JAGUARS BLANK COLTS: 5 THINGS
1. A historic performance by the Jaguars defense
The Jaguars defense played an inspired game of football. This was THE signature performance of the 2018 season by the group. They handed Andrew Luck the first shut out loss of his career. They snapped the Colts five game winning streak, during which Indy was averaging nearly 35 points per game. This was just the seventh shut out in Jacksonville's franchise history. Every player on the defensive side of the ball had at least one big moment in this one. All three starting CBs had at least one pass defended. Telvin Smith and Myles Jack were seemingly everywhere. The duo racked up 22 tackles and combined to make one of the defensive plays of the day on a forced fumble by Telvin Smith recovered by Myles Jack. Calais Campbell had an impressive day and made a clutch deflection at the line on a third down late in the contest. Yannick Ngakoue provided a strip sack and a crucial stuff on fourth and goal. At crucial points in this game the Jaguars defense rose to the occasion time and time again. This was the type of performance Jaguars fans have been waiting on from the defense over the past two months.
2. Ronnie Harrison is the truth
Upset I didn't mention Ronnie Harrison in the last segment? Don't be. The Jaguars present and future at strong safety is the rookie from Alabama. Harrison got his first start as a pro on Sunday and didn't disappoint. He made a rookie mistake getting called for an unsportsmanlike penalty early on, but after that point he showed why the Jaguars players and coaches have been so complimentary of him at such a young age. Harrison was a heat seeking missile on Sunday. He only recorded three tackles in total, but each one of them was impressive. His most impressive play came with just 2:38 left in the game. The Colts, desperate for a score, went for it on fourth down. Andrew Luck took the snap and surveyed the field, but was quickly harassed and sacked by Harrison who was sent on a blitz from Luck's blind side. The play helped seal the Jaguars first victory since week four. Harrison played every defensive snap, while Barry Church rode the pine. The defense looked like a different unit with #36 on the field.
3. Carlos Hyde squandered his best opportunity
With Leonard Fournette suspended for throwing hands against the Bills last weekend, Carlos Hyde got the opportunity that he had been waiting for. But things did not go as Hyde had planned. His first carry of the game started out so promising, but ended in disaster for the Jaguars running back. He shimmied his way for a five yard gain on the Jaguars first drive of the game, but as Hyde was falling to the ground the ball was punched out by Denico Autry and recovered by the Colts. Hyde then was sent to the bench for a long while. He ended up receiving just 38% of the snaps on offense compared to TJ Yeldon's 60%. This may not have been Hyde's last chance to prove his worth in Jacksonville, but it was certainly his best. He did lead the team in carries with 13, but only had 36 yards to show for it. A lost fumble and average of just 2.8 yards per carry won't get the job done.
4. Cody Kessler didn't make the big mistake
Cody Kessler, in his first start as a Jaguar, was far from spectacular. Under the same conditions it would have been difficult for any QB to have a great day. Kessler was under constant duress and his receivers didn't exactly help him all that much. But he wasn't asked to do a whole lot in this one. He completed the easy passes and, for the most part, delivered his receivers catchable passes down field when he decided to take a shot. He finished the day completing 18 of 24 attempts for 150 yards with no TDs and no INTs. He showed guts and he showed that he can complete the easy pass. It wasn't pretty when he decided to take off and run with it -- Kessler clearly isn't a mobile QB -- but he was fairly effective running the ball, gaining 28 yards on five carries. This wasn't the type of performance that will have fans clamoring for Kessler to be a long term solution for the Jaguars, but in the short term it appears that he may be able to manage games and not make the big mistake down the stretch. Just when it looked like Cody Kessler might make the costly mistake as he fumbled the ball while being sacks by Denico Autry, Kessler was able to out-muscle (kind of) Autry for the ball, thus keeping the Colts from gaining possession at the Jacksonville 32 yard line with just over six minutes left in the game. That's a lot more than can be said for the Jaguars former starter at QB, Blake Bortles, who lead the league in turnovers while he was the starter in Jacksonville. Head Coach Doug Marrone said after the game that Kessler would start again in the Jaguars next game on Thursday night against Tennessee.
5. Malik Jackson's time in Jacksonville may be coming to an end
Malik Jackson still has a lot of gas left in the tank, but in recent weeks it seems the Jaguars have been preparing for life without their Pro Bowl three technique defensive tackle. Jackson has been receiving less snaps and hasn't started in two out of the last three weeks. Jackson played 61% of the defensive snaps this week, but that was due, in large part, to a contusion suffered by Abry Jones. The Jaguars coaching staff will surely claim that this is a situational matchup based decision, but it seems like there could be more to it. Jackson is due $15.5 million next season, but if the team cuts him or finds a trade partner that number would be significantly reduced and could allow the front office more flexibility to sign some in house guys (Yannick Ngakoue, Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack) or add to the weapons on the other side of the ball. Despite an impressive amount of pressure this season, Jackson has recorded only one sack.
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