For a Jaguars fan, it’s a season which began with playoff hopes and has unraveled before we hit November. So, with the playoffs seemingly so far out of reach with still most of the schedule remaining, Jacksonville used their long weekend to make a critical move on the coaching staff.
Greg Olson was replaced as Offensive Coordinator, in a move that seems like the first of many to be coming the Jags way in the months to come. In NFL circles, new OC Nate Hackett is seen as an innovative mind, who had the handcuffs put on him by Doug Marrone while in Buffalo. Ironically, Marrone is now on the staff as Assistant Head Coach with the Jags.
“I don’t think anyone is happy with where we’re at, I mean we’re 2-5 and that sucks,” said Hackett.
Considering the expectations placed on the Jaguars at the beginning of the year, “sucks” might be putting it mildly. Yet, with Hackett taking over the play calling, the odds are skewed for an uptick in the twenty-eighth ranked offense.
“Anytime there is a change like that, it’s different, it’s shocking, it’s a change and something to adjust to,” QB Blake Bortles said earlier this week.
The biggest adjustment needed, is Bortles propensity for turning over the football. The Jaguars go in to their Week 10 matchup with Kansas City minus eight in turnover margin: bad enough for 31st in the league. Bortles’ nine interceptions is tied for the second most of quarterbacks who have played in every game this season. It’s easy to see why change was needed.
“As long as he knows that I’m there for him and I want to make him successful, whether it is through mechanics or just understanding, and what were trying to accomplish versus our next think that is kind of the first step,” said Hackett.
The next step would be figuring out how to keep the offense on the field. The Jags rank thirtieth in Time of Possession averaging just 27:01 with the football.
“When you look at the whole thing, it hasn’t been successful,” said Hackett. “I think that is why you have to take a good hard look at it.”
To peel one more layer back, the offense was top 10 in “explosive plays” a season ago, this year their twenty-ninth. Averaging just over three “explosives” through eight games, is completely the opposite of what made Olson’s offense successful a year ago.
Clearly, it has gone backwards. Sure, there is something to be said about how teams are game planning for receivers Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson, but mostly it comes down to the lack of execution.
“If we get everyone on the same page, focus on some of those things we’ve seen (Bortles) do well, I think that will help us,” said Hackett.
If there is any tale of a season turnaround the Jaguars need to follow, it’s one starring them in the face this Sunday. The Chiefs last season dropped their first five games before rattling off 11 straight victories, proving it is possible.
But, for the Jags, it’s small steps and playing well on offense for four quarters is the first goal, this week.
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?