By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)
The Jaguars will have major decisions to make in the offseason. Which players to keep, which players to release and who should remain as part of its coaching staff.
But the most pressing issue that this team has - beside whether or not to re-sign Maurice Jones-Drew and who to draft depending on where the team drafts in May - is what to do with Justin Blackmon. The pace this team has been on since the bye week, which coincides with the suspension Blackmon received by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy for the third time, does not help Blackmon’s cause, but we should not draw any conclusions just yet. The Jaguars are winning - and have won all their games without No. 14 on the field. Other receives and tight ends have taken up the slack for him in his absence.
While Blackmon’s situation is not on the same level as a Jeremy Mincey in that team rules were violated, the fact Mincey was given another chance and not cut by the Jaguars tells you head coach Gus Bradley puts a lot of stock in his players getting second and in Blackmon’s case, a third chance.
Even with the more production on offense, this team still needs a star receiver opposite Cecil Shorts. The offense looks better now, but it would look even better. Who knows, maybe Blackmon playing now would mean the Jaguars could have won their last eight games. It could have meant this team would have beaten Oakland earlier this year.
The truth is - and we all know this - the NFL is not built anymore on just one superstar. Teams need two running backs and two great receivers and two great tackles to move ahead of the pack. The Jaguars are winning with half their quotient at the receiver slot. If the Jaguars wipe their hands of him, more than likely someone like New England or Chicago or Houston will claim him and he will instantaneously wind up in the Pro Bowl - because that is what happens to former Jaguars.
Is it worth the risk? That question must be answered by Bradley and Jaguars general manager David Caldwell. But in the mean time, while this team keeps getting better, the decision this team has to make continues to draw closer. But the Jaguars - a team with a lot of upside right now, are in a better place to handle the ramifications one way or the other.
By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)
A few things happened this week that will impact the game between the Texans and the Jaguars tonight at EverBank Field: Marcus Mariota announced he will return for his redshirt junior year at Oregon and LSU announced Zach Mettenberger had a torn ACL suffered last week in the game against Arkansas. Both of these announcements will weigh heavily on these teams come 2014 and the NFL Draft.
Jacksonville, although in the middle of winning three of their last four games and Houston, losers of 10 straight games, are in a battle not only for a win tonight, they are in a dogfight for the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Mariota was considered to be one of the top passers coming out and Mettenberger was a rising star who many, like myself, thought the Jaguars might look at if they chose a quarterback in the second round and set their sights on a pass rusher or offensive tackle instead.
Now, the quarterback class gets tighter with Teddy Bridgewater clearly distinguishing himself as the top rated player on the draft board and quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles of Central Florida becoming real options as middle of the first round picks. Manziel could go higher to Cleveland as a top 10 selection.
It also means the Jaguars will think long and hard about drafting a quarterback in the first round. Should they get the top pick (where Minnesota, Atlanta and Tampa Bay are also in play for the slot), taking Bridgewater will make the most sense. But next year could yield a better lot with Jameis Winston, Mariota, UCLA’s Brett Hundley and Sean Mannion of Oregon State.
It also means the team could go into battle with Chad Henne as the starter again - which I am not opposed to right now, especially if this team wins five games, retains Maurice Jones-Drew and brings back Justin Blackmon from suspension.
Getting a David Fales of San Jose State or Derek Carr in the second round might just be picture perfect for this team. If five wins were established this season with this talent, a passer to groom, a better supporting cast could yield seven or eight wins.
There are some big “ifs” associated with this but sometimes, I like to gamble on this team.
The Jaguars will undoubtedly come out and set the tone early in this game. They will hopefully score more than 32 points, put on a show and win the game - their first at home since November of last year. Four wins is quite an accomplishment but five or six would be even better.
The race to get a quality draft pick is important, but with the current quarterback class, taking a chance on a second-tier passer may pay more dividends in the long run. And this is a team that needs more future success than it needs right now.
By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)
By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)
Thursday night is our night. Thursday night we Stand United. On Thursday night we need to turn the clock back to 2011. On that night, the entire NFL universe knew we were a team that could beat anyone, including the Baltimore Ravens.
While no one gave us much of a chance, our team was amid turmoil – a coach that was caught in no man’s land, an offense that was struggling to finds its rhythm (even with Maurice Jones-Drew) and a defense that although decent, was getting beaten at every snap.
But for one shining moment (cure the Jim Nance voice and the CBS montage) we showed we were better than a team that was better than us, we showed we could play with heart and we could win with adversity.
We all know the story of how the 2001 season ended – the team sold to Shad Khan, Jack Del Rio fired and Gene Smith given a contract extension. What we do not know is how this team, a team with less talent, more fight and ore desire than the one two seasons ago will finish.
If we know anything about them and their character, each player who puts a foot on the field at EverBank will fight string, fight hard and do their job.
Right now, we are in the middle of a win streak of sorts. Three of our last four. Our defense is better.
We scored 32 points last week – the most all season. And for the first time in some time, we are not the laughing stock of the NFL. This might be the most intense 3-9 team to play in the NFL in some time, but players are having fun, they are winning games with special teams and defense and most of all, and this might be the biggest thing coach Gus Bradley can say, there is no quit in this franchise.
Fans will come out in droves Thursday night. The NFL Network will be here.
Can’t wait to see Prime Time.
Let’s just hope this team continues the trend. Four out of five sounds real nice. 3-1 in our division sounds even nicer. And four wins overall make this season look a whole lot more optimistic.
All we need to do is channel 2011 all over again.
By: Will Brown (@wwbrown19)
It’s not where you draft, but who you draft.
Jacksonville has won three out of four games, which takes them out of the frontrunner position for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Thankfully, this recent run of form from the team will mute those who were talking about “Tank for Teddy” and any other cheesy slogan about the future.
Why talk about the draft after Sunday’s thrilling win over Cleveland? Because the players that contributed to the win, on both teams, were drafted by their respective franchises. The most critical plays of the 32-28 win—the game-winning touchdown reception and both interceptions—were made by players the Jags drafted. Cleveland’s biggest mistakes were also made by, you guessed it Browns draftees.
Cecil Shorts (4th round, 2011) caught the game-winning touchdown when matched up with Cleveland’s Joe Haden (1st round, 2010) with less than a minute remaining.
Jonathan Cyprien (2nd round, 2013) and Dwayne Gratz (3rd round, 2013) picked a nice time to record interceptions. Of course it helps when someone like Brandon Weeden (1st round, 2012) is giving away the football like it’s a tax write off.
Yes, Weeden completed 60 percent of his passes for 370 yards and three touchdowns. However, that is more an indication of how special Cleveland wide receiver Josh Gordon (2nd round, 2012 Supplemental Draft) has been over the last six weeks. (Gordon has 799 yards and five touchdowns over that stretch, so his 261 receiving yards Sunday were certainly not an outlier.)
Another Cleveland draftee contributed the Jags winning streak. Center Alex Mack (1st round, 2009) has not missed an offensive snap in his career. Per the Cleveland Plain-Dealer Mack had never snapped the ball over the quarterback’s head in a game. Nonetheless, it happened, and it gave Jacksonville a 22-21 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Cleveland may not be the best team in the NFL, but one look at their roster shows the franchise may be building something for the future. The Browns leaders in passing, touchdowns, tackles, sacks, pass breakups, kick returns and punt returns were all drafted by the team.
Some of Jacksonville’s draftees played well Sunday, including Ace Sanders (4th round, 2013) and former UCLA Bruins Maurice Jones-Drew (2nd round, 2006) and Marcedes Lewis (1st round, 2006). However, this season has proven that not every draftee works out, so it’s best to enjoy the wins when they come. The future will sort itself out.