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Jaguars have opportunity staring right at them

Florida Football Insiders

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to welcoming back Nick Foles for Sunday’s battle at Indianapolis, the Jaguars realize there’s something much more significant on the line over the next couple of games- getting back into contention to win the AFC South.

Even though Houston leads the division and has won both matchups with the Jaguars, it’s still very realistic the Jacksonville could find themselves in good position come December. However, this week and next week will be critical as part of that.

The Jaguars will play the Colts for the first time on Sunday and then will play the suddenly surging Titans in Nashville next week. If the Jags are able to win both of those games and put their record at 6 – 5, they’ll be in great shape to perhaps challenge the Texans at the end of the year. Now, the Jaguars will be an underdog in both these matchups starting this week and it won be easy to win back to back on the road.

As for QB Deshaun Watson and Houston, yes, they drummed the Jaguars 26-3 in London, but they’re only two division wins are over Jacksonville. They lost three weeks ago in Indy and still haven’t played the Titans, at all. Plus, Houston has a difficult assignment Sunday at Baltimore. And, just like Watson, QB Lamar Jackson of the Ravens is on “MVP bid” himself. The Ravens already have wins at Seattle and over New England at home solidifying them as one of the top teams in football.

So, if the Jaguars take care of business with the Colts and the Ravens do them a favor by beating the Texans, then, the divisional lead will only be a game, headed for the final five weeks of the regular season.

Now, to kick off those games, Jacksonville will be playing the Bucs (12-1) and the Chargers (12-8) at home. Both very winnable against two teams with losing records that have to come to TIAA Bank Field.

Also, keep in mind that week 17 will have Houston playing host to Tennessee, while the Jags will entertain Indy, if the division is still on the line.

For, Jacksonville to have hope, it starts with winning these next two against South opponents away from North Florida.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue hinting he’s gone again?

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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:

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:

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.

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Jaguars confirm they are declining option on DT Dareus

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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 was a specifically asked about Dareus’ status and gave a quick answer is part of his Q&A session:

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?

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