It’s almost here. The Jaguars will open up training camp later this week and with it, defense of their AFC South title. Expectations are everywhere for another playoff run, and veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell is ready, for the second straight year, to lead that unit.
And, Campbell knows that two important factors that went Jacksonville’s way in 2017 are key to future success, too.
Those would be staying healthy and having quality depth.
Campbell spoke Saturday to Jacksonville.com’s John Reid at a charity event he hosted in North Florida:
Calais Campbell reacts to Dante Fowler’s suspension for opener vs Giants#Jaguars pic.twitter.com/o5MdkqkyqP
— John Reid (@JohnReid64) July 21, 2018
When Reid asked about losing DE Dante Fowler, who was suspended Friday for the opening game by the NFL, Campbell reassured Jags fans that there are quality players that will all be counted on:
″Anytime you lose a player it’s always one of those things that’s tough,″ Campbell said. ″But at the end of the day, you got to live with it and make do. Dante is a great player and we’re a better team when he’s on the field. But the front office has done a great job of bringing in players to create a lot of depth on the D-line. It’s going to be a challenge but we should be fine.″
Campbell continued about the importance of having as many quality players as the lengthy season, and hopefully post-season, wears on this fall:
″We were healthy the whole year (2017),″ Campbell said. ″I pray it’s that way again this year, but in the game of football things come up for whatever it may be for a week or two, you want to have a lot of depth on the team. Even when people stay healthy, you want to have good depth because you rotate so you can stay fresh the whole year. We have goals to make it into the postseason, win the division and that’s a long season. Rotating becomes a prime piece to be successful.″
Campbell was arguably the top free agent acquisition in all of the NFL last year. He set the Jaguars record for sacks in a season and the team was second in the NFL in taking down quarterbacks.
And, besides Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue burst on the scene as an outside rusher last year, and was also named by his peers as part of the recent “NFL Top 100” voting. You factor in number one pick defensive tackle Taven Bryan from the Gators, and the Jaguars have an assortment of young talent for that depth.
Now, it will all be tested starting later this week.
Jaguars woeful offense led to another bad loss Sunday in Dallas
Another Sunday and another poor offensive performance has most everyone questioning whether the Jaguars are destined to be average at best team in 2018.
For the third time in four games, Jacksonville’s offense was basically non-existent, as they scored only seven points in a 40 – 7 blowout to the Cowboys.
Take into account that they were handled easily by the Chiefs last week and had scored only seven points until the final 6:00 before losing 30-14. And, take into account, that three weeks ago they scored only six points at home in a 9-6 field goal fest loss to the Tennessee Titans.
And, there’s now a large enough sample size the Jags are in big trouble offensively.
In fairness, they are a different offense without their top weapon, running back., Leonard Fournette. Fournette missed his fourth game out of the last five with an injured hamstring and his status is still up in the air for the coming few games.
However, those who have been critical all along of QB Blake Bortles will point to yet another Sunday where there were chances and plays to be made to keep his team in the game. And he once again, could not make key throws or had bad interceptions to lead to the big loss.
Let’s check in on Jacksonville’s first half possessions against Dallas: Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, 2 plays-end of half. Cowboys lead? 24-0 at intermission.
We at F.F.I. are guilty of buying into the hype earlier this year on Jacksonville, as well. This is especially after they handled the Patriots easily, even without Fournette, and Bortles played brilliantly in a 31-20 win.
Obviously, that was premature and the Jags look more like the Cleveland Browns on offense, recently
So, there is time to get Fournette healthy, and there are going to be some easier teams besides the Titans, Chiefs and Cowboys to play coming up later in the year.
However, Jacksonville will host AFC South rival Houston, who’s won back-to-back games next Sunday. Then, they will travel to London to play the defending Champion Eagles.
And this much is clear: if they don’t start playing offense better than what we’ve seen over the last month, the Jags are likely going to be three and five.
That’s not only, not the best team in the AFC, that’s a recipe for sitting home in January, if it doesn’t get better.
Gameday- Jaguars must be better in “Big D” Sunday
Who: Jaguars (3-2) at Cowboys (2-3)
When: Sunday 1 p.m.
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Spread: Jaguars by 3 points (Courtesy Vegasinsider.com)
Off their second loss in three games in Kansas City last week, the Jags are back on the road in Dallas. We take a look at some story-lines:
Run, Run, Run
The Jaguars will be without star running back Leonard Fournette for the fourth time in five games with his injured hamstring. Alas, Jacksonville went to free agency for veteran help and signed former All Pro Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles this week. Charles, who has not been with an NFL team this season, must have wowed coach Doug Marrone, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and the Jaguars front office.
He last played a year ago in Denver, is approaching 32 years old and has torn the ACL previously in both knees earlier in his career. Does he have anything left to help the Jags in the short term?
We should still see a lot new starting RB T.J. Yeldon, who has been solid, if not spectacular in Fournette’s absence, and maybe a little of Charles.
If the Jags can run it, that will help take the pressure off QB Blake Bortles for some of this game, and he and they need that, right now.
Stay away from turnovers
In taking that second loss in three games, Bortles played poorly last week with four interceptions. Yes, don’t let the 400-yard passing day on the stat sheet fool you. More than half of that was accumulated when the Jags were down 30-7 late in the third quarter and the Chiefs were playing soft defense.
Bortles was bad and needs to be sharp against what is still a good Cowboys defense.
Most importantly, he cannot give Dallas the short field and sudden momentum changes that they will feed off of with their home crowd.
Jacksonville needs to keep those numbers, right there.
Be ready for Dallas’ “Big Two”
Off a tough overtime loss in Houston last Sunday night, Dallas needs to get their offense going. That starts with running back Ezekiel Elliott (above), who is the top rusher in the league right now.
The Cowboys will try to establish him early and often in this one against what has been a good Jaguars run defense.
Then, there’s QB Dak Prescott, who had another rough game Sunday night with some poor decisions, etc. Can Prescott rev up the Dallas passing game?
He does have a familiar face that Jaguars fans will know to throw to, in Allen Hurns, but he’s been largely non-existent for the pass game so far. DB’s Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye look to lock him down today.
Prescott can also make plays with his feet. So, LB Telvin Smith in specific, will have to be ready for his mobility.
Jaguars will see familiar face Sunday?
With the Jaguars travel to AT&T Stadium Sunday in Arlington, Texas, their defense will definitely look across the line of scrimmage and see some imposing players. Names like Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and a massive offensive line await them.
They will also see a familiar face, as Sunday will mean the reunion with former Jaguars receiver, Allen Hurns.
Hurns spent the first four years of his NFL career in North Florida and that included a breakout 1,000-yard receiving, 10 touchdown 2015 season. However, nagged by a high ankle sprain a year ago, that limited him to only 10 games and 39 catches with just two touchdowns on the year, he was allowed to test free agency.
Hurns ended up signing a two-year deal in Big D that included a two and a half million dollar signing bonus and another $2.5 million guaranteed for this year.
However, he hasn’t delivered very much in the way of productivity. Just eight total catches on the year and while he had his first touchdown in Sunday night’s overtime loss to the Texans, it was Hurns’ only catch of the night for three yards.
There is clearly frustration with Prescott and the passing game, and it’s not good news that one of the best pass defenses in the NFL is coming to town in the Jaguars..
Aside from the rush that includes Calais Campbell, Yannick ngakoue, Dante Fowler and others, the Jaguars have two outstanding cover corners in Jalen Ramsey and AJ bouye.
And those two guys in particular would love nothing more than to continue the lockdown of Hurns and the Dallas passing game.
Expect Dallas to try to run it first and foremost with Elliott, but we know that the Jags will force Dallas into second and third and long at least some of the time in this game.
Will Allen Hurns make an impact against his old teammates or will his early trend of being mostly a non-factor in Dallas continue?
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