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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars QB Blake Bortles stepped up after coaching shakeup

Christopher Fischer

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Photo by Icon Sportswire

(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.

A native Floridian who graduated from Clearwater High School and the University of Florida, Chris Fischer has spent nearly 15 years in Sports Televison, including the last five as Sports Reporter and Anchor with the CBS affiliate in Tampa Bay-WTSP. He is a multi time AP Sports and Local Emmy award winner and will be seen this season as a sideline reporter on CBS-TV’s network coverage of the NFL.Chris brings enthusiasm and passion (particularly when it comes to his Gators) to College and NFL coverage to F.F.I.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Titans smother Jaguars in low scoring win

Florida Football Insiders

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not a game that will go in “the Time Capsule” for NFL fans to watch decades from now, but Tennessee’s recent Mastery over the Jaguars continued Sunday with an ugly 9 – 6 win.

Both defenses played hard and played well, but in the end, the third of three Ryan Succop field goals with just over six minutes remaining was the difference, as Tennessee handed the Jaguars their first loss of 2018.

The Titans did not start franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota who has still been battling nerve problems from his elbow after a hit in the week one lost Miami. However, Mariota was forced into duty, when backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert suffered a concussion in the first quarter and could not return.

Mariota was not particularly effective finishing just 12 – 18 for 100 yards and did rush for another 51 yards for the game.

Speaking of not effective, the Jaguar offense would also qualify in that category. Playing for the second straight game without Leonard Fournette due to his injured hamstring, Jacksonville mustered only six first downs, 100 yards and 3 points in the first half.

The second half was about ball control and time-consuming drives. And Jacksonville punted twice and had a Josh Lambo field goal, but it was not nearly enough.

Blake Bortles, off of a four-touchdown game against New England last week, was mostly ineffective at sustaining drives, must less getting them in the end zone. He was 21 – 34, but for 155 yards only.

Backup running back TJ Yeldon carried seven times for 44 yards and third string running back Corey Grant 6 times for 11 yards. And, the credit goes to Tennessee’s defense, which smothered Jacksonville for much of the day at TIAA Bank Field by forcing eight punts for the game.

With the road win, the Titans assumes first place in the AFC South on the tiebreaker over the Jaguars, which combined with their season sweep last year means they’ve beaten Jacksonville three straight times.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Gameday- Jaguars host Titans in AFC South showdown

Florida Football Insiders

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Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Who: Jaguars (2-0) vs. Titans (1-1)

Where: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville

When: Sunday 1 p.m.

Spread: Jaguars by 9 1/2 (Courtesty VegasInsider.com)

The 2-0 Jaguars are ready to play host to AFC South rival Tennessee on Sunday and try to break the Titans 2017 headlock they put around Jacksonville in sweeping them.

Here’s what we are watching in their first match-up of the year Sunday:

Who’s running the ball in Jacksonville?

As we documented, both Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon are banged up and were limited in practice this week. Fournette is unlikely to play or even if he is, he may not be that effective with a hamstring injury suffered two weeks ago.

Yeldon had 51 yards rushing last week against the Patriots in Fournette’s absence, but he has a sprained ankle. Yeldon is also listed as questionable.

If Yeldon cannot go, the third running back is Corey Grant, a four year veteran, who has only started one game in his career. Grant did have six catches and four runs last week in the New England win.

QB Blake Bortles played well without Fournette throwing four TDs in the win. He desperately needs some rushing attack for drive momentum and to set up play action.

Who’s the QB for the Titans?

Marcus Mariota has been battling an injury to the nerve in his elbow after taking a hit in the week one loss to the Dolphins. Mariota did not play in their win last week against Houston and is officially questionable for this game in North Florida.

If he cannot play, veteran backup Blaine Gabbert will fill in as he’s done the last two games. Gabbert was just 13-20 for 117 yards and a TD pass against the Texans, but he didn’t have to have great numbers.

The Titans got a fake punt TD pass, played solid defense and still won.

It’s possible that Mariota may try to play, but Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel will have use of both QBs, too.

Which leads to, will the Jaguars D lock down the Titans?

It’s no secret that the Jags want to win with defense, and this game is no exception. They were really good against the Patriots last week holding Hall of Famer Tom Brady in check for much of the day. Jacksonville is fifth in points allowed and seventh in yards allowed in the NFL.

Plus, Jacksonville still has one of the most feared pass rushes in the league, as Brady found out the hard way last week. In a critical third quarter sequence, Bortles had thrown an interception, but right away, defensive end Dante Fowler got the ball back on a strip sack of Brady.

They will need plays like that to get the win and keep their perfect season in tact.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars may have to go deeper into running back depth chart Sunday

Florida Football Insiders

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

More concern for the Jaguars running back situation at the conclusion of Friday’s practice. This is because not only is Leonard Fournette still questionable to play with his injured hamstring, but now so too is his backup, T.J. Yeldon.

Both players were limited in practice on Friday for Sunday’s game with the Titans. Yeldon has a sprained ankle suffered during Sunday’s win over New England 31-20. He did carry the ball 10 times for 58 yards rushing last week, which was a solid performance.

Coach Doug Marrone was his usual non-forthcoming self post Friday practice, when it came to conversation about the injured backs. However, you can use previous precedence and injury designation to draw some conclusions.

For example, Fournette’s hamstring was bad enough that he never returned to the opening game with the Giants, and even though he and the Jaguars said the right things leading up to last week’s game, he was unable to practice fully, was listed as questionable, and they held him out of the Pats game.

And with the understanding that we are not in the Jacksonville training room and don’t know the full updates, the fact that now Fournette and Yeldon were unable to practice fully at all this week, has to be a concern for the Jaguars running attack.

If neither of those two are active or, let’s say they are active but not effective, the third string running back is fourth year veteran Corey Grant. The former undrafted player from Auburn has been active for 35 games in his career including all 16 a year ago and the first two in this season.

He has only one career start, but Grant against the Patriots last week had six catches for 56 yards and four carries for 13 yards. And he’s clearly who Marrone and offensive coordinator Nate Hackett will turn to to establish the ground game and the play-action for quarterback Blake Bortles.

Again, there’s always the possibility that they were just being precautionary with Yeldon’s ankle this week and that with 48 hours more rest and treatment, he will be ready to start.

But, let’s just say that if you have the former Bama tailback or Fournette, you might need to look at other options for your Fantasy Football lineup this week.

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