Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone has never seen Chad Henne start a game but that will change when the Jags take on the Panthers at EverBank Field on Thursday.
After nearly a week of speculation and hankering over the decision, the Jaguars announced on Wednesday that Henne will replace Blake Bortles as their starter. At least for this game.
It was the right move for Marrone, who threatened to lose his locker room and maybe more if he opted to stick with Bortles, who has easily been the team’s weakest performer at the position this preseason.
Bortles, who suffered through a massive regression in terms of form and effectiveness last year, has produced a miserable 71.8 passer rating as the Jaguar starter this preseason.
Henne has been nearly twice as good, completing 11 of 16 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown while producing a promising 127.9 passer rating to earn a chance to prove he can run the Jags offense.
Bortles will get that chance, too, though. Not surprisingly, the Jaguars are expected to give both quarterbacks time with the first-team offense, which suggest they’re in a bit of a playoff.
“I try to look at it to see which one of the guys is going to go out there and take (the job),’’ Marrone said. “I’m looking for the guy at that position who can really go out there and lead our team.’’
The Jaguars hope is that they’ll get an answer on that as soon as Thursday night but don’t be surprised if, just as he did in naming a starter, Marrone takes his time determining a winner.
“I don’t like to make quick decisions,’’ said Marrone. “So we’ll see how it goes. As far as what they did in practice this week, no one really hurt themselves. Now it’s a matter of what happens in the game.’’
For almost a week now it seems this has been Henne’s job to lose and he could still do that with a bad performance against the Panthers, which is quite possible.
Henne has played 65 games in the NFL, starting 53 of them. Across that span he has completed just 59-percent of his passes and produced a passer rating of 75.5.
There’s nothing special in that and certainly nothing that suggests he is ready to lead a team to the playoffs, but hey, there’s nothing to suggest Bortles is ready to that either.
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?