Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Twenty-two Years Ago Today: The Jaguars Are Born

It was a cold morning in Chicago , November 30, 1993. I had watched ABC News Nightline the previous evening with Wayne Weaver, then of 9 West shoe fame, and now the new face of Touchdown Jacksonville! Nightline spent a segment on NFL expansion, outlining how Charlotte had secured a franchise in October and how the NFL had tabled the decision on the 30th team until their next meeting.

I had been with Weaver the day the league awarded Charlotte a franchise a month ago and then told him to wait. He was not happy. In October, Wayne invited me to walk with him at the Chicago Hyatt to the NFL’s temporary offices where he was to meet with NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. As we waited outside the door for Tagliabue to finish up and speak with Weaver, I asked Wayne, “What are you going to tell him?”

Without hesitation, the future Jaguars owner turned to me with a narrow eyed, unblinking stare and said, “I’m going to ask why we didn’t get what we came here for.”

And with that, the receptionist invited Weaver into the offices. He turned and said to me, “Wait here.” So I sat back down, grabbed a newspaper (still popular then) and settled in for a long wait.

Much to my surprise, it wasn’t more than 15 minutes before Wayne walked back out the door, stern faced and clearly still not happy.

“How’d it go?” I asked somewhat jovially, trying to lighten the mood.

Weaver would have none of it.

“I wanted to know why we didn’t get an NFL franchise and he didn’t have an answer. He said, ‘Be patient,'” Wayne answered as he strode toward the lobby.

There, the other members present in Touchdown Jacksonville were briefed on what the NFL was thinking and what they’re jobs were for the next 30 days. No matter what was said, it was obvious, the league was trying to put a franchise back in St. Louis and avoid Jacksonville. The Cardinals had moved to Phoenix and with the lure of Budweiser and other institutional money in St. Louis, the league wanted a franchise there. And the little publicized fact was Weaver’s connection to St. Louis where he had lived and worked.

But to Jacksonville’s gain, Wayne turned down the league’s suggestion that he become the principal owner and managing partner in St. Louis instead of Jacksonville.

So about 30 days later we were back in Chicago at the same Hyatt going through the same song and dance with the NFL Owners. Weaver had invited me after the viewing of Nightline to go for a run in the morning.

“Seven AM, in the lobby,” he said

So at seven I was standing in the lobby in running shorts and long sleeved shirt and a knit hat. Weaver appeared moments later wearing the most beautiful running suit I had ever seen. We headed out into the cold morning, well below freezing, anticipating something around five miles. We chatted the whole time about how Wayne should present himself to the media when, or if, he got a franchise.

“You’re the shark, we’re the guppies,” I told him. “Move where you want and we’ll follow.”

Then I added, ‘When you’re up there with the Commissioner, look at the back row where the camera’s are. I’ll be standing there pointing into the camera. You look there and you’ll be speaking to all of Jacksonville,” I said with a bit of hyperbole. (In a side note, we stopped at about the three mile mark to catch our breath and out of a grove of trees in the suburbs of Chicago, stepped about a 8 point buck, 10 yards from us. I’m not much for ‘signs’ but I turned to Wayne and quietly said, “You’re getting a team.”)

This time in Chicago they would award one franchise instead of two. Baltimore was still in the picture with two ownership groups, Memphis still thought they had a shot but it was St. Louis and Jacksonville as the front-runners.

Current Jaguars President Mark Lamping knows the inside story of the St. Louis bid. The infighting, the “who’s in charge” that sank their bid. To the public though, they brought in Dan Dierdorf to help make their presentation. Dierdorf, not yet a Pro Football Hall of Fame member (Jack Buck was his biggest patron) might have told the St. Louis story to the NFL Owners but in public he spent most of his time running down Jacksonville. As part of the media in attendance at his press conference, I heard Dierdorf go out of his way several times to outline how Jacksonville couldn’t support a franchise and didn’t deserve one. Perhaps he thought he was doing his job. But at the time, it was unseemly.

Nonetheless, the presentations concluded and the different city representatives were sent to separate suites on one of the top floors of the Hyatt’s adjacent towers.

Weaver invited everybody along who looked like a familiar face from Jacksonville. Ensconced in the suite, the league sent instructions to sit tight while the owners voted. They’d let us know the outcome.

So along with several other media members, I settled in with TD Jax members like Tom Petway and Chick Sheerer to wait. I was looking at the plans HOK had proposed for stadium improvement with Petway when a security guard started to sweep through the suite saying “Media out!”

I grabbed the plans, put them in front of my face and turned on the couch to look at Petway. He just smiled as the guard walked by.

Hearing “But Kouvaris is still in there,” from one of our competitors as the door to the suite was closed only heightened my sense that I was in the right place at the right time, but probably shouldn’t be there.

We had arranged through the Channel 4 News Director Nancy Shafran and a high-level officer of TD Jacksonville a code word, “Tangerine” to tip us off if Jacksonville were to be awarded the franchise.

Suddenly, bursting through the front door was Ron Weaver, a Jacksonville local and Wayne’s brother who had brought Wayne to the table as the principal owner the league was looking for. TD Jax had put together enough money but the league didn’t want to deal with a committee. They wanted one person, and Weaver was that guy.

I jumped out of my seat and found myself in a circle with Ron, Wayne, his wife Delores and David Seldin of TD Jax and the potential Jaguars President.

“You’re getting an NFL team,” Ron blurted out to his brother, red-faced with excitement.

Out of turn I asked, “How do you know that?”

Ron turned to me and said, “Because I just ran into the finance committee chairman in the hallway and he said we were the choice.”

Everybody knew the full NFL Owners membership had never turned down a recommendation of the finance or expansion committee so this seemed to be it: the dream coming true.

“I should go,” I said to Seldin as I turned away, shook both Wayne’s and Ron’s hand and hugged Delores. Seldin agreed and I walked to the sofa to gather my things.

In 1993, mobile phone technology was not what it is now and at the time I carried one of those phones everybody makes fun of: big, bulky, looked like the son of something the GI’s carried in WWII.

As I carefully put the antenna up to the window to see if I had service, I dialed the news director’s private number. When she answered I simply said, “Tangerine.”

“Really? Are you sure?” Nancy said excitedly.

Before I could answer, the other phone in her office rang and she said hold on. In something that seemed surreal at the time, I heard a familiar voice say from the other room of the suite, “Tangerine.” It was our source, confirming what I had just told her.

We quickly formulated a plan, I said my goodbyes’ and headed to the ballroom where the announcement would be made.

As I approached the elevator, a young producer from our competition at the time stepped out of one of the two elevators and asked, “Where is everybody?”

What happened next I’m not sure is ethical or right, but it’s what actually happened.

“Down that hall,” I motioned to her, knowing full well the numerous security guards wouldn’t let her approach the Jacksonville suite.

As she walked off, I stepped into her elevator and hit every floor’s button and jumped out as the door closed. Slowly. I then grabbed the other elevator and hit, “1.” Before the doors opened, I hit every floor’s button on that panel as well, figuring it would buy us some time.

I knew we were right, and wanted us to be first, an important element in the news business.

I briskly walked to the ballroom where Tom Wills, the Channel 4 Anchorman was just about to go on the air.

I had walked by a small room entering the ballroom that had boxes of t-shirts and hats with “Baltimore Bombers” and other contenders emblazoned on the front. The one that was missing was “Jacksonville Jaguars,” confirming what I already knew.

“We’re getting a team,” I said to Tom with a huge smile on my face.

“If you’re sure, let’s go with it,” Tom said. I’ve always appreciated the trust he had in me at that moment, littlerally putting his credibility on the line just on my word.

In seconds we were on the air announcing that shortly, the NFL would award the 30th franchise to Jacksonville.

Sure enough, Paul Tagliabue announced Jacksonville would be awarded the franchise and bedlam ensued at home.

Tom flew back on one of the two private planes Touchdown Jacksonville had brought to Chicago with Petway, Weaver, and several others. I was assigned to stay in Chicago and report from there. In a bit of irony, the plane Tom and Weaver were on had a flat tire and it took a while for them to fix it and get back to Jacksonville.

It didn’t matter though, the team had already arrived.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Rivers Beats Jaguars, 31-25

Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback.

That’s what the NFL is about and looking for their 3rd win in a row and 5th overall, the Jaguars ran into one of the elite signal-callers in the game. Phillip Rivers put on a clinic, using the Jaguars defense as his plaything throwing four touchdown passes in a 31-19 win by the Chargers.

Despite move the ball up and down the field at will in the first half, the Jaguars red zone woes continued. Some of it’s play calling, other problems involve execution but whatever they point to, it’s not working.

Winning the toss and taking the ball, the Jaguars marched right down the field with a 10-play 76-yard drive that ended with a Jason Myers field goal and a 3-0 lead. Three passes from inside the 12 yard line, one incomplete, the fade that Blake Bortles just doesn’t throw very well that forced the field goal try.

Defensively, the Jaguars stopped the San Diego run and the Chargers made enough mistakes to keep themselves from driving, showing why they have two wins coming into the game.

Another drive by the Jaguars stalled at the 33 so Myers kicked his second FG of the game to make it 6-0. The Chargers had a net zero yards rushing in the first quarter. Quarterback Phillip Rivers was 5 of 7 for 75 yards.

As the offense bogged down in the second quarter, the Chargers found some rhythm. Rivers drove his team inside the 10 and completed the drive with an easy pass to Dontrelle Inman for the TD. A simple out route from the slot put Dwayne Gratz on his heels and gave San Diego a 7-6 lead.

To their credit, the Jaguars came right back. A nice punt return by Rashad Green, helped by a 15-yard hit out of bounds penalty put them in Chargers territory. A run by Bortles and a catch by Julius Thomas put the ball in the red zone but again they couldn’t do anything with it. Bortles might have had a chance to run for the first down but would have had to absorb a big hit to do so. He chose to flip it in the end zone, but was across the line of scrimmage. Another FG by Myers made it 9-7.

If you’re going to beat the Chargers and Phillip Rivers you’re going to have to convert the red zone opportunities into touchdowns and the Jaguars haven’t been able to solve that part of the field.

That’s because when Rivers gets his team into position, he converts with touchdowns. Under two minutes in the first half, Antonio Gates came out of the backfield and beat Davon House in the end zone easily to give the Chargers a 14-9 lead. It was a little bit of a different formation, a small twist on what the Jaguars had been seeing, but just enough to make House think about it and Gates was wide open.

Trying to make something happen, Bortles didn’t see Manti Te’o over the middle and threw an interception, his seventh straight game with a turnover. This one meant points for the Chargers as Rivers found Gates matched up against Jonathan Cyprien for a TD. Gates vs. Cyprien is actually no match so San Diego took a 21-9 lead to the locker room at halftime.

In a game the Jaguars seemed to dominate early, San Diego scored TD’s instead of kicking field goals and took advantage of their breaks to score 21 points and lead by twelve with 30 minutes to play. What I’m sure is frustrating to most fans is the innovation the opposing teams seem to have with their scoring opportunities while the Jaguars playbook seems mundane and predictable inside the 20-yard line. With the kind of talent they have at receiver and with TJ Yeldon at running back, it would seem the Jaguars could have all kinds of options when it comes to scoring. But they stick to their script and in this game, scored nine points in the first half.

It was much more of the same script in the third quarter. The Jaguars again drove the ball inside the Chargers 10, only to have to settle for a field goal and being down 21-12. Without crossing routes or the threat of TJ Yeldon running (apparently by choice) the Jaguars don’t have any imagination when it comes to their red zone offensive plan and it leaves Bortles looking, and looking and looking. Blake also had his second “illegal forward pass” penalty when he could have run for a first down inside the five-yard line. He’s still a little off and needs to be more aware in each of those situations.

Perhaps the difference a talented, experienced quarterback can make was never more on display than in this game. Bortles had flashes in between the 20’s but Rivers had command of his offense, and the Jaguars defense, putting up three more points on the Chargers next possession to lead 24-12.

Rivers finds the open receiver, checks down when he needs to and anticipates the moves by his receivers, putting the ball in the air long before his target makes his break. Bortles is still waiting for the receiver to come open and numerous opportunities, particularly over the middle of the field, were left out there.

In the 4th quarter, Bortles showed why the Jaguars drafted him with some toughness and a strong arm. His decision-making wasn’t great, but on 4th down from the Chargers 21-yard line, he hit Julius Thomas with a bullet for a touchdown to bring his team within 24-19. Thomas has great hands and they were on display as he caught the ball going away from him for a TD. A perfect throw and catch to make it a one score game.

But with 12 years of experience behind him, Rivers didn’t flinch and drove the Chargers right back down the field, converting a 4th and 7 by running to the marker and throwing his 4th TD pass of the game to give SD a 31-19 lead. It chewed up some clock as well, taking 14-plays, 80-yards and 6:13 off the clock.

Going for a low throw, Allen Hurns went into the turf, head first and was taken off the field on a stretcher during the Jaguars next drive. It ended with Bortles hit Denard Robinson for 6 yards on 4th and 8. Hurns’ injury was called a concussion but he was immobilized immediately and taken to the locker room.

With 1:33 left in the game, the Jaguars didn’t put anybody back and blocked a San Diego punt, getting the ball on the Chargers 14 yard line. Bortles threw up a 50-50 ball on a quasi-back-shoulder fade to Allen Robinson that ARob came down with for a TD. Myers missed the extra point but the and the Jaguars were down 31-25 with 1:21 left.

The on-side kick was clearly batted out of bounds but that’s not illegal if it’s batted sideways and the Chargers knelt the rest of the game away.

It was apparent there were 10 years of experience between Rivers and Bortles in this game. Rivers used the whole field, anticipated who was going to be open and still has enough arm to get it there when needed. Bortles is still early in the learning process and it showed. Switch quarterbacks in this game, and the outcome is reversed.

Growing with a young quarterback is sometimes what bonds a team and it’s fans. You can only hope Bortles has a growth spurt soon.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Richt Fired: Who’s Next?

After 15 years as the head coach, Mark Richt was fired on Sunday at the University of Georgia. The school president said Richt would have an opportunity to stay on the staff in Athens but that’s doubtful, considering Richt’s resume.

From playing at the University of Miami to Bobby Bowden’s coordinator at FSU, Richt was hired at Georgia to bring some stability to the program and to win. He did both, but in the end, his record in recent years against the Bulldogs’ rivals and against top ranked teams brought some unrest among the fans and big time boosters.

As the head coach, Richt was 145-51, including 9-3 this year and a win over Georgia Tech on Saturday. The ‘Dogs won two SEC titles under Richt, but none since 2005 and they haven’t won the east since 2012. He’ll be able to coach in the bowl game and will be offered a position at the University according to the schools’ president.

There are plenty of names already being bandied about as Richt’s successor in Athens including Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen.

If he chooses to stay in coaching, Richt would have his pick of jobs, including at his alma mater, Miami.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars/Chargers Preview: All About Rivers

It was pretty competitive last year in San Diego in the first half for the Jaguars against the Chargers. But despite being down by only three, 17-14 going to the locker room, the Jaguars couldn’t muster any offense in the second half and lost, 33-14 falling to 0-4.

On a regular basis in the last couple of year, Head Coach Gus Bradley has said many of those games “you learn from.” This year, the Jaguars can apply some of those lessons against the Chargers. After last year’s loss, players took notes, studied film and have tried to learn from the process.

“Yeah, I think a lot of the good players that you spend time around do that,” Bradley said when asked about note taking. “They have files not only on players but on coordinators, what they like to do in certain situations and it’s on the coaches to gather that information. I think it’s really good. Some of the best players I’ve been around do that. They take notes and they will pull out the notebook on former coordinators that they’re facing just to see if any of their notes pertain to that game.”

It’s not too tough to figure out what; pertains to this game against San Diego. Anything regarding quarterback Phillip Rivers would apply.

“I’ll tell you what, the guy is phenomenal,’ Bradley said when asked about the Chargers signal caller. His precision. He commands the whole offense. They go no-huddle and he runs that part of it as well so he just has complete control of the offense, knows defenses, the looks he’s getting and where to go with the ball.”

Which means any amount of experience will help against one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. The Chargers might have injuries, only two wins and have scored a single field goal in back to back games but they still have Rivers and his years of experience.

“It’s still a challenge because they take shots. I know his (Rivers’) average time of getting the ball off is under 2.3 seconds, so he gets rid of the ball fast but he takes his shots too. That’s what he did against us last year.”

There were impressive numbers for Rivers last season against the Jaguars. He was 29 of 39 for 377 yards and three TD’s. As a team, the Chargers only gained 42 yards rushing. So figuring out what to do with Rivers will be the key against San Diego.

Look for TJ Yeldon to get the bulk of the playing time at tailback with Denard Robinson getting a handful of snaps. The coaching staff things giving Yeldon a few plays off here and there during the game increases his effectiveness.

Because of a groin injury aggravated against Tennessee, Dan Skuta won’t play this week. Thurston Armbrister will be in his spot, a rookie who will have his hands full covering tight ends and backs against Phillip Rivers.

It’ll be a little different look for the Jaguars with Marqise Lee and Rashad Greene both having a couple of weeks where they’re healthy and practicing with the offense. They’re easily the fastest players on offense when they’re available.

In back to back weeks the Jaguars have won games where Blake Bortles hasn’t been at his best. Does he start to ascend again after reaching a plateau halfway through the year? If so, the Jaguars offense could be very productive against San Diego.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Bradley Likes The Improvement

It’s a bit of a strange week for the Jaguars coming back from a weekend off and also having Thanksgiving in the middle of the workweek. Head Coach Gus Bradley let his team off over the weekend following the win over Tennessee, and gave the players Monday off before bringing them in for a full workday on Tuesday.

“Sometimes I think when you have some time off like that you come back. I know in the past those Mondays that you have after some time off it takes them a while to get going, but not today,” Gus explained today.

They’ll have Thanksgiving Day off, and then finish up preparations for Sunday’s game against Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. Most players we talked to said the Chargers are the best 2-7 team they’ve ever seen. And most of it starts with Rivers. “He commands the whole offense,” Bradley said on Tuesday. “They go no-huddle and he runs that part of it as well so he just has complete control of the offense, knows defenses, the looks he’s getting and where to go with the ball.”

As far as putting pressure on Rivers in the pocket, Bradley explained why they’d have to play well on the “back end” rather than expect to put Rivers on the ground.

“I know his average time of getting the ball off is under 2.3 seconds, so he gets rid of the ball fast but he takes his shots too. That’s what he did against us last year.”

Now that Sen’Derrick Marks is on injured reserve, the Jaguars are moving a lot of players around on the defensive line. Tyson Alualu has taken on a bigger role. A bit turn of events since Alualu wasn’t sure he’d be on this team in 2015.

“I think with the personnel that we had and when we moved him outside to be head-up on a tackle or head-up on a tight end we did utilize some of his strength so that part of it. I know that was some concern when we got here with his knee but it hasn’t been an issue thus far,” Bradley explained. “His consistency. We know what we’re getting all the time with him versus the run, his toughness, his mentality, every day that he comes to work you know what you’re getting and he’s just been very consistent for us.”

As a free-agent acquisition in the offseason, Jared Odrick was expected to fill a role on the defensive line that wasn’t very glamorous: Take on double-teams, stuff the run, and clog things up. With a sack against the Titans, Odrick raised his profile a bit, but Bradley says he’s always valued Odrick’s contributions.

“I think he’s playing very well,” Gus explained. “When you look at him as far as his role, what we’re asking him to do, and he’s done a really good job. I think he’s been a big part with the run game why we’ve been better versus the run or more consistent versus the run. That was a deal where we felt like we needed that style of player and he’s been a great addition.”

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Bortles: “The pieces are there”

As our guest on Jaguars All-Access Monday Night, Quarterback Blake Bortles was his usual complimentary self when talking about his success, giving credit to his teammates. That continued in a rare Tuesday interview at the stadium.

When talking about the running game, Bortles could not have been more positive about the offensive line or running back TJ Yeldon.

“He picked the offense up quick, he’s been unbelievable,” Bortles said about his rookie teammate.

It could be that the Jaguars will use Yeldon more in short yardage situations going away from the set idea of either Toby Gerhart or Denard Robinson. The one thing they’ve worked on already this week is the running game, something they’ll need to keep the ball away form Phillip Rivers this week. The focus has been on finishing “on the edge” according to Bortles, noting the offensive line coach Doug Marrone used that term to show where the success can come from.

When it comes to the wide receivers, Bortles feels like he can count on all of them, but Allen Robinson has a unique ability to go up and get the ball. At 6’3″, Robinson also has great leaping ability, so even in coverage; he’s able to come away with the ball.

“It’s about confidence,” Blake said about the second year receiver. “You can see it grow. “By the day, by the throw and by the catch. He has an unbelievable head on his shoulders, wanting to get better. He’s a great teammate.”

Bortles had the same positive things to say about Allen Hurns, admitting that he was puzzled the first time he saw him at OTA’s in 2014.

“I remember thinking to myself, how did this guy not get drafted,” Bortles recalled. “He has high character, tough as nails. He’s great.”

Both Robinson and Hurns could be especially effective in the red zone, something the Jaguars have struggled with this year. Blake says it’s a pretty simple fix: play better.

“It’s execution, It’s the details. We’ve shown potential, we’ve had some success there. All the pieces are in place. It’s about execution.”

And while he’s aware of his numbers, admitting they all point to something, completion percentage insn’t something he’s fixated on, especially if the team is having success.

“If they’re not high, that’s OK if we’re scoring points. It’s about getting things done.”

At 4-6, the Jaguars have won back to back games for the first time in nearly two years and are one game back of the Texans and Colts in the AFC South. At Thanksgiving, teams are either in it or out of it, and the Jaguars are in it at this point, but Bortles says they’re not focused on it.

“Everybody sees the big picture. We’re not worried about what’s going on outside this building. We have things we can be better at.”

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Bradley Day After: Keep it Tight

After a win, it’s easy to pick things apart and look at certain situations where it could have been better. When you lose, it’s much more difficult. So on Friday, less than 15 hours after beating Tennessee, Head Coach Gus Bradley was willing to talk about his teams failings in the red zone, something that’s haunted his team all year.

With a first down at the seven yard line to start the half, the Jaguars chose to run Denard Robinson three times, but only gained 5 yards. And all of those were on first down. It was a 13-play drive for 78 yards and 6:50 off the clock after receiving the kickoff so getting only three points was disappointing. With all of the options the Jaguars have on offense, why does it seem so vanilla in the red zone?

“We felt like if we got it to fourth-and-one at that point in time in the game, there was a strong percentage we were going to go for it,” Bradley said as he explained the thought process on a conference call Friday afternoon. “It was second-and-two and we just felt like we could get it on three downs by running the ball. And then when we lost yardage on the third down and went back to where we kicked the field goal.”

All of that is pretty easy to second guess when there’s no success. And it’s not new; it’s been a problem for the Jaguars for a while. Asking why TJ Yeldon hasn’t gotten a chance in that situation gets the same answer from Bradley that he gave after the failure on the goal line against Buffalo: they had Denard in the game.

“We thought we would spell T.J. and give him [Denard Robinson] some reps. ‘D-Rob’ was in there and we went with him. It just happened to be where ‘D-Rob’ was in the game at that time after the hurry-hurry situation …”

After the problems they’ve had in the red zone and the success Yeldon has in small spaces, that’s where Bradley or Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson has to look at Yeldon, go off script, and tell him to get in the game.

But the players have overcome those problems in three of the last four games and come away with a win. That’s the resiliency Bradley has been talking about, the grit and determination he was hoping the 2015 version of the Jaguars would develop.

“Anytime that resiliency pays off and get a win, I think it adds to the mindset. It helps the mindset [and] it gives them confidence,’ he said. “So that part is good. I think we also realize that every game is different, and just because you did it one week doesn’t mean it’ll automatically show up the next week. ”

Whether you watched the game in person or on the NFL Network, you could see a difference in the Jaguars’ body language at the end of the game compared to the last two years and even the first half of this season. They weren’t uncomfortable and seemed to have their act together. Bradley likes what he’s seeing.

“It’s something we can build on and talk to the players about, but more so to understand, ‘What does it take to get to that point where you do have that faith?'”

From a nuts and bolts standpoint, Bradley thought Safety Jonathan Cyprien played well for the third week in a row and liked what Jared Odrick did in the game. He sees improvement in Andre Branch but says he can play better and referred to the “catch radius” when talking about Allen Robinson, Marcedes Lewis and Julius Thomas. “If it’s not perfectly thrown, (they) have the ability to go up and make plays.”

And as good of a designed play the reverse pass from Bryan Walters was, its lack of success surprised Bradley since he had hit it all week in practice. Walters is a former high school quarterback who Gus says has a good arm.

“The timing and whether he had his shoulders squared, whatever the case is. It just didn’t work. He did have good success (in practice), we felt, had a lot of confidence going into it.”

Now with back to back wins for the first time in nearly two years, the second longest drought in the NFL, the Jaguars have a weekend off before preparing for San Diego at home and the final six games of the year. Even with their struggles, could they rest on their recent success?

“They’re sure saying the right things and acting the right way,” Bradley finished with today. “In the locker room, in our talk, in those, couple of players said some things to the team that I thought were spot on. Your actions are going to reflect it. It think when we come back and go back to work, I think that my mind is of the idea that they’ll come ready to go and work because they’ve shown us nothing otherwise.”

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars Beat Titans, Win Back To Back Games

There’s something out of sync with Blake Bortles since the bye week. Despite throwing for more than 380 yards against the Jets, his mechanics look more like last year than the preseason. His “arm technique” is just that, a lot of arm. When he came back in training camp, you could see him turn his left shoulder to the line of scrimmage and use his footwork and body motion to get the ball out. Now, he’s square to the line of scrimmage and while he hits the open receiver, he’s back to throwing that flutter.

Why does this matter?

Because the space you can throw the ball into in the NFL is very small. About the size of a microwave. To get the ball in that small of a space it has to have accuracy and velocity. And usually the quarterback has to throw the ball before the receiver gets to his break. Bortles looks a little more tentative than he’s been in the first half of the year, like he’s trying not to make a mistake. You can see a quarterback’s confidence in the red zone where there’s a short field and quick decisions and accurate throws are rewarded. Bortles is struggling in that spot on the field, leading to field goals instead of TD’s.

That was the case in the first half against the Titans and lead to a 6-6 tie after 30 minutes of football. The offensive line continued to be sporadic and while the defense stifled the Titans, the offense couldn’t put much together.

Getting the ball to start the second half, the Jaguars marched down the field with a 13 play, 73-yard drive, only to get three points and lead 9-6. Running Denard Robinson at the line for three straight plays from the six only yielded four yards, most of those on 1st down. The Jaguars have too many good options on offense to be just drilling it inside the ten. Sometimes Head Coach Gus Bradley gets too locked into what they worked on practice that week. I thought he should have put Bryan Walters in the game to catch the punt against the Jets. I know it was Nick Marshall’s spot, but right there you need the ball. I’m sure they worked on Denard Robinson running it between the tackles in the red zone, but look at the game situation and put T.J. Yeldon in the game.

Meanwhile, it appeared this officiating crew was trying to make up for last week in Baltimore and couldn’t keep the flag in their pocket anytime the Titans dropped back to pass. Holding and interference calls against the Jaguars, all questionable, gave Tennessee good field position. Marcus Mariota ran the read option to perfection and although Telvin smith was spying him, Mariota beat him to the pylon for a TD and a 13-9 Titans lead.

If it sounds like there wasn’t much going on in this game it’s because there wasn’t. The jaguars weren’t playing very well on offense, no able to find the consistency and rhythm to sustain a drive. And when they did, Bortles threw it right to the guy covering Julius Thomas for an INT and a drive-killing turnover. Allen Robinson had made some good catches on 50-50 balls but that critical mistake turned up from Bortles at the exact wrong time giving the ball back to Tennessee.

After an exchange of punts, the Titans had the ball but solid play by the defense, especially Smith who stayed home this time and tackled Mariota in the backfield, forced Tennessee to punt.

Fresh off the revocable injured reserve list, Rashad Greene was back returning punts, something he’s worked on for several weeks waiting to come back. He took the punt back 63-yards, running north-south quickly and getting it down to the 5. Bortles hit Julius Thomas for a TD on a little out move against the linebacker to give the Jaguars a 16-13 lead.

On the next possession, Davon House forced a fumble and recovered it at the Titans 28 yard line with just over 3 minutes to play. A third and one was stopped at the line when Clay Harbor absolutely whiffed on his guy and Yeldon was stopped short of the 1st down. Jason Myers kicked another field goal to give the Jaguars a six-point lead 19-13 with just over two minutes to play.

Without any timeouts, the Titans moved the ball downfield against the Jaguars soft zone coverage. With 5 seconds to play and the ball on the Jaguars 23 yard line Tennessee had one play. That’s where you always here coaches say, “Somebody has to make a play.” In this situation that somebody was Andre Branch who came off his block and grabbed Mariota from behind for the sack to end the game.

With the win the Jaguars are now 4-6 and have won back-to-back games for the first time since 2013. And they’re in contention in the AFC South. San Diego will be here in 10 days on November 29th followed by a road game at Tennessee and home games with Indianapolis and Atlanta to follow. They have a chance to get on a little run here, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars With A Chance Tonight

Against the Titans tonight, the Jaguars might be a little depleted because of injury but that’s part of the NFL this time of year. The “color rush” uniforms worn by both teams will provide a story line, but this will be a chance for the Jaguars to “ignore the noise,” all of the distractions that go with playing a Thursday night game, and win their fourth game of the year.

While it’s simplistic to distill the game down to a matchup between two young quarterbacks, they do hold the key to their team’s success.

Last week the Jaguars beat Baltimore despite Blake Bortles struggling. The coaches and Bortles himself admitted afterwards that the whole offense had trouble getting in sync, but Bortles also knew he was a part of that problem.

“It’s good to see other parts, defense, special teams, pick us up when we’re not playing well. That’s why it was a team win,” Bortles said on Tuesday.

In the locker room after the game, Head Coach Gus Bradley asked Bortles if he played his best, and emphasized how they still won, with other players getting the job done.

“It’s not all on him and I want him to know that. Keep us in games and good things will happen,” Gus recalled saying. “I see his leadership, he’s always been a pretty strong leader, a different styled leader but the team really responds to him. I think he’s done a really good job of growing. We understand that there are going to be games where he’s playing with more consistency than others, but he’s doing some good things.”

On defense, the Jaguars haven’t gotten much pressure on the quarterback and they won’t again tonight. Not from a lack of effort or scheme, but just because the Titans and Marcus Mariota get rid of the ball quickly out of the backfield. Mariota’s ball handling skills have been on display since his time at Oregon and perhaps his arm is a bit stronger than most scouts expected in the pro game. So it’ll be important for the linebackers and the corners to not give him much of a window to throw into when they’re in man coverage.

Despite a bit of a rocky relationship with parts of the media, Titans Interim Head Coach Mike Mularkey says he’s looking forward to coming to Jacksonville. He didn’t get much of a chance the year he was here as head coach, but still lives in Atlantic Beach and says he’ll make it his permanent home once he retires. That might not be soon if this “audition” works out with Tennessee for the second half of the year. “This is not a dress rehearsal,” Mularkey pointed out this week. “It’s my job to get this team as ready as possible to play against the Jaguars.”

Weather could be a factor tonight, but rain or not, look for the Jaguars to try and run the ball against the Titans and take their shots down field when they can. No matter who the running back is, Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson said this week the Jaguars have to run the ball more effectively and challenged the offensive line to make that happen.

Should be fun tonight with all of the surrounding things that go into a nationally televised night game. About a half dozen PGA Tour pros will participate in a “closest to the pin” contest from the fourth level in the South End Zone hitting out to the 50-yard line. It’s about a 125-yard shot but the thing they have to account for is the wind that high. When the Jaguars invited the media to hit the shot this week, it was blowing about 20 mph out of the east.

While the “color rush” will include all gold from head to toe, the Jaguars will have the option to use the gold jersey in the future as their alternate jersey.

Kickoff is 8:25 with the Jaguars Pregame show starting at 7pm.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Marks Out: Jaguars Short Week

Starting out with the bad news, the Jaguars put Sen’Derrick Marks on Injured reserve on Tuesday ending his season. After working his way back from a torn ACL suffered at the end of last year, Marks was playing an integral part for the interior of the Jaguars defensive line. “Your heart goes out to him for as hard as he’s worked to get back,” Head Coach Gus Bradley said at his press conference. “But he’ll be around the team. It’s hard to explain how important he is to our team on and off the field.”

At the same time, the Jaguars did get Allen Hurns back on the practice field after a trip to Philadelphia to have a “core issue” looked at. Whether it’s some kind of hernia or not, Hurns says he’ll take care of it at the end of the season. For now he was back on the field and expects to play on Thursday against the Titans. TJ Yeldon didn’t practice and neither did Dan Skuta. Both will be game time decisions according to Bradley

Despite the short week, the Jaguars Head Coach expects QB Blake Bortles to bounce back and play better on Thursday. “Oh, without a doubt. That’s what he has to do. You have to have a short memory. It’s kind of like a corner. There’s times when defense has to pick it up for the defense, offense has to pick it up for the defense there’s games like that, so hopefully the whole offense bounces back.”

It’s an accelerated learning curve when you’re playing a Thursday night game and Bradley knows that physically, the players need special care this week to be able to perform just four days after their last game.

“Everything that we’re doing this week is with the mindset of doing everything we can to get the players playing hard and fast on Thursday,” Bradley explained. “I know we’ve got to streamline it because of a short period of time, but it’s all coming together.”

It’s a return for Titans Head Coach Mike Mularkey. Serving as the interim since Ken Wisenhunt was fired, Mularkey is potentially auditioning for the job. But it’s another chance to be a head coach after weird and short stints in Buffalo and Jacksonville.

“It is. Again, based on what happened I didn’t know if I would have another opportunity at this and I’ve been given that opportunity,” Mike said from Nashville. “I’m not doing this job to be the head coach; I’m doing this job because this is what my role is right now. I’m just trying to get this team prepared to play every Sunday and get them motivated and confident that they can win every Sunday. It’s not a rehearsal.”

I the not-so-good AFC South, it’s an important game in the standings that could allow the winner to have playoff aspirations. Two weeks in a row, the Jaguars didn’t match their own expectations but still came away with a victory in Baltimore. Quarterback Blake Bortles acknowledged that he and the entire offense can play better and are looking for that chance.

“I know a lot of the guys have the mindset to where they can’t wait to have another opportunity, another chance to get on the field and play and in a sense not redeem yourself, but go play better, go make more plays, go do stuff like that,” he explained. “I think it’s a good, quick turnaround with a chance to do that.”

And for the first time in his career, Bortles won a game on the road and did so without playing very well. He could be down about that but instead chose to look at the upside of it: winning the game with other parts of the team getting the job done.

“I think it’s a good sign to be able to win when you don’t play well. I think that’s a thing that a lot of good teams are able to do. If you struggle in one phase, the other phases are able to pick it up, so I think we’re able to do that. The defense played unbelievably and special teams had a turnover as well and really picked us up offensively.”

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Bradley: “Playing our best is always the goal.”

In his never-ending optimistic look at his team and life in general, Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley applied that to the win over the Ravens on Monday.

“Bottom line, your quarterback didn’t play very well but you were still in the game in the end and you figured out how to win it,” I said as Bradley met with the media.

“Well, he did make those throws in the last drive to give us a chance,” Gus said immediately in defense of Blake Bortles.

“Yeah, but what’s that say about your team? It’s the first time since you’ve become a head coach here that your team didn’t play its best and still managed to win the game. That’s saying something,” I pressed.

“That’s why playing your best is always the goal,” Bradley said, drawing an imaginary line on the wall. “We won the game, and that’s here, but we didn’t play our best, and that’s here,” he emphasized, putting both lines at the same level. “So when you play your best, you’re up here,” he said raising one hand above the other. “And that’s when the wins come.”

Without Blake Bortles playing well, the Jaguars needed other parts of their roster to step up: and they did. Defensively, generally on special teams and the wide receivers made plays. It shows the rest of the roster is getting better, and that their margin of error is a little larger than in the past.

“My message to him (Bortles) after the game was, ‘Were you at your best? Were you at your best yesterday?’ Bradley said at his press conference. “He said he wasn’t and I said ‘How was the outcome? We still won.’ I think that’s a valuable lesson for him in a young quarterback and for him to think that the only way we have a chance is if I play lights out. That’s not the case.”

But Bradley admitted he wants to see improvement from Bortles and the entire offense. They show flashes, but still struggle in the red zone and move the ball in fits and spurts.

“Offensively we weren’t as efficient as we needed to be. I thought we saw good execution during the week of practice, but when it got in the game, we got away from it a little bit,” he explained. We’d like to see more touchdowns. Overall, just the execution offensively and efficiency in the passing game is an area that I think we need to improve on.”

Late Monday, the NFL told the Ravens that Luke Joeckel wasn’t set on the last play and a penalty should have been called and the game ended. It’s so easy to go back and look at critical plays in every game to figure out what went wrong and how it should have gone the other way. Bryan Walters had his feet down last week. Odell Beckham caught the ball for the Giants in the end zone on Sunday night. Big deal, the game is over. But Bradley did go through the sequence leading up to the last play and how he showed some “time critical” plays to the team last Friday emphasizing how everybody had to do their job just to run the play.

“We talked about how little things like that are so important because they give you an opportunity. To see that really come up in the game was cool. Did they reflect back on that? I don’t know. You look at Julius Thomas; he caught the ball and right away he handed the ball to the official and hustled back. That’s been a coaching point through training camp. You saw receivers 30 yards down field and turn around and run back and get all lined up and we made sure we had enough guys on the line of scrimmage. A guy like Wis [C Stefen Wisniewski] is looking at the clock and snapping it with less than two seconds because he knows that’s our only opportunity for everybody to get set up. I think there are so many things that had to take place in that last play for us to get that opportunity and to see that on tape and be able to show that to the players is going to be cool.”

One thing the Jaguars have is “want to.” Sometimes it’s missing on a professional football team, that will to win. They’re getting paid, win or lose and oftentimes on losing teams players look internally and figure if they’re doing their job, they’ll keep their job. I once asked Eric Curry when he came over from Tampa Bay to the Jaguars what the difference was between the two teams.

“These guys want to win,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a good feeling in the locker room to play with guys who want to win.”

In his postgame speech, Bradley lauded the team for their will and ability to play to the end of the game. He told them that some teams search for that intangible for years.

“So many times as a coach, you’re saying ‘I hope they develop that, I hope they learn what it takes and to do it every play and every situation.’ I know it’s something that you hope that your team can demonstrate when needed and I just thought they demonstrated it.”

How does a team develop that will? Bradley believes it comes with players working with each other and believing that their teammates will do their job.

“I think you’re starting to see guys trust and develop those things that we talked about last week and the week before about their effort, their grit, all those things that they’ve been developing. It was good yesterday because they came and we put it together and it gave us an opportunity.”

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Breaks Fall Jaguars Way In Win Over Ravens

Coming into the game against the Ravens I was asked to appear on a few radio shows in Baltimore. While both teams were 2-6 through eight games, most of the talk in Baltimore was about injuries and under performance by their defense. They had all kinds of reasons that their 2-6 record was very different than the identical record of the Jaguars.

After watching the first half of the game between these two teams, it’s obvious that the old adage applied here: You are what you earn in the NFL. While the Jaguars have had trouble getting out of their own way in 5 of their 6 losses, the Ravens have made their share of mistakes all year, continuing against the Jaguars and have earned every one of their six defeats as well.

A collection of punts, penalties, missed coverages and catches made for a half that was fairly entertaining but not very well played. Without any pressure, Joe Flacco provided all of the offense for Baltimore throwing two TD passes and a 14-10 halftime lead. Pressure on the QB has been a problem for the Jaguars all season and with none against the Ravens, Flacco found receivers at will.

On offense, Blake Bortles didn’t look like he was that much different than last week, not feeling pressure, taking sacks and throwing into coverage all too often. Bortles missed a couple of wide open receivers, threw behind guys and early in the second half never looked at Marcedes Lewis who was running down the field uncovered. A field goal did bring the Jaguars within one, 14-13.

Although Gus Bradley said the Jaguars were emphasizing work on special teams since the bye week, it didn’t show against Baltimore, especially on kick and punt coverage. Good field position usually leads to points and that’s where the Ravens took advantage holding the lead through the middle of the third quarter.

Getting turnovers has been a problem for the Jaguars all year long but against the Ravens they grabbed two interceptions and forced a fumble in the third quarter. But they got only three points out of those three takeaways. Between Bortles looking off his game, a drop by Marqise Lee and Jason Myers missing a 26-yard FG attempt, the Jaguars still trailed 14-13 at the end of the third.

A muffed punt by the Ravens gave the Jaguars another chance, and add on the 4th personal foul of the game against Baltimore and the Jaguars had another chance. This time they took advantage with Allen Robinson making the catch in the end zone giving the Jaguars the lead 19-14. Going for two was the right call there but I hate the Jaguars two-point package. Give the QB a couple of options that close to the goal line but they keep trying the fade as the only option and it fails.

With Sen’Derrick Marks out of the game with an elbow injury, the Ravens went to the run, and capitalized on good balance with a TD. Ten plays, 80 yards, they went for two but failed and led 20-19.

A couple of punts by both teams had the clock winding down inside a minute and the Jaguars out of time outs. Two completions over the middle wound some clock and a run by Bortles did the same near midfield. One more catch by Julius Thomas inbounds kept the clock running and with maybe a half-second left on the clock Bortles took the shotgun snap and slipped to the ground. He got up with no whistle and started to run. But Elvis Dumervil grabbed him by the facemask giving the Jaguars 15 yards and an untimed down.

In trots Jason Myers, he of the 26-yard miss and after a Baltimore timeout, he hits a 53-yarder to give the Jaguars a 22-20 win.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, that happens. But this time, it happened FOR the Jaguars as the Ravens look like a team that hasn’t figured out how to win and the Jaguars took just enough advantage of the breaks that went therir way to win. Myers gets some redemption, the Jaguars get a win and they’re coming home on Thursday night against the Titans.

I wish they’d stop talking about being a game out of first place but it is true. Win a couple of games in a row and we can continue that talk.

No time to gloat. A couple of practices before Tennessee comes to town. And wait till those two uniforms are on the field.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Bradley: Spirit? Good, Play? Not Good Enough

It was another Monday at the stadium with Gus Bradley after a Jaguars loss. In the past two years, the tone was different because the Jaguars weren’t even in most of the games the lost. This year, it’s usually one possession or two that makes the difference between winning or losing. Even in the Jaguars two victories, one possession made the difference.

“I love the spirit of our team,” Bradley said outlining the positives in the loss to the Jets. “I love how they’re relentless and they don’t blink and they battle and they fight and they scratch. They’ll do anything they can to give us a chance to be victorious. Unfortunately, it’s not enough.”

Earlier in the year, Bradley was concerned that he wasn’t getting 100% effort on every play from every player. He thinks that has changed, and for the better.

“Yeah I think that through the last couple of weeks some things that are taking place. The standard for us will not change. The players adjust to the standard that we create and I think they understand that. Sometimes players come in from other teams and they have to learn the standard and learn what’s expected from them in all situations.”

If the Jaguars are in these “one possession” games, what’s keeping them from winning more? This year, unlike the previous three, they’re making enough plays to win games. But they’re also making enough mistakes to get them beat. With that combination, and the margin of error in the NFL, you don’t win often.

“I think for us to make the next big step is what do winning teams do consistently? Gus said, echoing the message he gave to his team. “I think when those teams make plays at critical times like we did in Buffalo. When you get into a situation at a critical time, go down and score and defensively stop them and win a game. We need to do more of that consistently when those times show up and I think that’s what this team continues to grow from.”

Now in the middle of his second season as a starter, Quarterback Blake Bortles looks like a second year starter: He makes some great plays and some bonehead mistakes. Usually he’s decisive in the pocket but against the Jets, indecision led to a sack, a fumble and a turnover. Bradley seems to accept that as part of the growing process at that position.

“He was (indecisive). I think sometimes with Blake, he’s had the ability to, when he extends plays, to make big plays. He’s done that throughout the game. He’s done that throughout the year. I think down in that area, he was extending the play and looking to make a big play. It wasn’t there, so now, just take what you can and move on to the next play.”

Anytime Bradley talks about WR Bryan Walters, he talks about how you can “trust him.” He reiterated that on Monday, saying Walters and other players are building trust with their teammates by consistently making plays. But having said that, Gus explained that the game plan on punt return was to have Walters field it if it was expected to land inside the ten (because of his decision-making on catching it, letting it go, etc.) and have Nick Marshall as the returner if it was outside the ten.

At that point in the game, the Jaguars needed the ball, as Bradley has said for a couple weeks, they needed to play “situational football.” But they stuck to the game plan and Marshall fumbled, in essence ending the game. The head coach said they’ll evaluate what they’re going to do going forward on punt return this week but explained why Marshall was in the game.

“I think with Nick’s situation, one of the things that we’re looking at, we’re looking for returns. We’re trying to get more yards return. Kickoff return, he had a couple of really good returns. Then, the punt returns, the 20-yarder. Going into that, where it was on the field, felt like he gave us the best opportunity. I think when you looked; he saw a lot of green grass down the sideline. Took his eye off of it, first foot, second. You can’t do that.”

We’ve heard that from the Jaguars Head Coach a few times when it comes to young players. He’s willing to put up with some early mistakes but they can’t make the same ones over and over. He gave Jason Myers a pass after the Indy game but put him on a short leash. Marshall might have spent his one chance in New York.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Same Mistakes, Same Result: Jaguars Lose to Jets

Some of the same problems that have popped up in the recent past showed themselves in the Jaguars effort early in the game on the road against the Jets. Bad field position, bad special teams play and inconsistent offense, including some key drops gave the Jets momentum and the lead.

After a good three and out on defense to open the game, the Jaguars had some early success with the football, driving down the field and getting a field goal from Jason Myers to take a 3-0 lead. Important not only to get some points but to give the rookie kicker some confidence.

But on the ensuing kickoff, special teams problems jumped up in the form on Jonathan Cyprien losing contain and giving up a long kickoff return. A couple of nice plays by the Jets, including a middle screen and a back shoulder pass led to a TD pass by Ryan Fitzpatrick and a 7-0 lead. A “no-call” for holding against Jared Odrick allowed Fitzpatrick to escape the pocket and find an open receiver in the end zone.

On the next series, Blake Bortles inexperience surfaced as he tried to gun one in there on third down only to have it bounce off the receiver and up in the air for an interception. He either needed to eat it or throw it away and punt instead of trying something that risky. Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson and Julius Thomas all had drops in key situations in the first half stopping any kind of momentum the Jaguars might have built.

Taking advantage of the turnover, the Jets stuffed it in the end zone for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead.

It appeared the Jets owned the momentum as well as the two teams traded field position and punts under the two-minute warning.

That’s when everything the Jaguars tried to do worked and lead to points right before the half. They stopped the Jets offense with some solid play up front on the defense. Using their timeouts wisely, they forced a punt, and put pressure on the punter, getting a short kick. With good field position, Bortles hit Hurns on a beautiful stop and go route, twice, the second time for a TD and a 14-10 deficit going into halftime.

But the momentum had shifted and the Jaguars got the ball back to start the second half. After an exchange of punts the Jaguars drove the ball down the field but got a bad break on a catch by Bryan Walters that was called an incompletion. Walters had both feet down, although it was close, and the replay clearly showed he was in bounds with possession of the ball. Nonetheless, Myers kicked the field goal to pull within one, 14-13. The rookie kicker is kicking from the left hash, even on PAT’s, obviously more comfortable there.

Again the momentum turned, this time in favor of the Jets as they marched downfield to score a TD and take a 21-13 lead. A simple crossing route to the tight end accounted for a big chunk of the yardage. It appeared Telvin Smith was looking into the backfield as the receiver ran behind him to make the catch. Things were going the Jets way, even with their kicker injured, their punter clanged the extra point off the upright and through for an eight point lead.

Some nice throws by Bortles put the ball in Jets territory on the next possession and they actually tried to get it to Thomas in the end zone against one-on-one coverage. Why they didn’t try that play a couple more times is still in question but it led to a FG, again from the left hash by Myers and a 21-16 Jets lead.

Some good defense got the ball back in the Jaguars hands and for the first time in the game TJ Yeldon was able to break free down to the Jets ten. That might be the one thing Yeldon can’t do, break it all the way to the end zone with second level speed.

And that’s where things fell apart.

Holding on Jeremy Parnell moved it back to the 20 and then Bortles was indecisive gliding along the line of scrimmage, got hit and fumbled, turning it over to the Jets. Bortles has to know his internal clock is running out and either run with it or throw it away. He’s not a rookie any longer and even though he’s trying to make a play, he has to be smarter than that.

But the defense forced another punt with just under five minutes to play, giving the Jaguars another chance. Instead, Nick Marshall fumbled the punt and the Jets recovered. They of course scored on a questionable replay to take a 28-16 lead.

That TD on the turnover is on the coaches. No way Marshall should be back there in that situation returning a punt. He’s fumbled before, even in practice and while he does have breakaway speed, Bryan Walters should be in the game for a sure handed catch and an offensive possession to win the game late in the fourth quarter. Instead they give the undrafted free agent a chance, and he essentially finishes the game for the Jets.

In an ironic twist, the Jaguars scored in three plays, Walters making the sure handed catch in the end zone to pull within 28-23.

Two turnovers in the fourth quarter sealed the Jaguars fate in this one, again showing their inability to get out of their own way. Whether it’s execution mistakes or coaching decisions that go awry, beating the opposition and overcoming your own problems is too difficult in the NFL even for the most experienced team. As young as the Jaguars are, with a small margin of error, until they stop making those kinds of mistakes, they’re not going to win many games, especially on the road.

The road loss streak goes to 13 with Bortles still winless away from Jacksonville. They’ll get another chance on the road at Baltimore next week before coming home on Thursday November 19th to play against the Mike Mularkey-led Titans.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Healthy, Jaguars Looking For A Road Win

There was an odd situation at Jaguars practice this week: injuries didn’t dictate who could play.

“It’s the first time I’ve looked out on the practice field away from our field and there was no one out there,” Head Coach Gus Bradley said. “That’s a good feeling, to see guys get reps and the number of receivers that we have, running backs and safeties and all of those things. It’s a good sign.”

Although Rashad Greene isn’t eligible to play until the Tennessee game in two weeks, he was practicing, working on his conditioning. Marqise Lee took some reps during the team and the individual drills. The competition at defensive back was heated since the three guys trying to earn the starting spot are all healthy. The coaching staff dragged out the decision on the starter into the weekend trying to get the most information they could.

“So, kind of let it play out again today and see. I know, like I told you [the media], [Dwayne] Gratz did pretty good [and Davon] House did pretty good,” Bradley explained. “I think ‘D-Mac’ [Demetrius McCray] showed up better today than he did yesterday.”

There’s a lot of talk in the NFL of shutting out “the noise.” That’s the stuff about winning streaks, playoffs and coaching hot seats. But Bradley knows the players are adults and hear plenty about all of those things. The fact that the Jaguars are 2-5 isn’t keeping them out of the playoff picture because the AFC South is so bad this year. So, somewhat begrudgingly, Bradley did talk to his team about what’s at stake, but not like, “hey, we can make the playoffs!”

“No, and I think when I said I acknowledged it the other day, it wasn’t like we put up the standings and showed everything. It was just more, ‘There’s some talk,’ so we just acknowledged it. I said, ‘Hey, this is the position, and now let’s go back to work.”

Playing at the Jets and at Baltimore in the next two weeks, the Jaguars have a chance to break their 12 game road-losing streak. Blake Bortles has never won a game on the road. All five wins in the last two years have come at home. Bradley said he didn’t bring that up this week, choosing to focus on things internally instead.

“It really hasn’t changed our mindset, as far as that’s concerned,” Bradley said on Friday before heading to New Jersey. “I really want these guys to understand how important the process is, how important it is to respect the day and get everything we can out of it and really truly believe about going in there and being our best.”

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars “Bonus Monday”

After their win in London, the Jaguars bye week came at just the right time according to head coach Gus Bradley. Not just to recover from the trip to the UK, but to get more players healthy and look forward to the second half of the season.

“Bonus Monday,” Bradley called it after practice. The Jaguars did introduce some new packages for the Jets game this coming Sunday but to just get out there and practice again was a bonus.

“I thought also to get the guys running around. They’ve been gone since Wednesday, four days, just to get them back running, throwing, catching and some of our base fundamentals. It was good.”

Apparently the players were fresh and ready as well. It’s mandatory that they get four days off during the bye week. Bradley encouraged the team to clear their minds and be ready to get back to work.

“Yeah, I think they’re excited to come back and get going, They’re concentrating a little bit more after being gone a couple of days but I think Wednesday you’ll see a spirited-type practice. I think it was more (today) we’re back, let’s get locked into it.”

After a quick start, the New York Jets have struggled a bit recently and needed to put Geno Smith in the game yesterday at quarterback after an injury to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Who starts Sunday against the Jaguars has yet to be determined but it’s the Jets defense that Bradley says can carry them.

“I think they’re talented across the board. Not just (Derrell) Revis; Cromartie, their defensive line and linebackers, very talented so it will be a great opportunity. You talk about respect, Revis, you hold him in high regard, that’s a fact.”

During the bye week, Bradley and the coaching staff did some self-scouting, looking at their own team with a critical eye. Gus did see growth and expects that to continue but on special teams, they’ll have some competition immediately. He’s not happy particularly with punt returns so although he’ll review what they’re doing across the board on special teams, he’s not saying what he might do.

“We do that with each of the units and I keep some of that to myself just out of a competition point, but that’s what we worked on today.”

As previously reported the Jaguars brought in some kickers to look at for a tryout during the bye week. After seeing them, they’re sticking with Jason Myers for now. But it’s safe to say, he has a bit of a shorter leash than before.

“We knew we were going to have some good games and some games that maybe weren’t as good but hopefully we see continued growth too,” Bradley explained. “We want to stay away from that one game good, one game bad. You’ve got to have consistency as a kicker so we believe in him, we trust him and we’re going to continue with him.”

Among those not practicing today were Zane Beadles and Marqise Lee. No word on Beadles progress of his sprained foot suffered against Buffalo. Regarding Lee, he remains the “albino tiger.” When you see him, it’ll be something you’ll remember. But for now, the Jaguars have no timetable for his return. Perhaps they were shooting for after the bye week (like with Rashad Greene who is beginning to practice) but Bradley made no predictions about Lee, only saying his soft tissue injury has to completely heal before he’ll be allowed back for fear he’ll suffer another injury.

“I think for the most part he’s had really good days,” Bradley said of Lee’s progress. “If there was a day where maybe we slowed progression it’s due to us saying let’s hold back a little bit. He was out there today and did short sprints and did very, very well in the short sprints. He’ll take the next step now and what that means I’m not sure.”

Since it was a “Bonus Monday” the Jaguars will be off tomorrow. (Although about a dozen players will make charity appearances). They’ll be back to their regular practice schedule on Wednesday.