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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars, Bortles prove they can throw downfield after all

Roy Cummings

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Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire

Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said he didn’t know until Sunday that he’d have to play the Colts without rookie running back Leonard Fournette in the lineup.

Whether that’s true is immaterial because the Jaguars prepared all week as if they would face a Colts defense bent on stopping the league’s second-leading rusher and their preparation paid off.

The Jaguars spent the week working on a way to exploit the eight- and sometime nine-man boxes that defenses have consistently thrown at them in an effort to stop Fournette and the plan succeeded. Wildly.

Even without Fournette in the Jaguars lineup, the Colts filled the box anyway, all but daring quarterback Blake Bortles to beat them with his arm, which is exactly what Bortles did.

A quarterback whose previous high for the year was the 244 yards he threw for against the Ravens threw for 282 in the first half alone on his way to throwing for 330 yards and a touchdown in the Jaguars 27-0 victory.

Included in that total were long throws of 52, 50 and 45 yards as well as 28- and 24-yard tosses from a quarterback who had previously completed just 23 passes for 16 yards or more.

That stat had many wondering if the Jaguars could effectively throw the ball downfield, which is the best way to beat eight- and nine-man boxes, and it seems they effectively answered that question on Sunday.

 “Going into it we spent a little more time on shots down the field last week,’’ Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said after the Jaguars improved to 4-3. “We put a little more emphasis on that this past week.

 “Of course, when you do that you hope they play the coverages that we practiced against, and on the first four possessions there, we had chunk plays or big plays on every one of those possessions.’’

A 24-yard pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis started the long passing parade, setting up the Jaguars first score of the game, which came on a 1-yard run by Chris Ivory, who subbed for Fournette along with T.J. Yeldon.

A 52-yard pass to Keelan Cole highlighted the Jaguars second possession, which like the first ended with the Jaguars reaching the end zone, this time on a 5-yard Bortles pass to Lewis.

Jacksonville scored again on its first possession of the second quarter, this time getting on the board with 42-yard Josh Lambo field goal that came after Bortles hit running back Corey Grant with a 28-yard pass.

Finally, Lambo improved the Jaguars lead to 20-0 with a 33-yard field goal that came after Bortles hooked up with slot receiver Allen Hurns on a 50-yard pass.

Prior to taking on the Colts, there were a lot of questions about the Jaguars ability to score at all without Fournette in the lineup and especially if the game were somehow put on Bortles shoulders.

What Bortles did on Sunday won’t answer that question completely. Questions will still linger about his ability and consistency, but at least we now know that he can provide the right answer.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Titans smother Jaguars in low scoring win

Florida Football Insiders

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Mariota was not particularly effective finishing just 12 – 18 for 100 yards and did rush for another 51 yards for the game.

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.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Gameday- Jaguars host Titans in AFC South showdown

Florida Football Insiders

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Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars may have to go deeper into running back depth chart Sunday

Florida Football Insiders

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

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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