If you think a change at quarterback is what’s needed to get the Jacksonville Jaguars back on the winning track again, you’re not thinking the same way that Jaguars coach Doug Marrone is.
At one point during his post-game press conference on Sunday, Marrone was asked flat out if he’d considered benching starting quarterback Blake Bortles during the Jaguars 37-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
“For what reason?’’ Marrone asked with a somewhat quizzical look.
“I’m just asking,’’ the questioner responded.
“No,’’ Marrone said flatly.
OK, on the surface, the question seems like it might be a valid one. After all, from a statistical standpoint at least Bortles performance on Sunday looked a lot like so many of those that have come before it.
He completed 20 of 34 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown, which is fine, but he also lost a fumble on one of the two sacks he took, was picked off twice on passes tipped at the line of scrimmage and finished the game with a 63.7 passer rating.
Marrone pointed out, though, that a lot of Bortles struggles were the result of the poor play of the players who have been charged with protecting him and making plays down the field for him.
“A lot of emphasis is going to go back to that, to the question about the quarterback,’’ Marrone said later in answering another question about his team’s most recent offensive struggle. “But, just look at the sack fumble.
“That’s a blind-side hit. So, what are you going to do there? I mean, he’s not trying to make it. He made some plays on his feet. And on the second (giveaway, first interception), the guy’s open. It’s a play-action pass so people shouldn’t have their hands up. That’s (on the guys) up front. That can’t happen.
“Then the next one, I have to take a better look at it, but any time the ball touches anyone’s body, you know. And some of the catches we have to make. And we have to put our players in good shape, but it’s also hard to call plays when you start off first-and-15, first-and-20 and things like that.
“Those are tough things and we try to come out of it and we try to take some shots downfield, but then we give up the sack up. So I mean, these are the things that are going through our minds when we’re out there.’’
Marrone could have ended that last sentence by adding, “not changing the quarterback,’’ because on days like Sunday, it probably doesn’t matter who the quarterback is, he’s unlikely to succeed.
Bortles, of course, has had a lot of days like that since joining the Jaguars and that point simply cannot be underestimated. The fact of the matter is the Jaguars have done a poor job of surrounding Bortles with talent that allows him to play to his true abilities.
Now, Bortles is surrounded by a little more talent this year than he has been in the past, but when a team succeeds in shutting down the Jaguars running game and exposes it’s offensive line for what it really is as the Titans did, it’s hard for any quarterback to succeed.
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?