Training camp and the preseason are designed at least in part to bring clarity to murky situations regarding the make-up of a football team. For the Jacksonville Jaguars, however, there is one such situation that only became murkier as the preseason drew to a close.
Through three weeks of training camp and four preseason games coach Doug Marrone still seems unsure of what to do at left guard, and the way he manned the position during the Jaguars 13-7 victory over the Falcons on Thursday suggests he’s actualy more more confused now than ever over what to do.
After starting incumbent Patrick Omameh at the position for the first two games of the preseason, Marrone started former center Luke Bowanko there for Game 3. On Thursday, though, his starting guard was fourth-year pro Earl Watford, who started eight games at right guard for the Cardinals a year ago.
So who will start at left guard on Opening Day against the Texans? It’s anyone’s guess at this point. Even Marrone admits he’s still got some thinking to do on the matter. That at least is what he said in the wake of the Jaguars final preseason game in which Omameh started at left tackle while right guard A.J. Cann started at center.
“Normally I can watch a game and tell you about a situation,’’ Marrone said in the aftermath of a 13-7 victory over the Falcons. “But this one’s going to be close. I think it’s going to be tough. I think I’d rather, (instead of) pull(ing) it out of my back pocket, I want to be sure on this one.’’
What seems sure is that the Jaguars have no clear answer and that no one has stepped up and taken the job from anyone else, which suggests change could be constant. That is unless the Jaguars do what might be the best thing and move Brandon Linder back to left guard.
Linder is easily the Jaguars best offensive linemen. He’s a Pro Bowl caliber player who has filled a gaping hole at center, which is why the Jaguars are hesitant to move him, but a team that plans to lean on a power running game offensively is going to need good guard play.
Yes, it’s going to need good center play as well, but Bowanko can still play center adequately so a switch may be coming. In fact, it’s possible an even bigger switch is coming once all the teams around the league reduce their rosters to the 53-man limit.
It’s quite possible that as perplexed as they seem to be over who the best option is at left guard, the Jaguars may add yet another body to the mix (center Jeremy Zuttah, maybe?) before handing the job to one of the players already on the roster.
At this position, it seems, anything is possible.
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?