The Jacksonville Jaguars grabbed wide receiver Dede Westbrook in the fourth round of the draft this past spring in the hopes of adding a break-away speed element to their offense.
Midway through the preseason, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone says he has yet to see that “pure break-away, great speed’’ that was supposed to set Westbrook apart from all the rest.
What Marrone has seen out of Westbrook is something that may prove to be even more important to his long-term success.
A 5-foot-11 and 178 pound, Westbrook is a slightly-built, rail-thin player who had a tendency at times during his college career to get spooked when trying to make plays between the numbers.
That’s a bad trait to have, especially for a player projected to work mostly in the slot the way Westbrook is with the Jaguars, but Marrone says Westbrook has looked fine in that area of the field so far.
“He’s shown me that he’s not afraid to go over the middle, and I think that’s a big thing when you look at players that are fast,’’ Marrone said. Sometimes those players shy away from that, but I haven’t seen that with him.’’
He certainly didn’t see it during the Jaguars 12-8 preseason loss to the Bucs last week. While catching six passes for 131 yards in the fourth quarter of the Jaguars 12-8 loss to the Buccaneers last week, Westbrook made several plays over the middle.
Making plays in the middle of the field is one thing. To make those plays there, though, a player first has to get to the middle of the field and that’s something Westbrook continues to work on.
“The thing I’ve been telling him – and he said people have been saying this to him for a while – is that in this league, in order to be successful, you have to be able to get off press coverage,” Marrone said.
“That’s something that a lot of young receivers have to work extremely hard on because in college, guys are spread out all over the place, but in the NFL they’ll walk right up there and they’ll test you.
“And if you show you can’t get off press, then you’re going to get press all day and the quarterback … if they see someone who gets pressed and can’t win, they’re off that progression. So you have to be able to do that, and that’s why you’ve seen us work a ton on press.’’
According to Westbrook, the work has paid off. He told Jaguars.com on Monday that in terms of beating press coverage, “At the beginning of training camp it was bad for me. But now it’s better. A lot better.”
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?