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Just who will get the Jaguars key carries Sunday?

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Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire

As the Jaguars prepare to play the Texans Sunday, there are many questions surrounding the team. The biggest “elephant in the room” is the play of QB Blake Bortles and how long he can hold on to his shaky grasp of the starting job.

The next big question has to be, what’s the lead running back situation? And, most importantly if you play fantasy football, who gets the all important carries on the goal line?

Getting coach Doug Marrone to reveal anything specific about what the Jaguars intend to do is comparable to trying to turn a Russian spy under torture. So, we are left to use educated speculation.

We know that by drafting Leonard Fournette, known for his battering ram toughness, yet broken field speed at LSU, with the fourth overall pick last April, the Jags clearly want him to be the guy. Yet, after looking impressive in his debut, Fournette already suffered a foot injury during Jacksonville’s first preseason game with the Patriots and has not seen the field in a game since.

So, it’s not far fetched to surmise that Fournette will be worked into the backfield in the first half of this game and maybe the first few games, likely seeing more carries as the game goes on.

And that brings us to the veteran option that we have written about throughout the off season and now the preseason, Chris Ivory.

Entering his eighth season, Ivory, the former Saint and Jet, will likely start and see significant playing time not only in this first game, but early in the season, too. He’s two years removed from a 1,000 yard season with seven rushing TDs in New York.

Ivory is 29 years old and comes of a 2016 where he only started one game, had only 117 total carries (three rushing TDs) and averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, the lowest of his career.

Now, the Jags were a disaster on offense last year, firing offensive coordinator Greg Olson early in the season, and finished with one of the worst run games in the NFL. So, how much can you judge what Ivory still has early in a season and in certain situations? We, and likely the Jaguars themselves, don’t know.

Just expect for this Houston game, he will get chances, especially early. When Fournette didn’t play in the second or third preseason games, Ivory carried the ball seven times (for a dismal four yards) in the first half vs. the Bucs, and 10 times for 36 yards the next week against the Panthers starters.

Now, those are pitiful run numbers, but a. it’s preseason b. the Jags QB situation and offensive line have been bad and in flux and C. clearly, the Jags are now game planning for this game that means something. So, again, it will likely be Ivory seeing the rock some in the first half.

As for third year back T.J. Yeldon from Alabama, he hurt his hamstring in the first quarter of that second preseason game with Tampa Bay and did not play again in August. This coming off a 2016, where he carried the ball around the same as Ivory (130 times), but averaged an even less 3.6 yards per carry and scored only once.

Again, the Jags were awful on offense, so it’s tough to judge these backs completely.

But with Yeldon listed as questionable to even play against the Texans, it looks like Ivory and Fournette will be the guys Sunday and maybe, for the foreseeable future.

To summarize, the Jaguars didn’t draft Fournette to have him sit behind anyone for very long. So eventually, health permitting, you will see him getting 15-20 or more carries. It just may not be right away.

And Chris Ivory is the guy that benefits starting Sunday in Houston.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue hinting he’s gone again?

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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:

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:

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.

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Jaguars confirm they are declining option on DT Dareus

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

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 was a specifically asked about Dareus’ status and gave a quick answer is part of his Q&A session:

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?

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