Another week, another win in the books for the Jaguars. It didn’t always look pretty, but I think this win feels even better than last week’s. The team showed more grit and determination in this game than any other in the Gus Bradley era, a sign that this team is maturing and growing as a unit. With all that being said, let’s get into it.
Stud of the Week: The D
If I would have told you that the defense would be the hero of this game, it would seem… far-fetched, to say the least. In the first half, Bears WR Alshon Jeffery caught 6 passes and was consistently burning star rookie CB Jalen Ramsey. The run defense looked solid, but the Bears, who ranked 30th in the NFL in points per game coming into the week, scored 10 first half points and looked to control the pace of the game.
Whatever Gus Bradley injected his players with at halftime needs to become a mainstay, as the defense caught fire in the second half. Jalen Ramsey, who couldn’t keep up with Jeffery’s comebacks and double moves, suddenly started playing like the guy he’s been all season, including the game-securing PBU against Jeffery where he baited Brian Hoyer into making a throw that seemed open but Ramsey knew he could break up. The linebackers started playing out of their minds, shutting down RB Jordan Howard. After allowing 7 of 10 3rd downs to be converted in the first half, the team didn’t allow a 3rd down to be converted in the second half on 7 attempts by the Bears. It was beautiful defense, plain and simple, and every defensive starter and coach deserves credit for the performance.
Dud of the Week: The “Traditional” Offense
Like the defense, the offense was able to flip a switch in the second half and actually start moving the ball. The 2nd half was pretty good by the team outside of a horrible fumble by Blake Bortles. Once he got going and started spreading the ball around, the offense caught fire and started consistently going down the field.
However, there is clearly something wrong with the base offense. The running game sucked, with Chris Ivory leading the team with 32 yards on 11 carries (2.9 YPC), followed by TJ Yeldon with 21 yards on 6 carries (3.5 YPC). The Colts game is starting to look more and more like an outlier with each one of these horrible efforts by the running game. The play-calling has some questionable moments (less than 1 yard to go and we don’t use Chris Ivory?) and doesn’t seem like it’s trying to get everyone involved. For the majority of the first half, the offense was only getting three players involved: Marqise Lee and the Allen Brothers. Lastly, Blake Bortles is still mechanically flawed and doesn’t look comfortable in the offense.
How do we fix it? Well, the running game will start to work when the passing game does, as we saw in London a few weeks ago. However, there needs to be more synergy between the coaches and QB for the offense to really correct its course. Olsen needs to give Bortles some series in the first half where he is allowed to run hurry-up and gain some momentum, as we’ve seen that he is pretty good once he gets in the rhythm of the game. That being said, there also needs to be some effort by Bortles to fix his mechanics and stop turning the ball over. It’s a group effort but I think they can solve these issues and get the offense rolling.
Offensive Player to Watch: WR Marqise Lee
Lee, the guy fans have been expecting to pop for years, is finally showing up this year. He looks as good as Allen Hurns does and brings a different dynamic element to the offense. Bortles trusts him and the play-callers show more of an effort to get him involved than TE Julius Thomas. He is solidifying himself as the definite #3 receiver on the team and could be a new name on the long list of young talent this team fields every week.
Defensive Player to Watch: SS Jonathan Cyprien
Cyprien had been one of my least favorite players to watch for years. One game he would make plays and big hits, but the next three he would disappear except for allowing big plays and 3rd down conversions consistently. He looks absolutely reborn this year, consistently being in place on defense and securing tackles. Having an NFL-level FS behind him is allowing him to just ball out and do what he does best. If he continues this kind of production, he could have a pretty lucrative deal coming to him in the offseason.
Da Real MVP: P Brad Nortman
I know that no-one wants to talk about punters and no-one thinks they matter, but having a competent punter is doing this team wonders. Nortman has 9 punts inside the 20 on 22 attempts with only 2 touchbacks. His ability to consistently set up the defense with good field position is so valuable, and I just want to make sure he doesn’t go unnoticed. You the man, Brad.
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