The Jaguars were firing on all cylinders as they took on the Patriots Sunday. In what was a rematch of the 2017 AFC Championship, the Jaguars looked like a juggernaut, downing the Patriots 31-20 (yes, that's the exact score I predicted).
Here's five things to remember from this one.
1. The BOAT was far better than the GOAT
Blake Bortles' nickname, the "BOAT", which means the best of all time, may not be all that accurate, but on Sunday against the Patriots Bortles was, with out question, the best QB on the field. Blake Bortles went head to head with Tom Brady and the results weren't even close. Bortles finished the day with 412 total yards, four touchdown passes, one interception (on a ball that should have been caught by Austin Seferian-Jenkins), a 111.1 QB rating and a resounding 31-20 victory. Tom Brady on the other hand finished with just 234 yards passing and two touchdown passes, much of which came after the game was already well in hand for the Jaguars.
2. The Jaguars don't HAVE TO play conservative football
The Jaguars M.O. since Doug Marrone took over as head coach has been conservative football on the offensive side of the ball. Run the ball until you can't run it anymore, and then run it again. But on Sunday the Jaguars showed that they can air it out and be successful. Of course, this isn't the first time Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett have let Bortles sling the rock, but this was the most impressive performance for Bortles under the current regime. The Jaguars should and likely will continue to be a team that wins by running the ball, but this type of performance shows that this offense could develop into something much more balanced than it has been over the last season plus.
3. DJ Hayden has been an unsung hero for the Jaguars in his first two games
The Jaguars singed veteran cornerback DJ Hayden this offseason after Aaron Colvin departed in free agency. With a contract worth over $6 million per year the Jaguars showed what type of player they thought Hayden could be, despite his label as a bust. Hayden never truly found his groove in Oakland or Detroit, but during his first two games for the Jaguars Hayden has been the perfect nickel cornerback. Against the Patriots he recorded four tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack. His physicality has been an unexpected treat for the Jaguars early on. If he can keep this type of performance up then the Jaguars defense could be even better than it was in 2017.
4. Dante Fowler was triumphant in his return
Dante Fowler Jr. missed the Jaguars first game of the 2018 season due to a suspension from the league office for a violation of the NFL's player conduct policy. Sunday morning he posted a picture from the Jurassic World movie of a dinosaur bursting out of it's cage. While Fowler isn't a creature from the Jurassic period, he did have a big impact against the Patriots in his return to the field. He's not a starter for the Jaguars, so he doesn't get as many reps as Calais Campbell or Yannick Ngakoue at defensive end, but he made one of the most meaningful plays of the game on Sunday. As the Patriots were driving, down 24-13 with 12:29 left in the game, Dante Fowler Jr. recorded a strip sack of Tom Brady and was able to recover the loose ball. The clutch play by Fowler gave the Jaguars the ball back with good field position and prevented the Patriots from inching closer to a one possession game. While the Jaguars didn't score on the possession, they were able to waste nearly three minutes of game clock and flip field position, pinning the Patriots inside their own 10 yard line. The Jaguars were wise to hold on to Fowler when other teams came calling about his availability this offseason.
5. Keelan Cole has the ability to be a number one receiver
Keelan Cole finished 2017 with an incredibly strong stretch of games and his solid performance has continued in 2018. Most people around the league don't believe the Jaguars have a number one receiver, but Keelan Cole could be developing into one right before our very eyes. Against the Giants in week one Cole caught three of his four targets for 54 yards, an average of 18 yards per catch. And in week two Cole had a monster day for the Jaguars. He made one of the best catches I've ever seen.
In total Cole caught seven passes for 116 yards and a score. He was used in a variety of ways against the Patriots defense and caught 88 percent of his targets, all while averaging 16.6 yards per catch. Cole may not be a household name yet, but if his strong play continues he will be soon. After two games he's on pace to catch 80 passes for 1,360 yards and eight touchdowns.
Bonus Thing: Jaguars left tackle Cam Robinson suffered a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the 2018 season. It's a big blow for the Jaguars - Cam Robinson was really coming into his own in year two - but the Jaguars are as well equipped as any team in the NFL to handle an injury on the offensive line. Josh Wells will likely play in his stead for the remainder of 2018.
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