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Jacksonville Jaguars

Rapid Recap- Jaguars knock off Steelers in Divisional Playoff win

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The playoff rematch between the Jaguars and the Steelers lived up to hype and then some.

And in the end, the Jaguars were clearly the better team for a second straight meeting on the road, in a 45-42 wild win.

The Jaguars established right away, that they were not intimidated, and they were willing to throw hay-makers at the home standing “Men of Steel.”

Taking the opening kickoff and driving 64 yards in eight plays, the Jags elected to go for a 4th and goal from the two and RB Leonard Fournette took to the air:

That one play ignited a tremendous first half that saw Jacksonville lead by 21 points on two different occasions. After intercepting Ben Roethlisberger for the sixth time in just five quarters dating back to the regular season match-up, Fournette took the next play in from 18 yards out and a two score lead.

The Jacksonville defense came up large, again, with CB Jalen Ramsey stopping RB LeVeon Bell on a 4th and one at Jaguars 21 yard line to end their drive. And back on offense, QB Blake Bortles led another long 75 yard drive that bled into the second quarter and then when back up RB T.J. Yeldon got the ball…

The Steelers crowd was stunned, as they should have been, down by three touchdowns.

Bortles continued to play steadily throughout the game finishing with 14-26 for 214 yards and a TD. He also rushed for 35 yards.

Back to the first half and after a Roethlisberger to WR Antonio Brown 23 yard touchdown pass cut the lead to 21-7, the Jaguars defense struck another big blow:

Jacksonville’s Telvin Smith, just like he did with a pick six in the October meeting, picked up the fumble and took it 50 yards to the house for the second 21 point lead at the half.

You wouldn’t expect the Steelers to simply roll over, certainly not with Roethlisberger, Brown and Bell looking to get back in the game.

And, they showed that fight when Roethlisberger floated this one for Bell out of the backfield in the third quarter to bring the Steelers within one score…

Roethlisberger finished with a playoff career high 469 yards and 5 TD passes.

However, the story of the day was the Jaguars maturation almost in front of our eyes, and they would not be denied offensively. Bortles led two more scoring drives of 61 yards, including a long throw to WR Keelan Cole setting up Fournette’s third TD run of the day from three yards out. Then the second scoring drive culminated with Bortles floating this ball in the air for this score:

Tommy Bohanon’s 14 yard TD stretched the lead back to 42-28 for Jacksonville.

Fournette, who limped to the sideline and the locker room to have his ankle checked, did return in the second half and finished with 25 carries 109 yards and 3 TDs.

Meanwhile, Roethlisberger didn’t blink, leading a 75 yard TD drive of his own and then, made this heads up play by throwing the backwards pass to Bell who took it in to trim the high scoring game to 42-35.

However, the Steelers botched the onside kick, that hit their own player first and the Jags recovered with 2:17 remaining.

Jacksonville forced Pittsburgh to use their remaining timeouts, as they moved into field goal range and kicker Josh Lambo iced the game with a 45 yard field goal and a 45-35 lead.

Roethlisberger threw his final TD of the day with :01 left, but it was not enough.

The win puts the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game for the third time in franchise history, and the first time since the 1999 season.

They will play at Foxboro against the Patriots in two weeks for the right to go to Super Bowl LII.

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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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