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Jacksonville Jaguars

Which New England running backs do you prepare against?

Jamil King

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David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

As game planning continues both in Jacksonville and New England, there are fascinating parts to the Jaguar defensive challenge on Sunday.

We’ve already discussed the possibility of DB Jalen Ramsey being matched up some or a lot with TE Rob Gronkowski for portions of the game.

Equally as big, is trying to figure out just who the Pats will use in the backfield Sunday.
As usual, the Pats have a plethora of running backs at their disposal, and they all have played a role at some point this season.

Free agent acquisition Mike Gillislee started the year as the man, had a three-touchdown game in the opener, but fumbles cost him his role and he’s been a healthy scratch at various points this season. Gillislee had only one game in the last eight (Week 15 vs. the Bills) where he was active and had even a single carry. He did so six times for 28 yards and a score.

Next is Rex Burkhead, who has used his scrappy play to cut out a lead role, and he did have eight combined rushing and receiving TDs this year. However, a knee injury cost him his spot but, he and the Pats hope he returns Sunday. He didn’t play in the last three games of the regular season or in last week’s playoff win over the Titans.

The Patriots have seen Dion Lewis (photo above) come alive over the past few weeks in Burkhead’s absence to take over that lead back role. He carried it 26 and 24 times in the final two regular season wins and 15 times in the playoff win over the Titans.

James White, the Super Bowl hero last year, enjoyed a successful game against the Titans showing he can still make an impact, but he only has 43 carries on the year. His specialty is catching the ball, where he had 72 catches in the regular season.

Oh, and Brandon Bolden, who offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels went to and also scored a touchdown last week with four carries for 27 yards.

It’s clear the Patriots have a variety of weapons in the backfield, and we have seen over the years it’s hard to game plan against one particular back when facing Bill Belichick.

If in fact Burkhead is able to play, that is a big pick up for the Pats. He and Lewis would figure to play the most with White trickling in, mostly on third down.

If there is any weakness to the Jags defense, it would be running backs and tight ends. Pittsburgh’s Vance McDonald had ten catches for 112 yards last week, and LeVeon Bell had a solid day, including a great TD catch despite some questionable play calls.

You could also see a running back split wide some (White and Burkhead do this a bunch) to try to open up the whole field. You get 53 yards of width on the field. So, why not use all of it to your advantage.

The Problem, the Jags, will face Sunday is you just never know what you’re going to get from the Patriots behind Brady.

With so many weapons that are built and do the same kind of things, the Jags will need to be up to the task of determining who is in and how to stop them.

It won’t be simple. That’s the Patriots for you.

Jamil King is a young draft pick working his way up the depth chart on the F.F.I. roster, who enjoys watching and writing about all of Florida’s football teams.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Titans smother Jaguars in low scoring win

Florida Football Insiders

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not a game that will go in “the Time Capsule” for NFL fans to watch decades from now, but Tennessee’s recent Mastery over the Jaguars continued Sunday with an ugly 9 – 6 win.

Both defenses played hard and played well, but in the end, the third of three Ryan Succop field goals with just over six minutes remaining was the difference, as Tennessee handed the Jaguars their first loss of 2018.

The Titans did not start franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota who has still been battling nerve problems from his elbow after a hit in the week one lost Miami. However, Mariota was forced into duty, when backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert suffered a concussion in the first quarter and could not return.

Mariota was not particularly effective finishing just 12 – 18 for 100 yards and did rush for another 51 yards for the game.

Speaking of not effective, the Jaguar offense would also qualify in that category. Playing for the second straight game without Leonard Fournette due to his injured hamstring, Jacksonville mustered only six first downs, 100 yards and 3 points in the first half.

The second half was about ball control and time-consuming drives. And Jacksonville punted twice and had a Josh Lambo field goal, but it was not nearly enough.

Blake Bortles, off of a four-touchdown game against New England last week, was mostly ineffective at sustaining drives, must less getting them in the end zone. He was 21 – 34, but for 155 yards only.

Backup running back TJ Yeldon carried seven times for 44 yards and third string running back Corey Grant 6 times for 11 yards. And, the credit goes to Tennessee’s defense, which smothered Jacksonville for much of the day at TIAA Bank Field by forcing eight punts for the game.

With the road win, the Titans assumes first place in the AFC South on the tiebreaker over the Jaguars, which combined with their season sweep last year means they’ve beaten Jacksonville three straight times.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Gameday- Jaguars host Titans in AFC South showdown

Florida Football Insiders

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Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Who: Jaguars (2-0) vs. Titans (1-1)

Where: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville

When: Sunday 1 p.m.

Spread: Jaguars by 9 1/2 (Courtesty VegasInsider.com)

The 2-0 Jaguars are ready to play host to AFC South rival Tennessee on Sunday and try to break the Titans 2017 headlock they put around Jacksonville in sweeping them.

Here’s what we are watching in their first match-up of the year Sunday:

Who’s running the ball in Jacksonville?

As we documented, both Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon are banged up and were limited in practice this week. Fournette is unlikely to play or even if he is, he may not be that effective with a hamstring injury suffered two weeks ago.

Yeldon had 51 yards rushing last week against the Patriots in Fournette’s absence, but he has a sprained ankle. Yeldon is also listed as questionable.

If Yeldon cannot go, the third running back is Corey Grant, a four year veteran, who has only started one game in his career. Grant did have six catches and four runs last week in the New England win.

QB Blake Bortles played well without Fournette throwing four TDs in the win. He desperately needs some rushing attack for drive momentum and to set up play action.

Who’s the QB for the Titans?

Marcus Mariota has been battling an injury to the nerve in his elbow after taking a hit in the week one loss to the Dolphins. Mariota did not play in their win last week against Houston and is officially questionable for this game in North Florida.

If he cannot play, veteran backup Blaine Gabbert will fill in as he’s done the last two games. Gabbert was just 13-20 for 117 yards and a TD pass against the Texans, but he didn’t have to have great numbers.

The Titans got a fake punt TD pass, played solid defense and still won.

It’s possible that Mariota may try to play, but Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel will have use of both QBs, too.

Which leads to, will the Jaguars D lock down the Titans?

It’s no secret that the Jags want to win with defense, and this game is no exception. They were really good against the Patriots last week holding Hall of Famer Tom Brady in check for much of the day. Jacksonville is fifth in points allowed and seventh in yards allowed in the NFL.

Plus, Jacksonville still has one of the most feared pass rushes in the league, as Brady found out the hard way last week. In a critical third quarter sequence, Bortles had thrown an interception, but right away, defensive end Dante Fowler got the ball back on a strip sack of Brady.

They will need plays like that to get the win and keep their perfect season in tact.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars may have to go deeper into running back depth chart Sunday

Florida Football Insiders

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

More concern for the Jaguars running back situation at the conclusion of Friday’s practice. This is because not only is Leonard Fournette still questionable to play with his injured hamstring, but now so too is his backup, T.J. Yeldon.

Both players were limited in practice on Friday for Sunday’s game with the Titans. Yeldon has a sprained ankle suffered during Sunday’s win over New England 31-20. He did carry the ball 10 times for 58 yards rushing last week, which was a solid performance.

Coach Doug Marrone was his usual non-forthcoming self post Friday practice, when it came to conversation about the injured backs. However, you can use previous precedence and injury designation to draw some conclusions.

For example, Fournette’s hamstring was bad enough that he never returned to the opening game with the Giants, and even though he and the Jaguars said the right things leading up to last week’s game, he was unable to practice fully, was listed as questionable, and they held him out of the Pats game.

And with the understanding that we are not in the Jacksonville training room and don’t know the full updates, the fact that now Fournette and Yeldon were unable to practice fully at all this week, has to be a concern for the Jaguars running attack.

If neither of those two are active or, let’s say they are active but not effective, the third string running back is fourth year veteran Corey Grant. The former undrafted player from Auburn has been active for 35 games in his career including all 16 a year ago and the first two in this season.

He has only one career start, but Grant against the Patriots last week had six catches for 56 yards and four carries for 13 yards. And he’s clearly who Marrone and offensive coordinator Nate Hackett will turn to to establish the ground game and the play-action for quarterback Blake Bortles.

Again, there’s always the possibility that they were just being precautionary with Yeldon’s ankle this week and that with 48 hours more rest and treatment, he will be ready to start.

But, let’s just say that if you have the former Bama tailback or Fournette, you might need to look at other options for your Fantasy Football lineup this week.

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