Jaguars/Ravens: 4 To Watch 4
by Sam Kouvaris
Posted September 24, 2016
In the opening week against Green Bay, the season was full of promise. You could tell the week leading up to the game that the Jaguars had a new swagger, a new confidence in their roster and their ability. Despite losing to the Packers, they didn't lose that in the days leading up to the departure for San Diego. But something happened during that time span that allowed a team, supposedly on the rise, to fall flat against a mediocre opponent. They lost that swagger that led to good play. Head Coach Gus Bradley acknowledged that they needed to find the problem and fix it. ""Sweep the corners," 'is what Bradley said the message was to the team prepping for Baltimore. "In a room, you have to go and dig in the deep corners and do everything. It is easy to bring all the dirt to the middle. You have to go into the corners and dig out to find out - it really is a message about doing the little things." That's a noble objective but perhaps it would be simpler put as "play better." There's no question the Jaguars are better than they showed last week, displaying that in week one. Bradley and Blake Bortles said the team has a strong mental core and is not about to pack it in after an 0-2 start. "This team is far away from that mindset," Bradley explained. "They were frustrated and we went out there and we thought we were going to play better than we did and we didn't play as well. His (Bortles) mindset permeates through the locker room."
2. Bortles Execution
One thing about Bortles that's different than some other quarterbacks the Jaguars have had over the years is his ability for self-evaluation. "I have to play better" is something he's willing to say that a lot of players, particularly young quarterbacks, can't bring themselves to say. "I don't know how you really describe it other than it's just been really bad, Blake said this week. "I know what I should do, sometimes I do and sometimes I don't so I think it's consistency, being able to get that and obviously being efficient with the ball and not turn it over." Part of the issue is the lack of targeting his best receiver, Allen Robinson. Bortles has been reluctant to throw those "50-50" balls to Robinson this year, instead checking down to the dump off to T.J. Yeldon. "We do a lot of stuff game planning and trying to get him the ball," he explained. "He's always pretty early in the progression so it's really just me giving him an opportunity to make a play and that'll be a continued frame because he is an extremely good player and somebody that needs to have the ball in his hands." It would help Bortles and the entire offense if they ran some up-tempo stuff early in the game. He's more comfortable and likes directing the offense on the fly.
3. Find Flacco
It won't be that different from last week with a top-flight, veteran quarterback across the line from the Jaguars defense. Joe Flacco is a bit more mobile than Phillip Rivers but nothing like Aaron Rodgers. He'll be there if they can get there. Dante Fowler had two sacks against the Chargers and Yannick Ngakoue recorded his first in a critical situation. Both of those guys are still learning and need to be involved in pressuring Flacco. It's one thing to hold the pocket and get in a quarterback's face. It's something else to have a speed rush, jailbreak that creates havoc and makes the QB pay attention. "I think we are just starting to see who Dante is," Defensive coordinator Todd Wash said on Wednesday. "It is going to be exciting to watch him grow through the season." Wash sees a lot of encouraging signs on defense but they haven't been able put it together and finish it off. 'Right now it is feast or famine. We go three and out or we don't score. We just have to play consistent and we are going to give ourselves a chance to win some games."
4. Run the football
Adding Chris Ivory to the mix this week will be a welcome addition. No matter what Bradley says about the similarities between Yeldon and Ivory, Ivory can hit a gap and move the pile in a way Yeldon can't. Yeldon is a nice zone runner, avoiding the contact running from "color." Ivory, on the other hand, can get you the yard off tackle when you need it by blasting somebody. And likes it. If the Jaguars win this game, Ivory should have at least 20 carries, most of those in the second half. They'll operate behind a makeshift offensive line with Kelvin Beachum out of the lineup and Brandon Linder a game time decision. For competitive reasons, the Jaguars haven't said how they'll configure the front five but Tyler Shatley, Chris Reed and Patrick Omameh made the team with their play in training camp and the preseason. Certainly a team has starters but the backups can't just be fill-ins. (see New England, Thursday night). At some point in this game it'll be a slugfest with Baltimore wanting to run the ball and establish their presence. The Jaguars should meet that with some attitude no matter who is in the game.
Randomly: Poz is not supposed to be following receivers across the field as he was against the Chargers. "There's supposed to be a defensive back there," is how Bradley put it. Although they praised Dwayne Gratz, it was apparent he was the culprit in some crucial situations, "The challenge for him is, it has to be every play, every play," Gus said. "There are a couple plays he would like to have back, but that is like everyone in a game. We have a tendency to have them at critical times where we can get off the field or we can make plays. We had three of them this week." Joeckel took snaps at left tackle and at left guard in practice this week. The way both Bradley and Wash talked about Jarrod Wilson, don't be surprised if he gets a shot at strong safety before long. Jonathan Cyprien still struggles in coverage and hasn't been a sure tackler this year either. Tom Coughlin used to say, "Back to work" when asked how he'd deal with a loss. Jack Del Rio used to say goofy things like "We'll plan our work and work our plan." Bradley talks about the "process" a lot but at least admits they need to be better. "We are also going to stay the course. We believe in this process. We believe in it. We had a game where we did not show up. We did not play up to our capabilities. That is the truth. Now let's get back going and play like we are capable of playing."