team trading away perennial Pro Bowl defensive back Jalen Ramsey to the Rams. Jacksonville had already put DT Marcel Dareus on IR, All-Pro defensive tackle Calais Campbell has been trying to battle through a bad back and DB Tony Harrison has still not been cleared with a concussion.
Coach Doug Marrone has expressed the last two weeks that it has been a struggle for his defense with all of the injuries mounting late in the year.
As for Jack, he had settled in the middle linebacker roll after Telvin Smith abruptly retired in May.
Jack has been solid, but not spectacular, in the middle of the defense registering 7 or more tackles in five games this season. However he hasn’t forced a fumble, has only one interception and half of a sack. Jack also has just three tackles-for-loss at a position that often dictates much more output than that.
The former second-round pick out of UCLA had question marks about his knee coming out of college, when the Jaguars took him in the 2016 draft. However, he has answered critics on his durability by being active for all 59 games of his career up until last week.
Jacksonville will use veteran Donald Payne at middle linebacker for now. Payne played significantly last week against the Buccaneers and has been on and off of Jacksonville roster this season.
Can Jaguars get necessary spark from Gardner Minshew?
The Jaguars were back on the practice field on Wednesday and have to rally around their rookie QB, Gardner Minshew, to re-ignite their season. And their opponent, may be the perfect for them, too.
Minshew took over in the second half for an ineffective Nick Foles, as Foles committed turnovers on each of Jacksonville’s first three possessions. Now, he’s back as their starter to see if the 4-8 Jags can salvage some games in December.
Now, the 4-win L.A. Chargers come stumbling to North Florida off a dramatic loss in Denver and yet, somehow, have been listed as 2.5-point underdogs by top sports betting sites.
Philip Rivers and the Chargers, new-look defense is coming to Jacksonville to try and move to 5-8 and make a run at a .500 season. In effect, both of these teams’ seasons are all but over, so they are just playing for pride. And while mathematically, the Jags are not completely out of the AFC South race, yet, let’s be honest … the Titans and Texans are not going to drop four straight games … and it definitely isn’t looking like the Jags are going to win four straight.
Coach Doug Marrone is clearly in trouble and everything they try is not working. There were plenty of games that the Jaguars could have or should have won, but didn’t. And, now they are sitting on the very bottom of the AFC South with few games remaining.
Onto to the matchup.
The Chargers have owned the Jaguars historically, as they have won in two of the last three and seven of the last ten meetings. But right now, this is a pretty good spot for the Jags.
When we look at standard offense on any given Sunday, the L.A. Chargers are about two points better than the Jacksonville Jaguars on average. The Chargers put up 20.33 points per game against the Jags 18.33. It would be nice for Jaguars fans, if the Chargers performed significantly worse on the road, but they don’t.
They are almost exactly the same level of bad whether at home in Los Angeles or out on the road. And unfortunately, for Jags fans who buy tickets to home games, they have let them down at TIAA Field by performing worse in Jacksonville, to the tune of nearly three points per game. They score just 15.83 on their home field.
The yardage stats are comparable in this one, as the Chargers pass for 255.33 per game, while the Jags pass for 242.50. The Chargers rush for 92 yards per game, while the Jags run game with Leonard Fournette has dropped off to 79.67 average, currently.
On defense, the Chargers are a respectable top ten unit (No. 7 in the league) that allows just 18.50 points per game. They hold teams to 212 yards passing and 97.83 yards rushing.
However, that’s where Minshew will put them to the test. He is far more mobile than Foles and got Jacksonville 11 points in the second half Sunday with them driving for more. That is until the rookie’s killer interception at the Tampa Bay goaline midway through the fourth quarter.
So, most of the numbers point the another Jacksonville loss. That said, the Chargers have lost three straight but have shown some flashes of brilliance. So too did Minshew, who won four games in eight tries earlier this year as the fill-in starter.
If you can avoid this game for your “Survivor Pools” do so … If you are a bettor … stay away.
This is a game where anything can happen, especially with “Minshew Mania” back.