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Jaguars new belief in Blake Bortles began with baby steps last year

Florida Football Insiders

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Having concluded their off season OTAs and mandatory mini-camp, the Jaguars will come back to training camp in July with more expectation for a season than they’ve had in a decade or more in North Florida. And while it’s not the biggest reason, still, one of the reasons the Jags hope to see similar or more success in 2018 is QB Blake Bortles.

And, if you know anything about his first three seasons in Jacksonville, and his training camp/preseason a year ago, typing that sentence above about Bortles almost seemed laughable at times.

Nevertheless, as the season progressed, Bortles played solidly and coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett began to trust him a little more here and there, to make the right decisions and make key plays occasionally to help the offense.

An interesting look at the Jags thinking a year ago with Bortles and their outlook now, was put together by NFL Network reporter/insider Mike Garafolo. He also wrote an extensive article about everything that Marrone (with backing of VP of football Tom Coughlin) was trying to instill last year for the entire team.

There is plenty in that item from veterans on defense like Malik Jackson and the top free agent acquisition for the Jags, Calais Campbell, on the belief that was instilled in the young players.

And Bortles was in that category, too.

Marrone, who had been on staff in 2016-17 with former coach Gus Bradley, and then became the interim head coach the last two games of 2016 when Bradley was fired, wanted to give Bortles one last chance to be the guy in Jacksonville.

And as Marrone’s and Hackett’s comments to Garafolo indicated, it was baby steps at the beginning:

At this time last year, Marrone was issuing an ultimatum: “If you continue to turn the ball over, you won’t be our quarterback. It’s that simple. Everything else we can work on, but that is non-negotiable.”

Marrone said that is still the No. 1 point of emphasis for Bortles, whose interception percentage has dropped from 3.6 in his rookie year to 2.5 last season.

As for Hackett’s mentality/outlook with his QB coming off  last season? Garafolo wrote that a key part to his development is being able to quickly adjust play calls/audibles. And, it has continued with Bortles being able to see the field better and know more of the risks to take and what is there for him.

Last season, the Jaguars simplified Bortles’ reads early on, allowing him to read only half or a third of the field on a given play. It was partly because he had new pieces around him, but also to build his confidence. As the season progressed, they began to open up the field for him. That continued into an impressive spring.

“It’s not about learning a new play. It’s about, How can I make this play better?” Hackett said. “I think those are the good things about where Blake is going.”

“Where Blake is going,” is into his fifth season. The Jaguars gave him a new contract extension. However, as we’ve written it’s basically a huge financial gain for 2018 for the QB, but the team is not obligated much after this year.

So, if Bortles play regresses, again, then they can go with other plans at QB.

Again, Jacksonville’s outstanding young defense and the power running game from Leonard Fournette are the bigger foundations in Jacksonville.

Still, ultimately, your quarterback will have to make plays in key situations and big games.

And headed to July, the Jaguars feel Blake Bortles is ready to make plenty of those.

Will it continue? We will find out.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars “cornerstone” player for 2018?

Florida Football Insiders

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The third installment of our “cornerstone” players series takes us to North Florida. And, as the Jaguars get ready to start up 2018, we wondered which impact player would be the one to build around.

You could make arguments for last year’s top free agent acquisition defensive tackle Calais Campbell, or lock down corner Jalen Ramsey, as being that player. However, it’s a player on the offensive side of the ball that appears to be everything that Jacksonville could have hoped for in a running back. That running back is Leonard Fournette.

Fournette, whom the Jags took fourth overall in the draft, is fantastic physical talent at 6’0 230lbs. with a blend of speed and power. And in his debut season, repeatedly showed why you would want to have your offense centered on his ability pound on a defense.

He made a tremendous impact from the beginning of the Jags breakout 2017 with a 100 yard game in the opening win at Houston, and three more 100 yard games in the first nine.

There was lull in Fournette’s productivity due an ankle injury and he also missed a game in Indianapolis due disciplinary reasons, but eventually, Fournette got back on track. He ran for 109 yards and 3 TDs in Jacksonville’s statement win over Seattle in December that clinched the first playoff spot for Jacksonville in 11 seasons.

Then, in the post season Fournette was just okay against the Bills in the AFC Wildcard game with 57 yards on 21 carries. However the next week in Pittsburgh, Fournette set the tone early and often with two first quarter TDs. He finished with 109 yards and 3 rushing TDs, and Jacksonville stunned the Steelers to advance to the AFC Championship Game.

The Jags sledgehammer back scored another early TD and finished with 76 yards rushing as the Patriots rallied to win 24-20 scoring in the final three minutes to knock the Jaguars out of the Superbowl.

Of course there will be great scrutiny on the play of quarterback Blake Bortles, and rightfully so.

However, much of the Jaguars success offensively, the identity of what they want to do, will be centered around Leonard Fournette.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Why is Jalen Ramsey Twitter feuding with NFL Network analyst?

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

There is no mistaking that Jaguars defensive back Jalen Ramsey is talented, and in 2017 he was named as an All-Pro by his peers and most recenlty in the player polled “Top 100.” So, that’s a validation that doesn’t need a whole lot else.

Yet, an NFL Network analyst and a former NFL defensive back himself, is questioning part of his game.

And, Jalen Ramsey got annoyed. Like, really annoyed.

It all began when, Bucky Brooks, who hosts a successful podcast and appears regularly on the NFL Network questioned another player, DB Casey Hayward of the Chargers, and whether he was a “transcendent talent” in coverage.

The exchanges with Hayward on Twitter Thursday went on for a bit and then, Ramsey jumped in here:

 

And, when Brooks tweeted about Ramsey and why he was drafted two years ago in the top five by Jacksonville, things cranked up on social media:

Next, Ramsey questioned whether Brooks believes Ramsey is only a product of the Jaguars “defensive system” and not of his ability to shutdown the opposing team’s top wideout, one on one:

Brooks referenced former fellow Noles All American and Pro Football Hall of Famer, Deion Sanders as one of those rare “lock down” corners, and of course, that someone that Ramsey, two years removed from FSU, wants to be compared to with his own game.

Brooks then explained further about his own analysis and teams/GMs/personnel executives thinking:

In the end, Ramsey, who is not bashful about expressing his opinions on or off the field, finally gave some props to Brooks for having an informed opinion:

The bottom line is that analysts get paid to analyze. And the good ones are always soliciting the opinions of others, who are actually coaching and working in the NFL Front office.

And further, if Ramsey keeps “locking down” the likes of the Texans DeAndre Hopkins, and the Colts T.Y. Hilton, who he sees twice a year, then he will continue to get the respect he wants. And, he’ll get the second contract dollars that come with it, too.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL Network will show Jaguars preseason game at Minnesota nationally

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a tremendous surprise turnaround season that included a division win and two playoff victories, the Jaguars have everyone in North Florida buzzing for 2018. And the NFL Network is interested enough that it has announced it will be showing their second preseason game, at the Vikings, to the nation on Saturday August 18th.

This information was included in the NFL’s announcement that NFL Network will televise a total of 15 preseason games live, nationally:

The Jaguars will practice against the Vikings in Minnesota on Wednesday and Thursday (8/15-16) prior to playing the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Minnesota, who won the NFC North and made the NFC Championship Game last year, signed arguably the top free agent on the market last March. That’s when they inked former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins to a massive three year fully guaranteed $84 million deal.

Jacksonville will open the preseason the previous week against the NFC South champion Saints at newly renamed TIAA Bank Field in North Florida.

The good news in addition to the practice time with the Vikes, most of the starters on both sides of the ball will see action into the second quarter, if not halftime of the second preseason game.

This will be good work for QB Blake Bortles and his new assortment of targets like WR Donte Moncrief and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who both signed with the Jags in March.

And for the stout Jaguars defense led by DT Calais Campbell, LB Telvin Smith and CB Jalen Ramsey (all of whom made the Pro Bowl last year) will get a good opening half challenge from Cousins, and receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. It will also be curious to see if second year former FSU star running back Dalvin will be fully recovered from his ACL tear. And, we’ll see if the Vikings want to give him some work or rest him completely in August.

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