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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

Jaguars “cornerstone” player for 2018?

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The third installment of our “cornerstone” players series takes us to North Florida. And, as the Jaguars get ready to start up 2018, we wondered which impact player would be the one to build around.

You could make arguments for last year’s top free agent acquisition defensive tackle Calais Campbell, or lock down corner Jalen Ramsey, as being that player. However, it’s a player on the offensive side of the ball that appears to be everything that Jacksonville could have hoped for in a running back. That running back is Leonard Fournette.

Fournette, whom the Jags took fourth overall in the draft, is fantastic physical talent at 6’0 230lbs. with a blend of speed and power. And in his debut season, repeatedly showed why you would want to have your offense centered on his ability pound on a defense.

He made a tremendous impact from the beginning of the Jags breakout 2017 with a 100 yard game in the opening win at Houston, and three more 100 yard games in the first nine.

There was lull in Fournette’s productivity due an ankle injury and he also missed a game in Indianapolis due disciplinary reasons, but eventually, Fournette got back on track. He ran for 109 yards and 3 TDs in Jacksonville’s statement win over Seattle in December that clinched the first playoff spot for Jacksonville in 11 seasons.

Then, in the post season Fournette was just okay against the Bills in the AFC Wildcard game with 57 yards on 21 carries. However the next week in Pittsburgh, Fournette set the tone early and often with two first quarter TDs. He finished with 109 yards and 3 rushing TDs, and Jacksonville stunned the Steelers to advance to the AFC Championship Game.

The Jags sledgehammer back scored another early TD and finished with 76 yards rushing as the Patriots rallied to win 24-20 scoring in the final three minutes to knock the Jaguars out of the Superbowl.

Of course there will be great scrutiny on the play of quarterback Blake Bortles, and rightfully so.

However, much of the Jaguars success offensively, the identity of what they want to do, will be centered around Leonard Fournette.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Why is Jalen Ramsey Twitter feuding with NFL Network analyst?

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

There is no mistaking that Jaguars defensive back Jalen Ramsey is talented, and in 2017 he was named as an All-Pro by his peers and most recenlty in the player polled “Top 100.” So, that’s a validation that doesn’t need a whole lot else.

Yet, an NFL Network analyst and a former NFL defensive back himself, is questioning part of his game.

And, Jalen Ramsey got annoyed. Like, really annoyed.

It all began when, Bucky Brooks, who hosts a successful podcast and appears regularly on the NFL Network questioned another player, DB Casey Hayward of the Chargers, and whether he was a “transcendent talent” in coverage.

The exchanges with Hayward on Twitter Thursday went on for a bit and then, Ramsey jumped in here:

 

And, when Brooks tweeted about Ramsey and why he was drafted two years ago in the top five by Jacksonville, things cranked up on social media:

Next, Ramsey questioned whether Brooks believes Ramsey is only a product of the Jaguars “defensive system” and not of his ability to shutdown the opposing team’s top wideout, one on one:

Brooks referenced former fellow Noles All American and Pro Football Hall of Famer, Deion Sanders as one of those rare “lock down” corners, and of course, that someone that Ramsey, two years removed from FSU, wants to be compared to with his own game.

Brooks then explained further about his own analysis and teams/GMs/personnel executives thinking:

In the end, Ramsey, who is not bashful about expressing his opinions on or off the field, finally gave some props to Brooks for having an informed opinion:

The bottom line is that analysts get paid to analyze. And the good ones are always soliciting the opinions of others, who are actually coaching and working in the NFL Front office.

And further, if Ramsey keeps “locking down” the likes of the Texans DeAndre Hopkins, and the Colts T.Y. Hilton, who he sees twice a year, then he will continue to get the respect he wants. And, he’ll get the second contract dollars that come with it, too.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL Network will show Jaguars preseason game at Minnesota nationally

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a tremendous surprise turnaround season that included a division win and two playoff victories, the Jaguars have everyone in North Florida buzzing for 2018. And the NFL Network is interested enough that it has announced it will be showing their second preseason game, at the Vikings, to the nation on Saturday August 18th.

This information was included in the NFL’s announcement that NFL Network will televise a total of 15 preseason games live, nationally:

The Jaguars will practice against the Vikings in Minnesota on Wednesday and Thursday (8/15-16) prior to playing the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Minnesota, who won the NFC North and made the NFC Championship Game last year, signed arguably the top free agent on the market last March. That’s when they inked former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins to a massive three year fully guaranteed $84 million deal.

Jacksonville will open the preseason the previous week against the NFC South champion Saints at newly renamed TIAA Bank Field in North Florida.

The good news in addition to the practice time with the Vikes, most of the starters on both sides of the ball will see action into the second quarter, if not halftime of the second preseason game.

This will be good work for QB Blake Bortles and his new assortment of targets like WR Donte Moncrief and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who both signed with the Jags in March.

And for the stout Jaguars defense led by DT Calais Campbell, LB Telvin Smith and CB Jalen Ramsey (all of whom made the Pro Bowl last year) will get a good opening half challenge from Cousins, and receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. It will also be curious to see if second year former FSU star running back Dalvin will be fully recovered from his ACL tear. And, we’ll see if the Vikings want to give him some work or rest him completely in August.

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