With six games to go, the magnitude will increase all over the NFL for teams trying to make a playoff push. And that is definitely the case in Jacksonville, where Jags Coach Doug Marrone already knows his team’s play has got to be better starting this week in Tennessee.
Marrone essentially sounded an alarm Wednesday with the media that the Jags last two performances against AFC South competition haven’t been anywhere close to good enough:
Head Coach Doug Marrone meets the media. https://t.co/nuYGvfqLyU
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) November 20, 2019
On the heels of having lost badly to the first place Texans 26 – 3 in London three weekends ago, his team came off a bye week last week in Indianapolis and was decisively beaten, again, this time, 33 – 13.
We have to coach better, and we have to play better. We understand that. We’re upset. It’s not good enough. It starts with me. We’re going to fight our way out,” Marrone said.
“Like I told the players: ‘Take all that pissed off, which everyone should be, and don’t make it combative, but we have to be competitive. We have to play well. We have to have a lot of energy and we have to practice well.’”
Without specifically mentioning it in those comments, he’s including a Jacksonville run defense, which has given up 200 or more yards rushing in back-to-back games for the first time since 2012,
There is no doubt that the Jaguars want their defense to set the tone and yet they haven’t been able to stop either of their last two opponents. Now, they have another tough division test on the road coming Sunday.
The Jags will battle the Tennessee Titans this time in Nashville and the Titans have a new look under center. They’ve gone with veteran Ryan Tannehill, who the team got in a trade with the Dolphins in March and has replaced former #2 overall pick, Marcus Mariota.
Tennessee has been solid since Tannehill took over, winning three of the four games including an upset 35 – 32 of the Chiefs two weeks ago. And the worst news is that the Titans under Mike Vrabel want to pound the football with power back Derrick Henry between the tackles.
Henry has feasted on the Jaguars including a Thursday night win in Nashville last year that included one of the plays of the year in the league. It was a 99-yard touchdown run, where Henry broke numerous tackles and then ran away from the entire defense. It capped a 238 yard, 4 TD night for the Titans top weapon.
Jacksonville is battling injuries, like veteran Pro Bowler DE Calais Campbell’s injured back, but Marrone obviously knows they will get no sympathy from their rivals in Nashville.
And if the play of the defense and really, the team as a whole, does not improve? Then, the Jags are looking at three straight defeats to division foes and being 4-7, and the seat will get warmer under the third year head coach.
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?