Fans in Jacksonville have become too familiar and almost numb to what they saw, yet again, Sunday at Everbank Field in a 37-16 whipping by AFC South Rival Tennessee.
And in re-watching the tape of the game, everything that went right, if not perfect, in the opening win at Houston, went wrong against the Titans.
Whether it was the inability to get Leonard Fournette established, costly Blake Bortles interceptions, or a defense that could not harass Marcus Mariota and force turnovers, the Jags looked like the porous Jags of the last few years, again.
Let’s start with Fournette.
After his good opening game against the Texans, where he had 100 yards and was a force inside, he seldom had an effective carry in this one. The official stat line was 14 carries 40 yards, a 2.9 yard average (not good), and a TD that came midway in the third quarter down already big at 30-3.
Some credit has to go to Tennessee’s defense, as they swarmed Fournette and tackled well, but clearly, the inability to establish the run consistently has been a problem for Jacksonville for years, and it re-appeared Sunday.
Next Bortles, who as we wrote Monday, has been revealed to be battling a wrist injury, was the same shaky QB we’ve seen over, and over again.
Yes, his stat line ended up being decent at 20-34 for 223 yards with a late garbage time TD to Allen Hurns. But, when you watch the tape, he was largely ineffective while the game was still in doubt through three quarters.
Time and again, he either threw poorly (including two interceptions) or was content to throw an easy dump off or check down pass to receivers well short of the first down. Some of this was the absence of top target Allen Robinson, who’s now out for the year with a torn ACL. However, he looked the same easily rattled Bortles to us.
Finally, the defense, which crushed the Texans with a record 10 sacks plus four turnovers, did little against the Titans.
While Titans QB Marcus Mariota didn’t have a spectacular day at 15-27 for 215 yards with one TD and one INT, the Titans did repeatedly run the ball down the Jags throat. They finished with 179 yards on a team total 36 carries.
The sledge hammer was second year back Derrick Henry who replaced DeMarco Murray when his hamstring tightened in the first half. Henry, finished with 92 yards averaging a gaudy 6.6 yards per carry and his 17 yard TD run plowing through two Jaguars at the goal line was highlight worthy.
At the end of the day the Jaguars defense, which was on the field a bunch in the first three quarters, surrendered nearly 400 yards of offense, while having just one sack and one turnover.
Not close to good enough.
Now, you can argue that it’s just one game, but the same argument can be made about the Houston game last week, where everything clicked at once.
The Jaguars are headed to London this week to play the Ravens, and Jaguar fans hope last Sunday isn’t an indication that there going to see more of the same, even on another continent, from their team.
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?