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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Had the Jacksonville Jaguars been able to work a deal on Thursday night, offensive lineman’s Jawaan Taylor’s tumble down the NFL draft would have been a little shorter.

Taylor ended up falling to the third pick in the second round before the Jaguars were finally able to move up three spots because of a trade with the Oakland Raiders. They weren’t scared off by reports of medical issues and ended up filling a major need with the player that numerous draft analysts predicted in January and February the team would take with the seventh overall pick.

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“We don’t have any major concerns,” Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said. “I don’t’ know where that came from. His medical grade was passable.


Jacksonville Jaguars 2019 draft: Analysis for every pick
“He’s fine. We didn’t have any concerns.”

Taylor called reports that he had a knee injury “definitely false,” saying that he played through a meniscus injury in 2017, but he didn’t have any issues last season. He did not run the 40 at the scouting combine or his pro day because of a hamstring injury.

“I’m 100 percent healthy and ready to go,” Taylor said. “It hurt me a little bit last night that you didn’t see what the reason was I didn’t get picked. … I’m a little upset, but everything happens for a reason.”

Taylor (6-foot-5, 312 pounds) started 35 games at Florida the past three seasons, with 33 coming at right tackle. He should slide into that spot with the Jaguars, who also signed former Cincinnati first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi last March.

The Jaguars gave up their fourth-round pick (No. 109) to the Raiders to move up from 38 to 35 and the Raiders also gave the Jaguars their fifth-round pick (No. 140) and a seventh-round pick (No. 235). Caldwell said he tried to work out a deal Thursday night to move into the back end of the first round in order to draft Taylor but said he was unwilling to give up one of the team’s two third-round picks.

Caldwell said he didn’t know why Taylor kept falling but was glad he did because it enabled the team to get a player they would have considered at No. 7 had defensive end Josh Allen not been available.

“We thought that he would be long gone by then — people probably say that every year about their second-round pick, right — but teams have different needs and they have different philosophies and different systems and why a guy falls is different for every team,” Caldwell said. “I think teams need guards. Teams need left tackles and here’s a guy that’s predominantly a right tackle. He started 35, 37 games. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s powerful. He did not run his 40 at the combine or throughout the whole spring, so teams may have looked at that, that sometimes teams don’t like to take guys that they don’t have a full workup on.”

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A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:

1. Swing and a miss: It’s the (gag) gift that keeps on giving (agita).

We’re talking about the 2014 NFL draft, arguably the worst in Jets history. When offensive lineman Dakota Dozier signed recently with the Minnesota Vikings, it left the Jets with only one player from the ’14 draft — wide receiver Quincy Enunwa.

One out of 12 picks.

Five years after the Idzik 12 — the general manager at the time was John Idzik — the Jets still are feeling the impact of that lost draft. If they had hit on, say, six out of 12, they would have a nice group of core players and they wouldn’t be reliant on free agency to plug holes. But instead of pulling off a watershed draft, Idzik & Co. watered down the roster. The Jets’ record since then is 28-52.

The Idzik 12
Under former GM John Idzik, the Jets drafted 12 players in 2014. Only two are currently on NFL rosters:

1 Calvin Pryor, S 38
2 Jace Amaro, TE 17
3 Dex McDougle, CB 31
4 Jalen Saunders, WR 15
4 Shaq Evans, WR 0
4 Dakota Dozier, OL 37
5 Jeremiah George, LB 37
6 Brandon Dixon, CB 19
6 Quincy Enunwa, WR 40
6 IK Enemkpali, LB 17
6 Tajh Boyd, QB 0
7 Trevor Reilly, LB 37
The draft started on a bad note, as then-coach Rex Ryan unsuccessfully lobbied Idzik to trade up for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Maybe it was bad karma, because it got progressively worse over the three-day draft.

The 2014 draft, which was loaded with talent, has produced 27 Pro Bowl players, according to Pro Football Reference. Of the 256 players selected, 115 have started at least one season. Only two Jets picks are on that list — Enunwa and safety Calvin Pryor, who washed out after being chosen No. 18 overall.

Here are a few more factoids about that ill-fated ’14 draft:

Only two of the 12 (Enunwa and Dozier) are currently on NFL rosters, but that isn’t the most staggering part. This is: Eight of the 12 picks were out of the league last season.

Eleven of the 12 have been cut at least once. Many have forgotten, but Enunwa was actually waived by the Jets as a rookie and added to the practice squad, where he began his journey to the starting lineup. All told, the 12 picks have been cut 44 times by 20 different teams. The leaders: Cornerback Dexter McDougle, linebacker Jeremiah George and cornerback Brandon Dixon each have been cut six times. The only unscathed player is Dozier, who left via free agency.

Only one of the 12 was cut after punching a teammate in the face — linebacker IK Enemkpali (see: Geno Smith).

The Jets managed to mine some talent from ’14 the second time around, signing linebackers Avery Williams (2018) and C.J. Mosley (2019) as free agents. It just cost them a lot more money than it would have the first time.

2. Mini-mock draft 1.0: The Jets have the No. 3 overall pick for the second year in a row. The previous time they had top-five picks in consecutive years was 1980-1981, when they selected wide receiver Lam Jones and running back Freeman McNeil, respectively.

The Jets drafted quarterback Sam Darnold at No. 3 in 2018. This year? Well, let’s go to the crystal ball for the top three picks.

Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray, QB. The Cards already have a quarterback (Josh Rosen) and Murray already had a professional career (baseball), but why let that stuff get in the way of a draft-day marriage? I happen to believe Murray will be Baker Mayfield, except faster.


When: April 25-27
Where: Nashville, Tennessee
How to watch: ABC/ESPN/ESPN App

• Complete draft order: Picks 1-254 »
• Picking draft needs for all 32 teams »
• Complete draft order: Picks 1-254 »
• In-depth stories on the top prospects »
• Kiper’s ‘Grade: A’ three-round mock »
• McShay’s ‘Grade: A’ three-round mock »
• Two-round mock drafts: Kiper vs. McShay »
• More NFL draft coverage »

San Francisco 49ers: Nick Bosa, DE. The recent trade for outside linebacker Dee Ford doesn’t mean the Niners are out of the edge-rusher market. It would be a surprise if they take defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, although some believe he’s the cleanest player in the draft.

Jets: Williams, DT. Personally, I would take linebacker Josh Allen because he fills a bigger need, but general manager Mike Maccagnan believes in best-player-available. Williams is an elite prospect whose only negative, if you could call it that, is that he was a one-year star in college. Maccagnan can’t afford to screw this up, so he’ll go with the safest pick even though it makes more sense to pick an edge rusher. He won’t have to make the decision if he trades the pick, which is a possibility.

3. Quinnen, freaky beast: Leonard Williams has worked out this offseason at the Mamba Sports Academy in the Los Angeles area. So has Quinnen Williams (no relation). They’ve talked a little bit, and Leonard likes what he sees and hears.

“He’s a freak,” Leonard said. “I’ve seen him. He’s fast, and he’s big and strong. The tape doesn’t lie. He’s a beast.”

Williams said Quinnen has a “childlike” personality, but he meant that as a compliment. He described the Alabama product as humble and wide-eyed despite his tremendous success in college.

“He was kind of fanning over me a little bit,” Leonard said. “He was like, ‘Oh, what’s up, man?’ He was trying to take a picture with me. I thought it was so funny because I remember being in that position.”

4. Sleeper at QB: I’ve heard intriguing reports on the Jets’ new quarterback, Brandon Silvers, who played most recently with the Memphis Express of the now-suspended Alliance of American Football. He’s a natural passer with excellent lower-body mechanics. He throws a nice “go” route. As one AAF coach said, “This guy moves the ball and scores points.”

Silvers, who began the AAF season behind former Jets bust Christian Hackenberg, was slowed by a pulled oblique muscle. Once he got healthy, he put up some respectable numbers — 777 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in three starts. Let’s go back to college: In his final year at Troy University (2017), he beat LSU in Death Valley — and that’s not easy to do.

Silvers, who also drew interest from the Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars, joins Trevor Siemian and Davis Webb as Darnold’s backups. They’re not going to keep four quarterbacks (been there, done that), so the competition should be keen.
The Jets never really knew what to do with Tim Tebow. And when they had ideas, they never used them. Steven Bisig/USA TODAY Sports
5. Tebow remembers Gase: The Jets hired coach Adam Gase in large part because of his expertise with quarterbacks. His first high-profile student was Tim Tebow, a Denver Broncos rookie in 2010. Gase also was Tebow’s position coach in 2011, when Tebow Mania was born and the Broncos made the playoffs. Funny, but Gase never mentions Tebow when he lists the quarterbacks he has mentored.

Anyway, I caught up with Tebow the other day in Syracuse, New York, for a story about his baseball career, and he had some good things to say about the Jets’ new coach.

“He’s a really nice guy,” Tebow said. “He’s very passionate. He loves football. He’s all-the-time football, just football, football, football. He cares about his players. I really enjoyed that about him. He’s open to doing it different ways. He learned a lot then. I can only imagine now how much more he’s picked up. He just soaked in all sorts of different concepts, from Mike Martz to all these different systems. He’s such a football guy.”
6. The year he’d like to forget: This was my first interview with Tebow since his one and only season with the Jets (2012), which turned into a disaster for all parties. The team traded for Tebow with the idea of making him a multi-purpose weapon, mainly a Wildcat quarterback, but they never executed the plan. The entire Tebow experiment was an embarrassment for the franchise and it effectively ended his NFL career. When asked about that year, Tebow made it clear he didn’t want to go there again.

“It was a very interesting year, a lot of highs and lows,” he said. “Obviously, I don’t think it went the way anybody had hoped. I think I learned a lot from it, on a personal level, handling things.

“It was very interesting,” he added, revealing a smile that said what his words didn’t.

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The Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants will have plenty of options for your fantasy team in Week 1 — whether you’re playing on a DFS site like Draft Kings or Fan Duel or standard scoring like ESPN or Yahoo Fantasy — but one standout you probably drafted early will be hard pressed to produce many points for you.

ESPN’s Mike Clay thinks Odell Beckham Jr. is going to have one of the toughest matchups of any fantasy wide receiver in Week 1 and that’s because he’ll have to deal primarily with cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, arguably the best pair of cover corners in the NFL.

Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Jaguars’ Jalen Ramsey (shadow)

The big showdown of Week 1 will feature the now-healthy and well-paid Beckham vs. one of the game’s top corners in Ramsey. Ramsey doesn’t shadow exclusively, but chased the likes of Antonio Brown, Kelvin Benjamin, DeAndre Hopkins, T.Y. Hilton, Larry Fitzgerald and A.J. Green last season. That suggests he’ll be in charge of keeping Beckham in check in Week 1.

Even if Beckham dodges Ramsey occasionally, A.J. Bouye (position-best 31.6 QB rating allowed last season) is just about as good as Ramsey and offers just as much of a challenge. Ramsey aligned in the slot 7 percent of the time last season, but when he did move inside, it was usually to shadow an elite wideout. That could again be the case this week if Beckham gets more run inside (as was reported). Beckham needs to be downgraded in what will be one of the toughest matchups of 2018. Meanwhile, Sterling Shepard gets the upgrade against new Jags slot corner D.J. Hayden.

On the flip side, Clay believes Dede Westbrook could be a sneaky good pickup as a flex option, going against Donte Deayon.

Beckham is coming off a season-ending injury that forced him to miss 12 games last season, but before he went out he recorded double-digit fantasy totals in three of his four games. I don’t think Ramsey completely blanks Beckham but the combination of a stellar Jaguars defensive line pressuring beleaguered quarterback Eli Manning and the improvement the Jaguars secondary has made this past offseason should be cause of concern for Beckham owners.

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JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser’s notes and observations as the Jaguars begin preparing for the 2018 preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Thursday …

1.Expectations were already high for the 2018 Jaguars defense – and the first three preseason games pushed them even higher. “We’ve made a few plays, but we have a lot of room for growth,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. That’s true, but a defense that ranked second in the NFL in yards allowed, interceptions, points allowed and takeaways last season has been dominant in the three games with the first unit not allowing a touchdown and allowing just four field goals. “That’s the beauty of it: Even when we make mistakes, we still play some good ball out there,” Campbell said. “This ‘D’ can be very, very good. We wanted to intimidate people and send a message across the league. That was the goal going into preseason: the first couple of teams we play, we wanted to make sure they see a team that’s fast and physical and plays with a different kind of intensity. … The ultimate goal would be to have offensive coordinators looking at the defense like, ‘I don’t know where to attack … I don’t know how.’ That’s the ultimate goal.”

2.Anyone wondering the Jaguars’ approach to Thursday’s preseason finale need to look no further than Head Coach Doug Marrone’s media availability Monday. With most NFL teams now resting most or all starters in the preseason finale, Marrone was asked his approach against Tampa Bay. “That’s always the age-old question that you get,” Marrone said. “I know we’re going to be smart about it. I think a lot depends on how we do during the week, what our focus is and what we’re trying to take care of. I’m going to be smart and do what I have done in the past. I think that is the best way to explain it.” Marrone last season rested the majority of the team’s front-line players in the preseason finale. The idea behind the approach is not only to prevent injuries but to ensure players are as fresh as possible entering the regular season. “You really can feel it,” defensive tackle Malik Jackson said of the extra time off between Preseason Week 3 and the regular-season opener. “That’s why for example we fight for a bye week in the playoffs. A week off means a lot. So, to get two weeks off to get your body back and let it recover from what we just did is awesome.”

3.One area the Jaguars will miss wide receiver Marqise Lee is as a downfield blocker in the running game. Lee, who Marrone said Monday will miss the 2018 regular season with a knee injury sustained against Atlanta Saturday, was perhaps the Jaguars’ best receiver in this area. “He did a heck of a job that way, we all know that,” Marrone said. “Obviously, the people in that [wide receiver] room are going to have to step up. That’s why as soon as everything is done, we want to get him [Lee] back in that room, because there is a toughness about him that we want to make sure we keep.” The Jaguars led the NFL in rushing last season, and Lee’s ability as a run-blocker was a factor in the team re-signing him to a contract extension this past offseason. “We work on it,” Marrone said. “It’s hard when you work on that stuff. In training camp with full pads, we do defensive back/wide receiver blocking drills. Those guys do get a lot of work on it.”

4.Marrone on Monday discussed multiple players against Atlanta, praising starting right tackle Jermey Parnell’s first appearance of 2018 after missing the first two preseason games with a knee issue. “I thought he looked good,” Marrone said. “I really did. He had good sets, stayed squared, worked well, so I was happy with that.” Marrone also said second-year left tackle Cam Robinson improved against Atlanta after struggling the previous Saturday against end Danielle Hunter and the Minnesota Vikings. “I thought Cam, obviously, played much better than he did than the first two games, but I still there is room for improvement from everybody,” Marrone said. Marrone also addressed the NFL debut of rookie defensive lineman Taven Bryan, who missed the first two preseason games with an abdominal injury. “I thought he got some good movement,” he said of Bryan, the No. 29 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft who was penalized late in the game for roughing the passer. “I wasn’t happy with the penalty. He did some good things. He showed his power, he showed his strength. He was up on his feet and got involved on some plays. It is a pretty good progression of a guy that really hasn’t practiced or played. I think it’s difficult. I think he will just get better as he keeps playing.”

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Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles intercepted a would-be thief and helped police arrest the teenager while at a Jacksonville Beach house party held at the home of teammate Brandon Linder on Wednesday night.

According to the Jacksonville Beach police report, a copy of which was obtained by News4Jax, 18-year-old Joseph Horton rummaged through several of the vehicles at the party, including Bortles’ Ford F-150, which was unlocked with the keys inside. Surveillance video showed Horton taking Bortles’ wallet from the truck; it was later found outside.

Witnesses, per the police report obtained by News4Jax, say Horton tried to drive away in the truck but couldn’t get out of a crowded lot, so instead entered the home.

Police then were called and found Horton being held by Bortles and two of his friends.

Horton was arrested and charged with burglary, trespassing and grand theft, online records show.

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars released running back Chris Ivory on Friday, a move that will save the team $3.75 million against the salary cap.

The move was not surprising considering how little Ivory was used last season after the team drafted Leonard Fournette with the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft. Ivory did not play in the Jaguars’ final two regular-season games and played in only one of the team’s three playoff games.

Ivory spent two seasons with the Jaguars, but he never made much of an impact. He ran for just 821 yards and four touchdowns and caught 41 passes for 361 yards and one touchdown in 25 games.

The Jaguars signed Ivory to a five-year, $32 million contract with $10 million guaranteed after he came off a 2015 season in which he led the AFC in rushing with the New York Jets. However, Ivory dealt with an undisclosed medical issue before the 2016 season and missed the first two games.

He never got going after that, rushing for more than 48 yards in a game just once and finishing with 439 yards in 2016. Ivory ran for 382 yards and one touchdown last season.

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The Jaguars’ offensive line has struggled without injured starters Patrick Omameh and Jermey Parnell, but both are expected to return to practice on Wednesday, according to Coach Doug Marrone.
Parnell, who plays right tackle, has missed three consecutive games with a knee injury. Omameh, who plays left guard, has missed 2 1/2 games with a quad muscle injury.

The Jaguars were held to a season-low 91 yards rushing and Blake Bortles was sacked three times during their 27-24 loss at Arizona on Sunday.

Marrone said wide receiver Allen Hurns is making progress from an ankle injury that forced him to miss the past two games.


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”He’s getting ready, so we’ll see where he is,” Marrone said.

Linebacker Telvin Smith’s status for this week is uncertain because he’s under the NFL’s concussion protocol. He sustained a concussion during Sunday’s game.

Brown makes impression

With Smith out for the second half, rookie Blair Brown earned his first significant action at weak-side linebacker since Week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens in London.

Brown, a fifth-round pick, was on the field for 10 defensive snaps, which matched his season high against the Ravens. He made three tackles, one assisted on Sunday.

“When my number is called, I just have to go out there,’’ Brown said. “At first it (NFL game) was a lot faster than what I’ve experienced in college. But now that I’ve played in a couple of games, I think I’ve transitioned pretty well. I’m always on ready.’’

“He has gotten so much better as the season as gone along,” said defensive captain/middle linebacker Paul Posluszny. “It’s so hard for a rookie and sometimes we forget that, but you’ve seen him get consistently get better each week.”

Most of Brown’s game action has been on special teams. But Marrone said he liked what he saw from Brown at linebacker against the Cardinals.

“He went in there and he was ready to go,” Marrone said. “You’ve got to be ready to go when you get in there and losing someone like obviously Telvin hurts.”

Ngakoue nominated for award

The Jaguars nominated defensive end Yannick Ngakoue for the AFC Player of the Month for November. Ngakoue had 3.5 sacks, including three sack-fumbles, during the month. Two sack-fumbles were recovered for touchdowns and his three forced fumbles were the most in the league.

Ngakoue sacked Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert and forced a fumble early in the fourth quarter that was recovered by Calais Campbell and returned 10 yards for a touchdown that put the Jaguars 17-16 before Arizona rallied.

“On the back end, all the guys (Jaguars defensive backs) covered everybody great,” said Ngakoue, who had the Jaguars’ only sack of the game. “The quarterback was forced to hold the ball and I just made a play for my team.”

It is the first time in franchise history the Jaguars have two players with 10 or more sacks through the first 11 games of a season. Campbell leads with 11.5 and Ngakoue has 10. Campbell and Ngakoue are the first duo with 10 or more sacks through their team’s first 11 games since the 2014 Buffalo Bills when Marcell Dareus, now with the Jaguars, had 10 sacks and Mario Williams had 12.

In playoff mix

If the AFC playoffs began today, the Jaguars (7-4) would be the fifth seed and face the fourth-seeded Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) in a wild-card game.

With five games left in the regular season, the Jaguars are tied with Tennessee for the AFC South lead. The Jaguars lost sole possession of first place on Sunday when they lost and Titans beat the Colts.

Starting Sunday against the Colts, the Jaguars play their next three games at EverBank Field. They close out the regular season at Tennessee on the road Dec. 31.

“This is definitely crunch time,’’ Campbell said. “December is championship football. We have to learn it is not going to be easy. We wouldn’t want it if it was easy.’’


The Jaguars re-signed offensive lineman Brandon Thomas to the practice squad after releasing him last week. To make room, the Jaguars released kicker Mike Meyer, who was brought in last week as insurance in case Josh Lambo had been unable to overcome a hip injury. Lambo played against the Cardinals and kicked a 43-yard field goal.

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JACKSONVILLE – So far for Dede Westbrook, so good.

That was Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone’s assessment of the Jaguars’ rookie wide receiver a day after his NFL debut.

“I thought it was a good start,” Marrone said Monday.

Westbrook, who led the NFL with 288 yards in the preseason, caught three passes for 35 yards in the Jaguars’ 19-7 victory at Cleveland Sunday. The fourth-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft missed the season’s first nine games after September core-muscle surgery.

“I liked his effort,” Marrone said. “I thought he did a nice job in the blocking aspect. They (the Browns) were physical in the back end. I was impressed. He’ll get better and better each time he’s out there.”

Westbrook’s biggest reception Sunday was a 28-yarder in the second quarter that converted third-and-8 from the Jaguars 21. He also fumbled after a short reception, and had what appeared to be a drop later in the second quarter.


Westbrook could be key in the coming weeks. Wide receiver Allen Robinson is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament sustained in Week 1, and wide receiver Allen Hurns missed Sunday with an ankle injury. With veteran Arrelious Benn (knee) also out for the season, Marqise Lee is the lone Jaguars receiver with more than 10 games of NFL experience.

Also on Monday:

*Marrone discussed a disputed third-quarter catch Sunday by Westbrook, a play that Marrone challenged only to have officials uphold the original incomplete call. While Westbrook appeared to have both feet in bounds, Marrone said officials told him the issue was whether or not Westbrook possessed the ball before stepping out of bounds. “It’s hard to tell on our tape, but I was told on the sideline that it wasn’t the feet; it was the actual catch,” Marrone said. “They told me the ball was moving.” …

*Marrone discussed several aspects of the offensive line, noting that while right tackle Jermey Parnell has missed the last two games his replacement – swing tackle Josh Wells – had perhaps his best game Sunday. “I was excited about that,” Marrone said. “I think J.P. is a good player, but I’m happy with how Josh played this week.” Marrone also discussed Chris Reed, who started at left guard Sunday with starter Patrick Omamehout with a groin injury. “I thought he was going against a very good, tough front seven,” Marrone said, noting that other than two holding penalties by Reed “I was happy with his play.” …


*Marrone also addressed the Jaguars’ lone giveaway Sunday, a lost fumble by quarterback Blake Bortles on a second-half sack. While ball security has been an issue for Bortles throughout his career, with Sunday being his third lost fumble of the season, Marrone attributed Sunday’s turnover to protection. “We have to do a better job on our assignments of picking things up,” Marrone said. “[Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey] came from behind and hit him (Bortles); he was an unblocked player that went by him. He (Bortles) did a good job of avoiding him. Then there was another player right in his face and he got hit from behind. We have seen [Bortles] make some plays. It is hard to talk to those guys about what play should you try to make and what plays you don’t try to make. We have to do a better job of protecting him and keeping him from having to avoid all that stuff when there is a lot of stuff going on around him.” …

*Marrone discussed the play of the interior of the defensive line since the bye week. That was when the Jaguars acquired nose tackle Marcell Dareus in a trade with the Buffalo Bills. The Jaguars have improved from 32nd to 16th in the NFL against the run in three games since the trade, but Marrone Monday said the entire defensive-tackle group is playing at a high level. “Since that bye week, I really think all three players inside have been playing better than they had earlier,” he said. “I think [three-technique tackle] Malik [Jackson] has really worked on straining, pushing, making plays in the run game, really working on the power aspect; he seems to be getting stronger as the year is going on. [Nose tackle] Abry Jones has been making more plays for us at the nose position. Marcell (Dareus) and Abry had about the same amount of snaps in the last game, and Malik played a little bit more because of the two-minute and nickel situations. I’m happy with the combination and with how all three of those guys are playing inside.” …

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With the Jacksonville Jaguars on hiatus, otherwise known as the bye week, finding the usual story to write about becomes a bit of a challenge. Even with the teal and black taking Week 8 off, I can still find a nugget or two to compose for prose.

This Jaguars team has a different feel, a change of the old guard, a belief what is old is new again. This is the Jacksonville mentality – a mix of “ground and pound” with a dominant defense that punches teams in the mouth and continues to wail on them when they are on the ropes. This is a team that reminds me of the old Steelers and Raiders teams – minus an effective passing game.

It’s what Tom Coughlin envisioned when he took over as executive vice-president this offseason.

We spoke yesterday about what this team needs to do to continue the path to the playoffs. Now, we continue with who needs to step up in the second half of the season. Yes, there is still plenty to improve on.

Football fans will watch with interest to see if the Jaguars make another move before the Tuesday trade deadline. Other than wide receiver, I cannot see this team moving another draft pick for a chess piece.

Here are four players who need to make an impact in the second half of the season.

Any Wide Receiver – Allen Hurns became the first 100-yard receiver this year in a Jaguars’ uniform. There is a Catch-22 with the statement someone needs to step forward and become “the guy” in this receiving unit. The Jaguars aren’t throwing the ball a ton and the running game is the best in the NFL.

Allen Robinson is gone. Marqise Lee isn’t the player the team hoped he would become. Hurns has had moments. The play of Marcedes Lewis has been a pleasant surprise. He has four of Blake Bortles’ touchdowns this season.

If Dede Westbrook can give this team a spark with his speed and Lee can take his game to another level, the Jaguars may pass a bit more in the final nine games. I just want someone to emerge as the go-to wide receiver on obvious passing downs.

The Interior Defensive Line – This won’t be as long as the rant on the wide receivers. As John Oehser of wrote last week, “It’s an area that needs to improve moving forward. The Jaguars’ run defense has looked vulnerable in three losses. If this team is going to win close games – and teams must win close games to get to the postseason – it must be able to stop the run.”

Enter Marcell Dareus.

The Jaguars’ brass saw a weakness and found a way to improve it. Whether Dareus is the answer will have a lot to do with how the Jaguars use their existing players – Malik Jackson, Abry Jones and Sheldon Day, in the rotation. You cannot have a stout defense that gives up chunks of yards on the ground and expect to make a run deep in the playoffs.

This is also an area I can see this team addressing in the 2018 NFL Draft.

The Jaguars face a tough running team in Cincinnati, then face the Los Angeles Chargers. Those two teams will test the interior of this defense. If Jacksonville makes the necessary changes on the line, which will force teams to pass more, then the problem is solved. Clogging running lanes will also allow Calais Campbell, Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue to rush the quarterback continuously.

Blake Bortles – He has decent numbers for the first half of the season. What you see is what you get with Bortles, who has hovered around 58 percent completion percentage for the majority of his career. The sack totals are down. The interceptions and fumbles are less. Bortles has looked more comfortable in this offense.

There are some who hate the term “game manager” when referring to a quarterback, but that’s what Bortles is most of the time. His games against Baltimore and Indianapolis are the exception, not the norm.

The one thing Bortles and the Jaguars coaching staff has to do is work on passing on third down. Relying on the run game works when this team has a third-and-short situation. Playing against the Colts did not miraculously fix this issue.

“We’ll continue week-to-week to try and find concepts and schemes within our system that allow guys to get open and create separation and pick up first downs. I think we’ve been, whatever the numbers are, 1-3 (yards), we’re really good. 4 to 6, we suck. 7 to 9, we’re pretty good,” Bortles said prior to the Colts game. “It’s like, 4 to 6, somebody just jump off sides and we’ll be alright. It’s kind of crazy because 1 to 3 and 7 to 9, I think with both of them, we’re above 60 percent, I think, or somewhere right around. Whatever the reason that 4 to 6 has just been the area that we’ve really struggled in.”

If the passing game stays the same, Jacksonville can win at least six of their remaining nine games. If it regresses, that number changes significantly. It means the progress Bortles has made took two steps backward.

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The Jacksonville Jaguars headed west to face the Houston Texans for the first game of the season and this was about as dominating a performance as you’ll see by this team.

The Jaguars started off the game on a solid note, as Blake Bortles connected on two passes of over 15 yards to Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns on the drive. Their efforts would be stalled, settling for a 42-yard field goal to cap off an 8-play, 51-yard drive. The Jaguars put the first points of the game on the board, giving them a 3-0 lead.

Both teams followed up with a three-and-out as the Texans took till their second drive to start moving the football. The Texans converted two first downs on the drive, but failed to get passed midfield, punting for a second time.

Leonard Fournette showed his worth on the Jaguars third drive of the game, converting the first two first downs of the drive with a nice catch out of the backfield, and a punishing run. The Jaguars drive ended in their first trip to the red-zone this season, as they failed to convert their drive into a touchdown. Myers notched his second field goal of the day, givng the Jaguars a 6-0 lead.

The next two possessions by both teams ended in three-and-outs.

Then… things would get crazy.

Yannick Ngakoue strip sacked Tom Savage on a second-and-7 right over midfield, giving the ball back to the Jaguars. The Jaguars faced a well known enemy in this drive, getting the ball to the two-yard line on second down

Fournette leaped to the goal line on second down, but would fall just short. Then the Jaguars tried a fullback dive with Tommy Bohanon, who on a second chance came up inches short of the goal line. With a though decision, Doug Marrone opted to go for the touchdown.

On fourth-and-1, Leonard Fournette was handed the ball up the middle, and got over the line just enough to notch the first touchdown of his NFL career. Myers missed the point after however, only extending the Jaguars lead to 12-0.

All seemed to being going the Jaguars way, it couldn’t get better, right?

Malik Jackson got in the action, as he appeared to strip sack Savage, which would be recovered by Telvin Smith, who took it in for the touchdown. The play was called back though, as Savage’s arm was moving forward. This play would foreshadow what would come next for the Jaguars. Yannick Ngakoue came up with another strip sack on the drive, as Dante Fowler scooped it up, high stepping into the end zone for a touchdown. Myers made the extra point, giving the Jaguars a 19-0 lead going into halftime.

Holy cow, the first half was fun.

Deshaun Watson fans did not have to wait long for his debut, as he started the second half for the Texans. Watson gave life to the Texans, but the Jaguars ultimately gifted away this drive. The Jaguars thought they had the Texans stopped on third-and-20, but a questionable roughing the passer the call gave the Texans a first down. Forced into another third down, Watson threw into coverage, and was intercepted my Myles Jack, who was one player away from taking it to the house. The play would be called back though, as Fowler was called for hands to the face.

The Texans took advantage of both penalties, scoring on the next play on a four-yard touchdown pass from Watson to DeAndre Hopkins. Ka’mai Fairbairn made the extra point, cutting the Jaguars lead to 19-7.

The Jaguars responded just how they needed to on the next drive, as Bortles lead the Jaguars down the field on a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Bortles threw a touchdown to Bohanon off of play-action. With Myers succeeding on the extra point, the Jaguars extended their lead over the Texans to 26-7.

The good times continued for the Jaguars, as Fowler would kick (yes, kick!) the ball out of Watson’s hands for a fumble on the following drive. With a chance to put the game away with a touchdown, the Jaguars were stalled, and forced to attempt a field goal. Myers missed the 39-yard field goal wide left, giving the Texans back the ball.

In a last ditch attempt to get back in the game, the Texans drove down the field, getting inside the red zone. However, Watson would throw an interception to Tashaun Gipson who took it 67 yards down the field, only to be barely tackled by Watson.

The Jaguars kicked a field goal on the following drive, finishing the scoring at 29-7.

The Jaguars come home to play the Tennessee Titans next week in their season opener at Everbank Field.

Let’s do it again, guys.