In a role reversal early in the contest, it was the Jags getting to the quarterback more often than the Broncos. Jacksonville pressured Lynch plenty, which undoubtedly played a part in his skittishness for much of the game. Denver turned the tables later in the action, forcing Bortles to let it fly or run for his life. That added pressure was encouraging after the Broncos’ front seven didn’t look like itself early, and accounted for multiple Jaguars drives that stalled before they could become game-tying possessions.
A game that was low-scoring, largely unentertaining and filled with punts (19 combined) had its star, which was again Denver’s secondary. The defensive backs combined for two interceptions, locked down against Allen Robinson (even catching a Robinson juggle for an interception) and were mere inches from at least two more takeaways. Bortles’ stat line — 19 of 42, 181 yards, 2 interceptions — stunningly could have been much worse. It very well could be time to explore a future without Bortles for Jacksonville, while Denver rolls onward and keeps pace in the AFC West after Kansas City eked out a win over Atlanta.
For everyone calling the Jaguars (2-4) a massive disappointment this season, I say look around. Should the Jaguars win on Thursday night against the Titans (a game airing exclusively on NFL Network) and should the Colts falter in a game this Sunday against the favored Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville is tied for second place behind a Texans team that spent more wayward cash this offseason than anyone.
Jacksonville was a trendy pick this year to make the playoffs thanks to the injection of promising young talent over the past few offseasons and a big summer in free agency. While the team is still below .500, it is safe to say that the foundation of talent on the roster is better than anything the Jaguars have had in roughly eight years. But it is also important to note that this was not going to be the type of turnaround where the team goes from 5-11 to 11-5 overnight.
With a roster filled with talent on both sides of the ball, an exciting draft class, and an ascendant young quarterback in Blake Bortles, a saucy narrative took hold positioning the Jaguars as one of the AFC’s breakout teams in 2016. Even Jags Lady believed.
Then the season started. The Jaguars are still bad at football and no play better sums up the disappointment in Jacksonville better than this fourth-down play late in Sunday’s loss to the Raiders.
Credit Marrone for getting his team to play hard in a lost season. The interim coach coaxed the best performance out of the Jags all year. After firing Gus Bradley, GM Dave Caldwell said Marrone would be a candidate to keep the gig. The Christmas Eve performance certainly didn’t hurt his chances.
The Titans couldn’t get anything going on the ground against Jacksonville, posting just 58 total rushing yards. The Jags’ defense swarmed the line of scrimmage. Young players showed the promise on the Jags roster that will make Jacksonville a desirable destination for the next coach. Dante Fowler Jr. was in Mariota’s face early, notching a sack, three QB hits, two passes defended, and hit the quarterback’s arm on a pivotal third down play early in the second half. Rookie corner Jalen Ramsey continued his dynamic season, breaking up four passes and piled on the Titans with a pick-6 of Cassel.
Paced by Jackson, popular breakout candidate Dante Fowler and cheap jerseys china and difference-making rookie talents such as Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack, the defensive personnel is perhaps the NFL’s most improved from 2015 to 2016.
Whether or not the Jaguars fulfill Jackson’s vision of surprising football fans across America, they are already building high expectations. The Green Bay-Jacksonville showdown is among the marquee matchups of Week 1.
Rapoport mentioned on Saturday that the two sides would meet sometime this week. He also mentioned interim head coach Doug Marrone, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph as potential candidates Jacksonville might look at.
As long-time Coughlin lieutenant Kevin Gilbride told me last week, the Jaguars job makes some sense logistically for Coughlin. The two-time Super Bowl winner has a home in the area and some of his family is still down there. Coughlin is a family man first and having them close would be a major draw.