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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, 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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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 Jaguars.com 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.