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Know Your Foe: Jacksonville Jaguars

In Week 2 of the 2018 season, the Jacksonville Jaguars got a small measure of revenge on the New England Patriots, beating the 2017 AFC champs 31-20 down in Duval County. In so doing, the Jaguars sent a shot across the bow to everyone in the AFC that it appeared there was a new bully on the block. The New England reign was over; let the teal and black dominance commence!

However, since that win over New England, the Jaguars are 1-3, outscored 91-58 in the process. In the three losses during that stretch, the Jaguars have been outscored 79-27. The last two losses, though, have been the ugliest. The Chiefs intercepted Blake Bortles four times on their way to a decisive 30-14 victory, as the Jaguars didn’t score until it was 23-0. The following week against the Cowboys, it wasn’t much better, other than the fact that Bortles didn’t throw four interceptions. The Cowboys jumped out to a 24-7 lead, tacked on another pair of touchdowns, sending Jacksonville back to Northeast Florida with a 40-7 defeat.

So, which Jaguars team will show up on Sunday? It’s a squad that has suffered numerous injuries, something that it avoided throughout the entire 2017 season. In TIAA Bank Stadium, the Jaguars are a much different team. Presumably, though, it all depends on which Blake Bortles shows up. The Texans have faced both good and bad Blake Bortles. The bad one couldn’t do much of anything in his first six starts against the Texans. The good one showed up in 2017 and housed the Texans twice, including a 45-7 beat down in Jacksonville last December.

With that as a backdrop, let’s get to know the 2018 Jacksonville Jaguars.

Schedule - Record (3 - 3)
W, 20-16 @ New York Giants
W, 31-20 v. New England Patriots
L, 9-6 v. Tennessee Titans
W, 31-12 v. New York Jets
L, 30-14 @ Kansas City Chiefs
L, 40-7 @ Dallas Cowboys

Jaguars OFFENSE

Rushing Yards Per game - 103.3 ypg (18th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 267.7 ypg (15th)
Total offense per game - 371.0 ypg (16th)
Turnovers lost - 14 (8 INT, 6 fumbles lost) - Jaguars are -9 in TO margin, 31st in the NFL

Jaguars starting offense last Sunday vs. Dallas
QB - Blake Bortles
RB - T.J. Yeldon
WR - Keelan Cole
WR - DONTE MONCRIEF
TE - James O’Shaughnessy
TE - NILES PAUL (Injured, placed on IR this week)
LT - JOSH WALKER
LG - ANDREW NORWELL
C - Brandon Linder
RG - A.J. Cann
RT - Jeremy Parnell

Other Key Offensive pieces
RB - Leonard Fournette (missed past six weeks with a hamstring, a “chance” he plays)
FB - Tommy Bohanon
WR - D.J CHARK (Rookie)
WR - Dede Westbrook
RB - Jamaal Charles
OT - ERECK FLOWERS (claimed this past week)
OL - Tyler Shatley

**All Caps indicates a 2018 off-season addition

Keys to the Jaguars Offense

Keep it in Front
If there’s one thing that the Jaguars have at receiver, it’s blazing, downfield speed. I can’t get out of my head the performance that Bortles had last year in December against this defense. He capitalized all afternoon letting his relatively unknown receiving corps make big plays in the passing game. Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark can run by, and past, any defensive back on the field and when Jacksonville has played well, those guys have made big plays in the passing game.

As such, the challenge for the Texans secondary is to keep them in front and keep those three, in particular, from making significant plays in the passing game. Cole is the one that truly concerns me as he can make contested catches downfield and can run by everyone. Keeping those three from repeatedly making 20+ yard plays in the passing game is a major key in this matchup.

Blurred Identity
The Jaguars offensive staff will tell anyone that they want to pound the rock, first and foremost. Yet, recently, the Jaguars offense leaned on Bortles and the passing game more than desired. Why? Star running back Leonard Fournette has missed each of the last five games and there’s no guarantee that he’ll make it back for this one. The Jaguars also lost future Pro Bowl left tackle Cam Robinson for the season and he was an instrumental piece in the run blocking scheme. Perhaps even more so than anything else, though, the Jaguars have been forced to play from behind, especially in the last two weeks.

They trailed by 23 in Kansas City and 24 in Dallas as late as the second half, so the running game was essentially tossed out the window. The formula for this Bortles-led offense is to hammer the defense with Fournette and let it take a toll on opposing defenses, while its own defense dominates opposing offenses. Get a lead and force teams to chase THEM, not the other way around. The issues noted above have created an offensive identity crisis, something the Jaguars coaching staff knew it had to avoid to make another championship run.

Jaguars DEFENSE

Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 118.7 ypg (22nd in the NFL)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 187.8 ypg (1st)
Total offense Allowed per game - 306.5 ypg (2nd)
Turnovers generated - 5 (3 INT, 2 Fumbles recovered)

Jaguars starting defense last Sunday vs. Dallas
DE - Yannick Ngakoue
NT - Marcell Dareus
DT - Malik Jackson
DE - Calais Campbell
WLB - Telvin Smith Jr.
MLB - Myles Jack
SLB - LEON JACOBS (Rookie)
CB - Jalen Ramsey
S - Tashaun Gipson
S - Barry Church
CB - A.J. Bouye

Other Key Defensive pieces
DE - Dante Fowler Jr.
DT - TAVEN BRYAN (Rookie)
Nickel - Tyler Patmon
Nickel - D.J. HAYDEN
S - RONNIE HARRISON (Rookie)

**All Caps indicates a 2018 off-season addition

Keys to the Jaguars Defense

The Mouthpiece
It hangs off his facemask, swinging with his every movement. It’s essentially the signal that Jaguars star cornerback Jalen Ramsey is talking trash to anyone in a different colored jersey. Ironically, it’s symbolic of Ramsey’s position as The Mouthpiece of the Jaguars as well. His overabundance of confidence feeds the Jaguars beast at all times because he’s not afraid to say what he feels and what keeps this Jacksonville defense swagalicious.

Last year after beating Pittsburgh on the road in the AFC divisional playoff round, the Jaguars were welcomed home to TIAA Bank Stadium by thousands. Eventually the fans wanted to hear from the Jaguars spokesman. So, he strode to the mic and proclaimed that the Jaguars “were going to go win this b---”. He honestly believed that they could do it, even though few teams ever beat New England at Gillette Stadium, ever.

They didn’t win that one and haven't won the last two either, setting up a huge contest with the Texans and DeAndre Hopkins. Ramsey’s battles with Hopkins have been worth the price of admission. How Ramsey fares will determine how much the mouthpiece hangs low and how well this Jaguars defense plays on Sunday afternoon.

Yannick
The Jaguars defense has its share of Pro Bowl talent. Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are outstanding out at corner. Myles Jack and Telvin Smith are fast, nasty and aggressive at linebacker. Defensive end Calais Campbell has been a football playing dude for a long time. Yet, the one guy that worries me more than any other on Sunday afternoon is defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. The way that he bounds out of his stance. The ferocity with which he attacks the quarterback. The football anger that he channels during a game. He can be downright scary.

He’s different from other edge rushers because of that ferocity. He’s awkward to block because he attacks the quarterback sort of like a point guard handling the basketball. He has blazing speed and outstanding change of direction, so blocking him is akin to staying in front of said basketball player on his path to the basket. He will go from whistle to whistle so no matter who is responsible for Ngakoue must know where he is at all times. If not, it could get ugly.

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