They’re the fashionable sleeper pick to make the playoffs, but the Jaguars can’t afford to be sleepy this Sunday against the Chargers. Despite putting up a fight against the heralded Packers, the Jags lost a disappointing season opener. Dropping the first two games would not only put them in a huge hole, but the calls for Gus Bradley’s head will grow stronger. Since 2007 only five of 66 teams, which began the season 0-2, have battled back to make the playoffs.
Here are keys for the Jaguars heading in to their showdown with the Chargers:
Forget the past
Phillip Rivers has had his way against the Jaguars over the years. The San Diego quarterback is 5-1 all time against Jacksonville, with his highest QB rating (116.3) against an AFC opponent.
Bradley’s defense will need to get pressure on the 34-year old, more than they did on Rodgers last week. Rivers isn’t as fleet of foot as Rodgers. Add in the Chargers’ loss of WR Keenan Allen for the season, San Diego doesn’t have has many weapons.
Jared Odrick and Dante Fowler Jr. have the potential for a big day. Odrick wrapped up Rodgers for a sack in Week 1, and the edge speed Fowler can bring could make for a long afternoon for RT Joe Barksdale.
Run for the Hills
T.J. Yeldon will get a lot of carries this week since Chris Ivory (Hospitalized this week) isn’t expected to go. Yeldon left a lot to be desired after his first showing of the season yielded just 39-yards.
The Jags rushing attack as a whole was putrid, rushing 26-times for 48-yards. You’d have to expect Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson went back to the drawing board to figure out how to get ground yardage. San Diego proved to be porous on the line last week against the Chiefs, surrendering 4.4- yards per carry.
Don’t be surprised if Yeldon flirts with a 100-yard day on the ground.
Pressure, Push down on me
Last week the Packers set up shop in the Jaguars backfield and pushed Blake Bortles off the spot. Against the Chargers, the only person they need to concentrate on letting back there is Mantei Teo’s girlfriend (Too Soon? Nah). Teo last week led San Diego in tackles (8), and tied for a team-high with two tackles for loss. Collectively the Chargers racked up three sacks on the mobile Alex Smith, the same number of sacks the Packers had on Bortles.
If Jacksonville can keep pressure off Bortles and allow him time to find his weapons (And not make the dumb interception) “the Allens” can have a big game.
The Jaguars are three point underdogs only because the Chargers are at home. This is a winnable road game, and probably a “must” win at that. If they fall to 0-2, this sleepy team may only see the post season in their dreams.
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?