We have a playoff rematch on the horizon with the Jacksonville Jaguars traveling to Buffalo to take on the Buffalo Bills. The Bills are coming off their bye while the Jags are coming off a tough loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers. To preview the match-up we talked to Ryan O’Bleness from Big Cat Country about the Jaguars heading into the game.
1) Are fans more upset with the defense giving up the lead last week or with the second-half play calling?
The defense played an outstanding game. The loss 100 percent falls more on Blake Bortles and the conservative play-calling with the lead. That said, it was more so due to the fact that it was evident the coaching staff had zero confidence in Bortles and didn’t want to put the game in his hands late in the game. Bortles had a rough game, as he was just 10 of 18 for 104 yards with no touchdowns or picks. But he also took six sacks -- some of that was on the offensive line and some of that was on Bortles. He also failed to see open receivers, sailed balls over the receivers’ heads and decided not to pull the ball on a read option toward the end of the game where a first down would have pretty much sealed the victory for Jacksonville. So, while I think the play-calling should have been more aggressive at the end of the game, it was seemingly because of Bortles’s deficiencies that it wasn’t.
2) What has been the biggest difference between last year’s team and this year’s?
There is not really one solid answer I can provide here. Bortles has regressed, and the defense (outside of last week) has not really generated the turnovers and sacks it was known for last year. The play-calling has been questionable at times. Injuries have been devastating. There has been some internal arguing and finger pointing, and a seeming lack of chemistry in the locker room at points (though I think that had been a little bit overblown and isn’t as big of deal as some people made it). It’s also possible that other coaching staffs have just figured out ways to attack the vaunted Jacksonville defense, and defensive coordinators have found ways to shut down the running game and put the game in Bortles’s hands. I wish I knew what the biggest factor in the regression has been, but I believe it’s a mix of things.
3) Jalen Ramsey is probably the best corner in the league, does the guy have any weaknesses in coverage?
Jalen Ramsey played arguably the best game of his career last week against Antonio Brown and the Steelers. He limited Brown’s impact (the long Brown touchdown was given up by Tashaun Gipson, not Ramsey), and he had his first career game with multiple interceptions. Both interceptions were incredible plays. There were some grumblings from fans and analysts that Ramsey was having a “down” year because he didn’t get his first interception until Week 8 and the defense was struggling a bit, but I never really bought that. He has had some issues playing in zone coverage, and there were some communication errors against the Indianapolis Colts, so he can make mistakes, but even when he does he often has the speed and athleticism to make up for it. He’s not perfect, but he’s surely, at a minimum, a top-three cornerback in the league.
4) What percentage do you give for Blake Bortles being the starter next season?
This is an interesting question because it just doesn’t seem as if general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone want to admit defeat on Bortles and just move on. Bortles signed a three-year extension in the off season (which I thought he deserved at the time), though the deal is somewhat ”team-friendly,” so the Jags may be able to cut ties in the off season and, while it would still be a decently high cap hit, limit the cap damage. What I am thinking will happen is—if Jacksonville has a decent enough first-round draft pick, and it looks like that will happen—the Jaguars will keep Bortles on the roster, but draft somebody like Drew Lock (Missouri) or Justin Herbert (Oregon), though Herbert could very well go No. 1 overall. With Bortles still around, the Jags could take their time developing a first round pick QB. So, as of now, I would say there’s about a 65 percent chance Bortles starts Week 1 next season, though he very well may not finish the season that way. Time will tell.
5) What match-up are you excited to watch on Sunday?
Josh Allen versus the Jacksonville secondary. I don’t see this match-up going well for Allen who, from what I’ve heard, will start on Sunday. The Jaguars—despite a down season—have been strong against the pass all year long. As mentioned, Ramsey is coming off of one his best games ever, and A.J. Bouye is back healthy after dealing with a calf injury. Allen has completed just 54 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and five interceptions this season. The Jaguars’ secondary can make it a very long day for the rookie signal-caller. If Allen can prevent turnovers and find holes in the defense, Buffalo could be in position to win because I expect Buffalo’s defense to hold Jacksonville’s inept offense to limited points.