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Jacksonville Jaguars

Marrone empowered Jaguars playoff upset with his bold decisions

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It started right away. 4:20 into the AFC Divisional Playoff game, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone had an early critical decision to make. Jacksonville had just tried a trick play on 3rd and goal having QB Blake Bortles try to throw to an offensive tackle in the endzone. However, he was covered, the pass was incomplete and it was now, fourth down.

And that’s when, for the first and only time needed, Marrone sent a message to his team: “We are here to ‘punch the Steelers in the nose’…..not kick field goals.”

Then, he authorized offensive coordinator Nate Hackett to dial up a play for star RB Leonard Fournette to go up and over in a “Superman dive” that he perfected at LSU. And, that’s exactly what Fournette did for the first of six Jaguars TDs on the day.

When he landed, the score was 6-0 and even though there were 55 minutes of football to play, the Jaguars told the whole football world watching: we believe in ourselves and our chance to beat the Steelers, again.

And, as the first half wore on, it was obvious on both sides of the ball that Jacksonville was not only competitive but they were the better team.

This was exemplified when QB Ben Roethlisberger shook off an early INT and a sack/fumble that was returned for a TD and a 28-7 deficit. Big Ben kept gun-fighting  and the Steelers kept scoring, but rather than get conservative, the Jaguars stayed on the gas.

And, that came from their head coach.

The biggest example in the fourth quarter was after Roethlisberger had brought them within 28-21. The Steelers were driving trying to score and tie the game. Jacksonville stopped them on fourth down at their 39 yard line and 12:43 remaining in the game.

Then, instead of getting conservative, Marrone decided again, that if the Jaguars were going down, they would go down trying to win. And that meant, tacking the conservative shackles off QB Blake Bortles.

The Jags picked up a first down on a simple slant throw to WR Marqise Lee with just over 12:00 remaining. And then, Marrone let Hackett do something that most critics of Bortles (and there have been lots) would not have believed: take a seven step drop on first down and throw long.

And because that was the play call, and because Bortles put the ball out in front of WR Keelan Cole (photo above), the result was a 45 yard strike on an incredible leaping catch and an immediate first and goal at the Pittsburgh three yard line.

Fournette bashed it in on the very next play for another 14 point cushion at 35-21.

The final score would end up 45-42 with the Jaguars making all the key plays down the stretch.

But, make no mistake, their first year full time head coach of the Jags, Marrone, could have been conservative and most would not have blamed him.

Instead, he could not have sent a more clear message, if he posted a neon sight on the video board.

That sign could’ve read: “We came to win. Better duck.”

The  Jaguars did. And the Steelers did not, and got knocked out Sunday.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Ravaged by injuries, Jaguars have to make best of offensive line options

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Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

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:

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.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars DB Jalen Ramsey implied Monday he wants out of Jacksonville

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars slide continues, as comeback comes up short

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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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