(Our Chris Fischer worked the sideline of Jags-Titans Saturday for CBS-TV)
“Where has this guy been all season?” That had to be the question that circulated around Everbank Field on Saturday. Blake Bortles played like a guy who knew his job as the Jaguars starting quarterback was in jeopardy.
In potentially the best performance of his career, Bortles threw 11 consecutive completions, and for the first time won a game when passing for over 300-yards. And probably the biggest part of his stat line, was a big round zero in the interception column, a category he’s fattened up this season.
Bortles begrudgingly admitted his play was one of the major reasons for Gus Bradley’s ouster.
“He’s the guy who brought me here,” said Bortles.
So in addition to Bortles job insecurity, was the burden of failing Bradley which led to the turnaround performance.
Bortles knows who ever is to be the next head coach, is going to take a good hard look at the quarterback position. The third year veteran said going in to the showdown with the Titans, he needed to put tape out there that makes it a tough decision for whomever takes over.
While the victory over playoff vying Tennessee was viewed as an upset, that shocking display doesn’t compare to how Jaguars fans have felt about the former number three overall draft pick and the offense this year.
As Bradley mentioned in his exiting press conference, “We just expected the offense to build on last year and naturally take the next step.”
But Bortles regression from setting a franchise record in passing yards and touchdowns a season ago has been the impetus of the Jaguars struggles.
Yet, Interim Head Coach Doug Marrone and General Manager Dave Caldwell last week gave Bortles a shot in the arm he needed when they said “We have all the confidence in the world in Blake.”
The signal caller seemed confident from the on-set of the game, with scoring drives on the opening two series.
“It was good to get in to a rhythm early,” said Bortles. “It was good to get rolling early and we found a groove.”
OC Nathaniel Hackett’s play calling paved the way for first half success. Screen passes allowed Bortles to settle in, and for the offense to push the ball down the field. In fact, Titans Head Coach Mike Mularkey told me at halftime the “We have to shut down the screen pass, it’s allowing them to take over time of possession.”
Maybe it was the chance to build that rhythm early, and the confidence which subsequently comes with it that allowed Bortles to look like a top ten quarterback. It may have taken 16 weeks and a head coaching change to tap in to that potential again, but Bortles proved that it’s there.
Sure it’s just one performance in a season chalk full of clunker, yet it might be what Bortles needs to build on heading in to the off-season.
The Jaguars will likely bring in a veteran to push the UCF product during training camp for the starting job. But if Marrone, Hackett and Bortles can put together another winning performance on Sunday in Indianapolis, it could end a significant streak of three different offensive coordinators in three years for Bortles. A situation that hasn’t helped in his development.
FUN BORTLES FACT:
Bortles 20-yard fourth quarter touchdown reception wasn’t only the first of his career, but his first ever from what he could recall during our postgame interview.
Ravaged by injuries, Jaguars have to make best of offensive line options
The Jaguars and their fans were excited to get Leonard Fournette back a week ago for the match-up in Indianapolis. And Fournette’s presence, production and the threat of what he could do, helped Jacksonville have their best offensive game in over a month. Even though it was a 29 – 26 loss, there was at least some optimism about the way the offense played.
Now, for the bad news.
The Jags offensive line, which is already been ravaged by injuries early in this season, is in serious flux, once again and maybe, for good in 2018. This after the team announced Monday center Brandon Linder will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury suffered in the second half of the game Sunday.
Linder, who signed a five-year $52 million extension last year had been one of the Jags most versatile and reliable offensive lineman playing both guard and center. However, he has had problems with durability over the course of the last four seasons. This includes him missing the final 14 games of 2015 with shoulder surgery. The Jags will have to depend on reserve Tyler Shatley to take over at center starting Sunday against the Steelers.
Jacksonville already lost highly-touted second round pick from 2017, Cam Robinson, at left tackle after he tore his ACL in week 2. Further, high-priced offensive guard Andrew Norwood has battled a foot injury for much of the first half of the season, and hasn’t been what the Jaguars had hoped in run blocking, so far.
The Jags have picked up former first-round pick from the Giants, Erik Flowers (above), off of waivers earlier in October and he made his debut Sunday in Indianapolis. And, he left the game in the third quarter with a knee problem, but there is some good news for him.
Coach Doug Marrone believes that Flowers is having problems with tendonitis in the knee and said Monday Flowers should be able to practice this week and then, play in the game against Pittsburgh Sunday.
Fournette carried the ball 24 times for 53 yards and a touchdown Sunday, but the Jags also had 324 yards passing from Blake Bortles. Part of this was the play action being set up by having Fournette back, and they did put three touchdowns on the board in the loss. That’s more touchdowns in any game, since the home battle with the Jets eight weeks ago.
Jacksonville announced Tuesday afternoon that more O-line help is on the way, as they have re-signed a familiar face:
— Phillip Heilman (@phillip_heilman) November 13, 2018
Omameh had started also for the Giants for seven games this season before being benched during their offensive struggles and is a former starter for the Buccaneers in 2014-15, too.
So the hope, is that similar offensive production that we saw on Sunday will continue, whether the makeshift offensive line in front of Fournette and Bortles is a “M.A.S.H.” unit or not.
Jaguars DB Jalen Ramsey implied Monday he wants out of Jacksonville
Frustration is mounting in Jacksonville as the Jaguars dropped their fifth straight game losing Sunday in Indianapolis 29 – 26.
And as the cliche goes, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” However, the literal meaning of that phrase can now being taken by Jaguars fans and media with regards to controversial defensive back Jalen Ramsey taking to social media Monday morning to imply that he wants to get going out of Jacksonville.
When I’m gone from here, y’all gone miss me. I ain’t even trippin lol
— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) November 12, 2018
Whether it was frustration, trying to be funny or just being honest, Ramsey’s tweeted mid-morning message is definitely going to stir things up. And, the clear indication is that the former fifth overall pick of the Jags in 2016, who’s playing in his third season on his rookie contract, is counting down the days to be gone from North Florida.
This is the latest in a series of headaches for the Jaguars front office and Coach Doug Marrone. It began in the offseason when Ramsey refused to come work out with his teammates during OTAs and instead, elected to remain training in Tennessee with his father at their training facility.
Now, that one is more easily explained and accepted, because Ramsey has trained there throughout his young adult life in the offseason. And ultimately, OTAs are supposed to be voluntary workouts anyway.
Still, the perception was that Ramsey was not wanting to be part of the team concept and around his teammates coming off of a playoff season, when the franchise was hoping to take the next steps.
Then came Ramsey’s decision to not show up at the beginning of Jaguars training camp due to the birth of his daughter. While he informed the Jaguars of his intentions in advance, the fact that Ramsey did not come to participate in practices and preparation for the season for five days of actual practices was another concerning hint that he’s not pleased with the Jags and the situation.
The subject was basically glossed over by the media in Jacksonville, but if winning and getting better with your teammates is a priority and your girlfriend and child did not have any complications during childbirth, why were you not with them within a day or so of the birth?
Next, came and ugly and embarrassing public skirmish at a Jaguars training camp practice, as defensive line teammates Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler got into a shoving match and had to be separated from teammates in full view of fans and media looking on. Ramsey joined in in threatening two different reporters to stop video taping the incident, even though they were perfectly within their right to do so covering the team.
Maronne suspended both Fowler and Ramsey for the entire week of practice with the Minnesota Vikings before playing the preseason game in Minneapolis. Fowler was traded two weeks ago to the L.A. Rams, while in the final year of his rookie contract.
Also, Ramsey’s comments in GQ Magazine and an online article also came out later that same August week and in the article, Ramsey took shots at quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger, rookie Josh Allen, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan, too.
This obviously brought unwanted attention to Ramsey around the football world, at a time when the Jaguars would have wanted it toned down.
Now, the Jaguars are facing adversity on the field having lost five in a row to drop to 3 and 6 on the season and in last place in the AFC South.
It’s also interesting timing for Ramsey to be speaking out, half joking or not, because it’s after the trading deadline and the Jaguar still have Ramsay’s exclusive rights to give him a new deal through next season. They also have the option to pick up the 5th Year on his rookie contract, which would be 2020.
Another theory would be: that Ramsey is trying the “if you complain loudly and long enough they will trade you” route to get out.
There is no disputing that Ramsey is one of the best one-on-one cover corners in football, but as we have asked frequently, at what point do all of the antics and drama off the field outweigh that?
This is especially, when you can potentially get something for him of substance in return or maybe, in a trade Ramsey.
However that’s a question for the off-season for the Jags. For now?
It’s another headache off the field from #20.
Jaguars slide continues, as comeback comes up short
A valiant comeback in the second half in Indianapolis was spoiled by a late turnover, and unfortunately at this stage for the Jaguars, there’s no such thing as a “moral victory.”
And in the end, the scoreboard read Colts 29, Jaguars 26.
That’s five straight losses for Jacksonville, a team that won the division and two playoff games a year ago, but looks very ordinary and at times, awful when it matters this season.
For example, they were bad defensively for much of the first half of this game Sunday, as Andrew Luck repeatedly riddled them for big throws and touchdowns in the first half building a 21 – 7 lead.
Still, the Jags showed great moxie in the second half trying to snap their four-game losing streak. Jacksonville put together a 75-yard drive out of the locker room that culminated with Leonard Fournette’s second touchdown of the season and trimmed the lead to 29 – 23.
The Jaguar defense continue to lockdown the Colts in the second half, and linebacker Telvin Smith picked off Luck at the end of the third quarter to keep the Jaguars within range.
After a Josh Lambo field goal had cut the lead to three, Indianapolis was trying to put the game away, but could not run the clock out. Then, they elected to try a 52-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri which the future Hall of Famer missed.
And, that opened the door for the Jags to have one last chance.
However, that chance also got squandered after Blake Bortles had completed a couple of passes to T.J. Yeldon, and then Yeldon had a 9-yard run down to the Indy 35 making it 3rd and one.
That’s when Bortles completed a pass downfield to Rashad Greene, who was stripped by defensive back Kenny Moore of the Colts. The play was initially called a catch on the field, but replay review later overturned it and allow the Colts to kneel on the ball and run the clock out.
So it was a mixed bag of some good things, but not enough of them.
And the reality for coach Doug Marrone and the team is: five straight losses and a team that was once riding high in the AFC South off a win over the Patriots that made them 3 – 1, has now disintegrated.
The Jaguars five game losing streak has also put them in the basement of the AFC South at 3 – 6.
And that’s not a place where anyone expected them to be.
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