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What About the Other Rookies?

Oct 30, 2014 -- 9:58am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

So much has been made about rookie quarterback Blake Bortles and his successes and failures so far in the NFL, fans here in Jacksonville and nationwide might forget there are other rookies on this team making huge contributions.

There is no doubt that a quarterback with a cannon arm and pocket presence, and foot speed to boot is going to get most of the attention and the coverage (good or bad) by the media. The NFL is a pass-driven league so Bortles will continually be the center of the Jaguars attention.

But if you look at the lineup the Jaguars use on game day, Bortles is only part of the puzzle pieces that either fit or look like they jut out like sharp edges.

Allen Robinson is having a fine rookie season and has proven lately to be the go-to pass catcher on this roster. He reminds me a little of a thicker, faster Michael Irvin form his glory days with the Dallas Cowboys.

We all know about Allen Hurns and the contributions he has made to this team as an undrafted rookie. Hurns will continue to develop this season and show more skills next season as a true pass catching threat.

The unit I am most impressed with, however, is the offensive line and how a unit that has not played together until this season is finally starting to mold into something better than it was seven weeks ago. The “gel” of the five starters must put a smile on Gus Bradley’s face each morning.

Brandon Linder, who was once thought of as a late round draft pick or free agent type by CBSsports.com, is doing about as well as some of the better veterans in this league at guard. Luke Bowanko has proven he is the answer at center for these Jaguars. And to think that he was the draft pick obtained in the trade for Blaine Gabbert by the San Francisco 49ers. I know there is a joke in this sentence somewhere, but let’s just say the Jaguars got the better end of that deal.

For everything the team and fans have to endure now, the future – with these four players alone – looks bright. Add Storm Johnson and Marquis Lee to the mix and while we are not seeing the “Wow” factor yet in this franchise, can you honestly look at another team and see that kind of potential?

The “P” word is a dangerous one to use in many NFL blogs or situations. I believe it is warranted in this case.

Let’s also not forget the defensive side of the ball where Telvin Smith has certainly made his presence known and will get more playing time now that Paul Posluszny has been placed on Injured Reserve. That a nice amount of depth to have. And just think what can be if Aaron Colvin can show anything this season while returning from a knee injury.

These Jaguars might not knock the socks off many opponents this season, but if these core players take another step next season, all I can say is, “Look out. They are coming.”

And that return on the investment will be worth it, and still in line with Dave Caldwell’s three-year plan.

It’s not a matter of “if,” rather it is a matter of “when.”

Too Early to Judge Bortles Pick

Oct 29, 2014 -- 9:17am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

A man at the grocery store struck up a conversation with me yesterday about how poor he thought the Jaguars offense was and the fact the team had missed on draft picks. He was emphatic about the fact he thought Blake Bortles would be another Blaine Gabbert and how the free agent signings have done little to make this a better team and most of all – and he seemed to puff his chest out some when he said it – the Jaguars “screwed up” by not taking Russell Wilson and selecting Bryan Anger, instead.

I tend to shut down and just let fans talk when they go off on rants like that. First, I think they are amusing, and second they think because I write a blog I will go back to the Jaguars brain trust and relay their messages, which we all know does not happen.

I felt this man’s pain and did not want to burst his bubble or start another conversation because frankly, I did not want to be in the store until Christmas. He makes a valid point about draft picks, but I find fault with the Russell Wilson debate. So, as a writer and a fan of the Jaguars, here is my take on this “Russell Wilson” debate that still continues three years later.

When the Jaguars made Anger their pick in the third round, it was the move that shocked the world. Yes, Wilson was sitting there at pick No. 70. But the Jaguars could have also had the Dolphins defensive linemen Olivier Vernon or Cincinnati Bengals wideout Mohamed Sanu or Philadelphia’s Nick Foles. There is plenty of reason to believe anyone of those players would have helped this franchise – maybe even more.

Like we have discussed before, the NFL is such an inexact science and the players may look the part, act the part and make millions for the part, and still become a washout. For the most part, Anger has been everything the team wanted him to be. He is not the “weapon” we were told he was, but has been pretty good.

By the way, Alfred Morris was a sixth round pick in that draft as well.

Looking back at other drafts, I am sure 31 other teams have said at one point, “Man, I wish we had drafted Fred Taylor.” Or, maybe we have heard this … “Tony Boselli is the player we needed to solidify our offensive line.”

Let’s not forget we have “hit” on players in the past as well, leaving other teams to question why they did not make the same move (Rashean Mathis, Mo Williams, Damon Jones and others).

So before we all jump on the bandwagon (some of us already have) about how Wilson is a great talent and could have brought a Super Bowl to Jacksonville, let’s stop a minute and realize it takes 53 players to win a championship and there are other parts to this team that were need to win a title.

And by the way (again), in 2000, with the 199th pick in the draft, the New England Patriots took some kid named Tom Brady. I guess 31 other teams missed on that one as well.

Mid-season Review for Jaguars

Oct 28, 2014 -- 10:22am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

At this point last season the Jaguars were 0-8. Blaine Gabbert was still listed as the team’s starter. Jacksonville had just come back from a trip to London where the San Francisco 49ers took the team apart like it was wet paper.

A year later, the record may not be much better, but there is a lot to look at and know things are better than they were.

No, I am not talking about the cabanas and swimming pools.

  • The running game is starting to move more. Denard Robinson is much improved
  • The offensive line looks better and is blocking better
  • The receivers on the team are better. Allen Robinson is a stud
  • The defensive line is a monster of a unit.

Those things alone are enough to get excited about, however, there are still more improvements to be made. Yesterday’s game against the Dolphins proved even teams with poor offensive output and a lack of cohesion can win football games. The Jaguars played well enough on defense to win that football game. Now, it’s back to how things were.

Yes, it’s painful.

Did anyone notice that Cleveland win yesterday while we endured another loss?

Here are a few things to consider about the Jaguars in their loss.

  • Josh Scobee had his third field goal blocked this season. Is there more to Scobee’s blocks than we know? Does the quad injury still linger?
  • The Jags had three more sacks on the season. The Dolphins sacked Blake Bortles four times in the contest.
  • Blake Bortles has now thrown two interceptions that have been returned for a touchdown Sunday, giving him an NFL-leading 4 on the season.
  • Bortles is one of 3 players to throw at least 4 pick sixes in their rookie season.

These are not things the team wants to be known for. How about the fact that Denard Robinson has gained 100-yards rushing in back-to-back games? He's the first Jaguars player to do so since 2011, when Maurice Jones-Drew went 3-straight games with 100-yards rushing.

Not all was lost on Sunday’s game, just the most important thing – the score. As long as the team makes progress, I can deal with losses. But seeing the quarterback implode shows he is still learning. But if these “mistakes” continue, you have to wonder if Bortles was thrown to the wolves too soon. This is not a Blaine Gabbert situation, but the team does not need to travel to England in two weeks and prove last year was no fluke.

Things are better this year at the midway point. They may be only slightly better, but they are better. That is something to build on.

Jaguars sign safety Matt Daniels to practice squad

Oct 28, 2014 -- 9:43am

The Jacksonville Jaguars today signed third-year safety Matt Daniels to the practice squad, the club announced today. 


Daniels, 6-0, 212, played in six games for the St. Louis Rams over the past two seasons after entering the NFL as a rookie free agent in 2012.  He saw action in four games as a rookie with the Rams before suffering a torn ACL and ending the season on injured reserve.  Daniels played in the first two games of the 2012 season before he was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury.  He began the 2014 season on the Rams practice squad before being waived on Sept. 3.


A native of Fayetteville, Georgia, Daniels played in 46 games for Duke and compiled 324 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four interceptions, seven forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and seven passes defensed.   He earned first-team All-ACC honors as a senior after leading the team with 126 tackles and finished third in the balloting for the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.  Daniels started all 12 games as a junior and ranked second on the team with 93 tackles while adding six tackles for loss, seven passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.  He earned his bachelor’s degree in public policy studies.  

Jags Should Stick with Robinson at Running Back

Oct 24, 2014 -- 10:14am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

Here’s hoping the Jacksonville Jaguars are not about to make a huge mistake with the team’s running game.

A week removed from the team celebrating its first 100-yard game of the season when Denard Robinson ran through the Cleveland for 127 yards, the team announced that Toby Gerhart was on the practice field and was at full speed, which makes you wonder what will happen with the recent success of Robinson in light of the fact the bell cow running back signed in the offseason finally looks healthy and ready to shoulder the load for Jacksonville and its running game.

Here’s one who hopes the team sticks to what worked last week and gives Robinson, a second-year player out of Michigan, the majority of the carries against the Miami Dolphins this weekend.

If for no other reason, Robinson earned the right to start this week after the best game of his young career. Success breeds success.

Gerhart was brought to Jacksonville to replace Maurice Jones-Drew, establish and more bullish running game and to be a better fit in what the Jaguars brass are trying to build with a younger team and a more cohesive franchise.

Robinson, however, looks to be a better fit right now.

The Jaguars approach for Sunday is simple – win the game by splitting time with both backs in an effort to find the right fit. You may not know this, but the Dolphins were in the same situation last season, of sorts.

Miami opened the season with hope and promise. A solid veteran offensive line that was supposed to open huge holes for a rotation of Lamar Miller and local running back standout, Daniel Thomas.

Scandal and poor play rocked the Dolphins. Infighting lead to off-field issues. While the off-field stuff took center stage, the combination of both running backs could not get the job done behind a line that was only slightly better than the Jaguars.

This year, Miami has shown a propensity to be able to run better. The Jaguars proved it could run last week against Cleveland, but it was Robinson in a shining moment, who was able to prove this is a team that can move the chains on the ground.

Hopefully, that is the same mantra as last week.

The Dolphins defense one of the better units in the NFL and the Jaguars offense is ranked one of the worst. It could be a very long day for the home team, especially if they cannot run the ball, or worse, can run the ball not decide on a lead dog. Hopefully, there will be only one lead dog in the pack on Sunday.

If not, it could be a very long day, and that only means the Jaguars first win may be the only one – for a while.

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