Jacksonville Jaguars

Down South

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Week 1 of the NFL is in the books. We have some early takeaways from each team. Let’s take a look at the AFC South to see if any of the teams are contenders.

Arizona Cardinals 38, Tennessee Titans 13: Tennessee received a lot of hype in the offseason. They traded for Julio Jones. Paired with A.J. Brown, several analysts speculated they were the best wide receiver duo in the league.

Derrick Henry led the league in rushing in 2020 with over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith left to take the head coach position in Atlanta. Todd Downing has taken over as OC and things did not go well in the opening game.

They fell behind early and could not establish the run like they wanted. Henry rushed for 58 yards on 17 carries.

Chester Rogers led the team in receiving with 62 yards. Chandler Jones single-handedly terrorized the offense with 5 sacks. Ryan Tannehill complete 21 of 35 passes for 212 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception.

The Titans had questions on defense going into the season and they still do. Kyler Murray threw for 289 yards, 4 touchdowns, completed 66% of his passes and he ran for another score. Chase Edmonds only had 12 carries but he out-gained Henry with 63 yards.

Seattle Seahawks 28, Indianapolis Colts 16: Philip Rivers retired, and the Colts acquired Carson Wentz. He did not play well his last couple of seasons in Philadelphia, so he is trying to regain his confidence.

The Colts have one of the best defenses, but they could not stop Seattle. Russell Wilson completed 78% of his passes for 254 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Chris Carson had 16 carries for 91 yards. Tyler Lockett caught 4 passes for 100 yards and 2 TD’s.

Wentz threw for 251 yards and 2 touchdowns. He attempted 38 passes, which is more attempts than Indy wants.

Starting left tackle Eric Fisher did not play and he was under constant pressure. Running back Jonathan Taylor had 17 carries for 56 yards.

Houston Texans 37, Jacksonville Jaguars 21: Jacksonville has Urban Meyer in his first year as a professional coach. They drafted Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft and he’s the opening day starting quarterback. They are coming off of a 1 – 15 season, so they have several holes to fill on the roster.

Lawrence completed 55% of his passes for 332 yards, 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He had 51 pass attempts which is too many for a rookie QB to be successful.

“Losing is always hard, especially when you feel like you are prepared and had a great week,” Lawrence said. “I really think we were ready and obviously didn’t play well. It starts with me. I didn’t play well, for sure.”

Jacksonville had 10 penalties which is uncharacteristic for a team coached by Meyer.

Houston is not playing star quarterback Deshaun Watson because of open sexual assault allegations.

Veteran Tyrod Taylor is the starter and he passed for 291 yards and 2 touchdowns. Brandin Cooks had a monster day with 5 catches and 132 yards. Mark Ingram II ran for 85 yards and a TD.

Tennessee and Indy are still the best teams in the division. The Colts have a brutal schedule though and play the Rams next.

It doesn’t get much easier for the Titans because they play Seattle on the road. Houston travels to Cleveland Week 2. Jacksonville hosts Denver next and that’s a game they can win.

Tebow Impact

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Consumers love Tim Tebow and are happy to see him back in the NFL.

Just 24 hours after signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tebow’s apparel has been flying off the sleeves.

NFLShop.com reported the top 5 selling items all belong to Tebow: black alternate jerseys for men, women and children, as well as T-shirts for men and women.

The Tebow effect caused Tom Brady’s red Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey to fall to ninth on the list of top sellers.

Tebow’s jersey was the bestselling uniform when he was with the Denver Broncos in 2010, New York Jets in 2012, New England Patriots in 2013 and Philadelphia Eagles in 2015.

In 2016 for a few weeks his New York Mets jersey was the best-selling Major League Baseball jersey in the country.

Tebow’s longest run as the best-selling jersey in sport came as a quarterback at the University of Florida, where even to this day, it holds the record for the most jerseys of a college player ever sold.

Tebow signed a one-year deal (non-guaranteed) to play tight end with the Jaguars. He is currently sporting the number 85 jersey. He might not even wear the 85 jersey for long.

If Jacksonville moves backup quarterback Gardner Minshew, which rumors suggest they are trying, Tebow could claim his iconic 15 jersey.

If that happens, you can bet football and Tebow fans won’t hesitate to complete their collection.

As a sputtering franchise, the Jaguars didn’t warrant much attention last season, but look at them now! The Jaguars are the talk of the NFL on shows, radio and social media around the country.

The attention is only going to intensify as OTA’s starts and the media will be allowed to watch practice in person this week. Tebow obviously has generated most of the attention because of his comeback at age 33 to play tight end, a position he’s never once played.

Jaguars jerseys are three of the top seven and four of the top 15 jerseys on NFLShop.com.

Tebow is a megastar in the Jacksonville area, a former standout at Nease High School and the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner at Florida. He also helped Urban Meyer win two national championships for the Florida Gators.

Tim Tebow will be trying to land a spot on the Jaguar roster and battling Chris Manhertz, James O’Shaughnessy, Luke Farrell and Tyler Davis on the roster.

Whatever you think of Tim Tebow, you must say, he makes a tremendous financial impact wherever he plays.

AFC South Draft Preview

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2021 NFL Draft is later this week. Let’s take a look around the AFC South to see who will be drafted in the first round.

Jacksonville: The Jaguars (1-15) earned the top pick but they also have the 25th pick.

With a record that bad they clearly need help at several positions. Legendary college coach Urban Meyer came out of retirement and was hired as head coach.

We know Clemson Quarterback Trevor Lawrence is going to be the first pick in the draft. He has all of the measurables, standing 6’6 and 220 pounds. He has high football IQ and a strong arm. He has basically every accolade you can get as a college player except for the Heisman Trophy.

He’s a national champion and led his team to the College Football Playoff in the three seasons he played. The last quarterback prospect I can think of that was clearly the top prospect like this was Andrew Luck. I expect him to be very successful in the NFL.

With the 25th pick. I think a difference maker at wide receiver is what they will get to pair with Lawrence.

Purdue receiver Rondale Moore fits that mold. Purdue only played four games last season and Moore played three of them.

He had 35 catches and 270 yards.

His best statistical season was as a freshman in 2018. He had 114 catches, 1,258 yards and 12 TD’s.

He ran a 4.33 40 at his pro day so he’s very fast.

Florida receiver Kadarius Toney is also another possible selection. In 11 games he had 70 receptions, 984 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Indianapolis: The Colts (11-5) are a very solid team. Philip Rivers played his only season in Indy last year and led the team to the playoffs before he retired.

Now they have Carson Wentz as the signal caller. The Colts have the 21st pick so they can go in several directions depending on the players still available.

Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore would be a good pick. In 8 games last season he had 86 receptions, 1,193 yards and 8 touchdowns. He ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at his pro day. He reminds me of Tyreek Hill and Indy could use a playmaker at wide receiver.

Miami edge rusher Jaelan Phillips might be another possibility. He’s 6’5, 266 pounds so he has ideal size for the position. In 2020 he had 45 total tackles and 8 sacks.

Tennessee: The Titans (11-5) won the division last season. They advanced to the AFC Championship game in 2019. I think this team is a serious championship contender.

Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins would be a good pick to strengthen the offensive line. We know Tennessee loves to run the ball with Derrick Henry, so this makes sense. He was First Team All-Big 12 in 2020.

At 6’6 and 320 pounds he looks the part. He’s very physical and aggressive.

Virginia Tech corner back Caleb Farley might also be a possibility. He opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 concerns. He recently had back surgery, which is something to consider. In 2019 he had 20 tackles, 12 pass deflections and 4 interceptions.

The Houston Texans (4-12) do not have a first-round pick. I’m looking forward to the draft to see how teams will address their needs.

Life Of A Dawguar

By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Every fan has at least one moment in their sporting life that they remember precisely where they were and what they were doing when it happened. I have two.

The first is January 1, 1981. I was 9 years old, and I remember clearly watching my quiet, reserved, school teacher mom literally jumping up and down on our living room couch screaming “GO! GO! GO!” as Hershel Walker rumbled up the middle for 25 yards against some Irish dudes.

It’s the first Georgia game I can remember watching, and it’s when I first realized there was something special about this game called “football.”

Those were some good days. The three years of Hershel Walker between the hedges was enough to spoil a budding football fan. A national championship, a trip to a second championship game, and a Heisman Trophy?

One could get used to this! Oh, how I wish I could go back in time and pat early-80s me on the head and say “there, there.” Football life for the Dawg Fan was not sunshine & roses for large swaths of the coming decades.

Oh sure, there were some great moments – the 2018 Rose Bowl, the 2005 SEC Championship over LSU, the 2007 “storm the field” victory over Florida. But for every great moment like these, there’s a Prayer at Jordan Hare, a 2nd & 26, and pretty much any game against Florida in the Spurrier years.

The second defining sports memory in my life came on November 30, 1993. I was throwing darts with some fraternity brothers at a place called The Brick in downtown Milledgeville when I looked up to the TV over the bar to see the announcement that Jacksonville had been awarded the 32nd NFL franchise.

I let out a massive holler that literally left everyone else in the place silent. Under normal circumstances, I would have been mortified, but I was elated. My hometown was getting an NFL team! (Yes, I know. I’m from Brunswick, but as Jim Rome once said, Brunswick is just a suburb of Jacksonville that happens to be in another state. Again, tell me I’m wrong.)

Much like my early days as a citizen of Dawgnation, the early days of Jaguars fandom was the stuff of legends.

The AFC Championship game in our second year. Three consecutive trips to the postseason in the years following. That epic 14-2 season in 1999. And then, much like the post-1983 Dawgs, it all came crashing down. The Blaine Gabbert years. The Justin Blackmon debacle. Those damn tarps. The Tennessee &!%$*#@ Titans.

Yes, you could say I’m a glutton for punishment. Doubly so when you realize how few people fall into the Venn Diagram intersection of “Dawg fan” and “Jags fan” – “Dawguars,” if you will.

Most Dawg people are Falcon fans simply due to geography, regardless of how allegedly infrequently the Falcons draft UGA players  – three since 1995 by the way.

Three players, coincidentally, is how many UGA alums the Jaguars have drafted in that same span…and also how many North Avenue Trade School “players” have snuck their way onto the Jags roster as well.

All of those numbers are dwarfed by the massive 11 players from Gainesville that have gone on to wear teal & black.

Eleven hated amphibians that we booed on Saturdays that we now have to choke down the bile and root for on Sundays.

Players like Fred Taylor, one of the Pride of the Jaguars, that broke our heart for years at the WLOCP. First rounders like Taven Bryan & CJ Henderson. And now, after the Marrone era, we now welcome a former Gator to the Head Coaches’ office – Mr. Urban Meyer. Ugh.

Whether or not this winds up being another Pete Carroll success or another rare Nick Saban failure in the NFL is yet to be seen.

I hold high hopes that Urban will be able to take that “generational talent” headed our way from Clemson (really? I’ve gotta support a Clemson player now, too? Fine…) and return us to the halcyon days reminiscent of those first five years of our franchise history.

If he gets us our first Lombardi, this Dawg will be understandably ecstatic.

I’m just glad it’s not Spurrier. Even I have limits.

Southern Charm

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Week 11 of the NFL season is in the books.

The contenders are starting to rise to the top and separate themselves at this point.

Let’s take a look at the AFC South and grade the teams thus far.

Jacksonville: The Jaguars (1-9) have the second worst record in the league behind the winless New York Jets.

The lone win came in the season opener, so they’ve lost nine consecutive games.

Quarterback Gardner Minshew fractured his right thumb in Week 7 against the Chargers.

Jake Luton has been playing since then and he’s struggled. In his last two games he’s 34 of 72 passes for 320 yards, 1 touchdown and 5 interceptions.

Minshew may return next week against Cleveland. One bright spot has been rookie running back James Robinson. He’s rushed for 762 yards (3rd) and 5 touchdowns.

The Jags are 27th in total offense and 30th in total defense.

The best thing they have going for them is they can possibly land the top pick in the draft. At this pace they should pick no worse than second. Grade: F.

Indianapolis: The Colts (7-3) are tied for the division lead.

Veteran QB Philip Rivers is in his first season in Indy.

He has a problem turning the ball over and he has thrown 8 interceptions up to this point.

They don’t have a big-time playmaker on offense. The Colts have a couple of talented backs in Nyheim Hines and Jonathan Taylor.

They are coming off of a good overtime win against Green Bay Sunday.

The defense is elite, ranked second in total defense. They allow less than 300 yards per game and 21 points per game.

The offense isn’t bad, ranking 13th in total offense. This team is a contender because they have a great defense that can keep them in any game. Grade: B+.

Houston: The Texans (3-7) fired head coach Bill O’Brien after an 0-4 start.

He also traded All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals in the offseason.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson is a very good young quarterback, but he does not have much to work with. Wide receiver Will Fuller V has over 700 receiving yards and Brandon Cooks has 634.

Houston is 18th in total offense and defense.

They are 2 – 1 in their last three games. The one loss was 10-7 to the Browns. They can realistically win half of their final six games that include Detroit, Chicago and Cincinnati.

They are not going to make the playoffs so that might be pointless. Grade: D.

Tennessee: The Titans (7-3) look like they are picking up where they left off last season.

They play old school football by running the ball and controlling the clock.

Running back Derrick Henry leads the league in carries (229), rushing yards (1,079) and he has 3 rushing TD’s (3rd).

QB Ryan Tannehill is good enough to make plays when the run game isn’t working. He’s thrown for 22 touchdowns; 4 picks and he’s completing 71% of his passes.

They just beat the Ravens in overtime, so they play well against good teams.

They did lose to Indy 34-17 two weeks ago. They play again this week and they cannot afford to get swept. Grade: B.

Back To The Future At QB

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It is well documented that the Jacksonville Jaguars need a QB going into the 2019 season.

Nick Foles will not receive the franchise tag in Philadelphia and that may set the wheel in motion for Foles to become a Jaguar.

Even if the Jags get Foles, he will be just a bridge to the future. Jacksonville with its top 10 pick needs to draft a QB to groom for the future.

Let’s take a look at this QB draft class:

Dwayne Haskins: The former Ohio State Buckeye is the top rated QB in the draft.

Haskins set 28 OSU records at a school that has produced some quality quarterbacks over the years.

He has a strong arm and is confident in a traditional pro-style offense. He has good mobility and can make things happen when the pocket breaks down.

When you pass for 50 TD’s and 5,000 yards in a 14-game season you are a special talent.

It seems like the New York Giants like Haskins at the number 6 pick. Will teams like the Miami Dolphins trade up to try and get Haskins.

If Haskins falls to Jacksonville will the Jags take him? Haskins seems to be the most pro ready quarterback at this moment in time.

Kyler Murray: Murray had a Heisman winning 2018 season at Oklahoma, passing for over 4,000 yards, rushing for 1,000 and propelled the Sooners into the College Football Playoffs.

Murray is just 5′ 10″ and 195 pounds. The shortest signal-caller in the NFL right now is Russell Wilson at 5′ 11″.

Murray only had 5 passes batted down last season. Baker Mayfield shut up the critics last year after the Browns were heavily criticized after taking Mayfield with the number pick in the draft because of his size.

Mayfield had the Browns in playoff contention last year. The Jaguars have more pieces on defense and Murray is a dynamic playmaker. Murray walked away from $5 million from the Oakland Athletics to play baseball, and will focus on being an NFL QB. Murray is a generational talent.

While the critics chime in on size this kid just makes plays that leave you scratching your head. Murray to me is a better talent than Lamar Jackson. The Ravens have pinned their future on Lamar Jackson.

Drew Lock: The Missouri QB has a gunslinger mentality and throws the best deep ball in the draft. After the Tigers started 1-5, Lock took over and led his team to six straight wins and tossed 44 TD’s.

Lock will turn the ball over sometimes, but he is a natural leader. Lock is tall at 6’4 and will be a steal for a team that is on the cusp of being a playoff contender.  Lock reminds me of a Matt Stafford, who is super talented but plays on a bad team.

Who do the Jaguars select?

My pick today is Kyler Murray. The Jags offense needs an infusion of excitement.

Murray will sell out the stadium and would bring a wow factor to the city. You can’t go wrong with Haskins, Murray, or Lock, but the pick is Murray and the Jags are set for the future.

Murray would almost guarantee that no tarps will ever cover upper deck seats in Jacksonville again and end the relocation rumors that are always floating around.

A future trip to Super Bowl would be in reach also.

AFC South Draft Preview

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The NFL Draft fast approaches. After free agency ends, we will have a clearer picture on the direction teams will go in for the draft.

I’m going to examine the AFC South and who will be selected in the first round. This is one of the weaker divisions in the NFL with only one team ever winning a Super Bowl (Indianapolis).

Houston and Jacksonville have never been to the big game and Tennessee has only been once.

Jacksonville (5-11): The Jaguars looked poised to be one of the best teams in 2018. They had an elite defense in 2017 and relied on the ground game with Leonard Fournette. That formula led them to the AFC Championship game where they led New England in the fourth quarter.

We know how that played out. Quarterback Blake Bortles was the obvious weak link of the team. He was rewarded last offseason with a three year contract extension worth $54 million. It seemed to pay off early after they got off to a 3-1 start. That included a victory over the Patriots. Then they had a seven game losing streak.

Quarterback is the position that must be addressed. If they don’t acquire Nick Foles in free agency they will draft a QB with the 7th pick. Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray will get selected. The Heisman Trophy winner has great talent but lacks ideal height.

Tennessee (9-7): The Titans have had two consecutive winning seasons. They have several needs they can address with this pick like wide receiver, guard, edge rusher or quarterback. Their franchise QB Marcus Mariota cannot stay healthy.

One possible pick is NC State receiver Kelvin Horne. He could be paired with Corey Davis to make a dangerous passing attack.

If they go with a pass rusher Jachai Polite of Florida could be the pick. Last season he had 11 sacks and 6 forced fumbles.

Houston (11-5): The Texans won the division but lost in the Wild Card round to the Colts. They finally have a franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson but they can’t protect him.

He has one of the best receivers in the game (DeAndre Hopkins). They should draft an offensive lineman to help with that problem.

Offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor (Florida) would be a good pick. He would be a day one starter. If he is not available tackle Greg Little from Ole Miss will be picked. He looks like he will be the fifth o-lineman picked in the first round but he still has good value. He’s a good pass blocker but he needs to be more consistent.

Indianapolis (10-6): The Colts have one of the best young quarterbacks in the league in Andrew Luck. He missed the entire 2017 season and came back in 2018 with a vengeance. They have a pretty good offense and they need to get better on defense. The biggest needs are at cornerback, defensive line and wide receiver.

Washington corner back Byron Murphy would be a good pick if available. He had four interceptions and 58 total tackles in 2018. He’s physical enough to help stop the running game and he can cover.

Receiver D.K. Metcalf of Ole Miss is also a possibility if they do not add another WR in free agency.

I’m excited to see if one of these teams can become a serious contender after the draft.

 

Free Spending Jags

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The best part of the NFL offseason in my opinion is free agency. I like it better than the draft because these players are proven commodities in the league. The problem with the draft is we really don’t know how the players coming from college will pan out.

One team that’s been extremely active in free agency is Jacksonville. They do what every team is supposed to, address weaknesses. Last season the marquee signing was defensive tackle Calais Campbell.

He set the Jaguars single game sack record (4) in his first game. Campbell helped lead them to their first playoff berth in a decade. Jacksonville advanced to the AFC Championship game and they almost defeated New England. This year’s signings are supposed to make them better than the Patriots.

The franchise played it safe and resigned quarterback Blake Bortles. Bortles isn’t a great QB so he needs a lot of help. They are trying to surround him with talented playmakers.

The best playmaker might be wide receiver Marqise Lee, who re-signed with Jacksonville.

Fellow receiver Allen Robinson signed with Chicago. Allen Hurns is a candidate to be released so Lee is the best returning WR. Lee led the Jags with 56 catches and ranked second in receiving yards (702) playing in 14 regular-season games.

Former Colts WR Donte Moncrief was signed to a one-year deal. Moncrief didn’t have a great 2017 season but some of that was due to poor quarterback play in Indianapolis.

Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins at 6’5, 260 pounds will be a big red zone target. He has not lived up to the hype since being drafted in the second round in 2014. He did have his best statistical season last year with 50 catches, 374 yards and 3 touchdowns.

They also signed another tight end, Niles Paul. The most receptions he has ever had in a season is 39 in 2014. That’s more than double the reception totals for any of his others between 2011-2017.

Guard Andrew Norwell signed a $66.5 million contract over five years. He really provides stability to a weak interior offensive line. His addition will help open holes for Leonard Fournette in the run game and provide pass protection.

The Jags also added some players on defense. Linebacker Lerentee McCray signed a two-year contract. He’s played sparingly in his four-year career. In 2017 he had 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He does help provide depth on defense and he contributes on special teams.

Cornerback D.J. Hayden signed a contract for 3 years and $19 million. Hayden has not had more than one interception in a season. He hasn’t had a pick since 2015. He will also provide depth and likely be the Nickel CB.

They continued with the theme of adding quality depth in the secondary. They signed safeties Cody Davis and Don Carey. The defensive unit was ranked second overall in total defense.

These moves might help improve an already dominant unit. I think the Jags will be the most talented team in the AFC after the draft. Now let’s see how that translates into winning games.