The Jacksonville Jaguars continue their peculiar on-again-off-again play as they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-9 in Week 5 of the 2017 NFL season. CWT takes a look at various aspects of this win.
Heeeyyyyyy, Jaguars Fans!
How do you like THAT?
As you may recall, I gave the Jacksonville Jaguars a good ol’ dressing down last week after their 23-20 loss to the New York “J-E-T-S Jets Jets” Jets. Now, they have defeated the otherwise-perennial powerhouse Pittsburgh Steelers with a decisive 30-9 victory.
After losses by the Titans, Colts, and Texans, we have a real, genuine reason to be delighted for the next seven days….
No, The Landing hasn’t offered a new variation of Ladies’ Night. Instead, we have something ever-so-slightly better….
WE HAVE SOLE CONTROL OF THE LEAD IN THE AFC SOUTH IN WEEK FIVE…!!!
A month ago, everyone was beside themselves championing the fact that after defeating the Baltimore Ravens in London in Week 3, we were 2-1 in the season since the 2007 season. After that, we lost to the Jets, and so we started to wonder if the Old Jaguars (a.k.a. The Losing Jaguars, the Cellar-Dwelling Jaguars, and, my favorite, the “Easy Win” Jaguars) were back.
“Let’s see if the Jaguars can put together their first back-to-back wins of the 2017 season, and improve to 4-2!”
Let’s not mince reality here, though, folks. The Jacksonville Jaguars are a team which is not exactly sure who they are this season. In games 1, 3, and 5, the Jaguars were a ball-control, defensive team with a solid running game behind Leonard Fournette. In Games 2 and 4, the Jaguars’ defense was not the greatest, but still very productive. However, the wild card was the offense in those games.
However, let’s take a few days and really savor two facts as we dig deeper into the second quarter of the 2017 NFL season:
1– The Jaguars are 3-2 after the fifth game of the season. This is the best post-Game-5 mark since 2007, when they were 3-1 (we had a Week-4 bye that season). This is important. We have now matched two of our worst NFL seasons since 2012, and the very worst (2-12) season in our team’s history (2012). If we win two more times this season, which is eleven games, we will finally overcome some of the deficiencies that have dogged this team over the past decade.
2–The Jaguars are in sole possession of the lead in the AFC South, the division that, after Game 1 (blowout of the Texans, 29-7), the Jaguars were slated to win. Yes, again, there are eleven games remaining, but it sure does feel good to have this kind of stature at this stage of the season. It’s been…..quite…..some…..time….
And now, let’s hit a couple of other points…..
Tom Coughlin, Doug Marrone, and the Jaguars’ Defense
Remember back in the Spring, when many fans and prognosticators (yay!) were somewhat curious about some of the changes to the Jaguars’ 2016 third-ranked defense? Well, maybe you don’t. What I remember was some mild uncertainty on how the team was cutting decent players/allowing them to test the Free Agency Market (I tried to find the article I’d read, but unfortunately it has been swept away among the tides of the Internet). That unease was offset by the trust many Jaguars fans had in Tom Coughlin.
As I recall, later in May the fans were feeling a bit of Buyer’s Remorse with T.C.’s return, largely on account of the failure of the team to draft a quarterback to replace Blake Bortles.
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But central to my point is that the team’s defense has overhauled a strained third-overall defense to produce a league-leading 20-sack, 10-INT defense. Don’t forget, they are also third overall in Fumbles Forced (6), yet lead the lead with Fumbles Recovered (5), and lead with Fumbles Returned for TD (2). That’s a heck of a turnaround from the years of Jags teams hoping for a pass rush attack.
Yeah, they knew what they were doing with the defense.
Blake Bortles and the Endless Cycle of Mediumness
So, it’s no secret that I’ve been supportive of BB5 throughout the year (remember the Bortles Bandwagon?). I’ve not changed my position by a whole lot, but we now have more information of a Blake within a Doug Marrone-coached system as opposed to Gus “Gettin’ Better All The Time” Bradley’s system.
However, Bortles’ play has been lackluster so far through five games in 2017. His stats have not been impressive (check them out here), and he has not shown the Big Play Ability that captured our hearts in 2014 and 2015. Frankly, he’s off from the muscular numbers he’d put up in the last two games of the 2016 season. However, if we ask ourselves what the biggest complaints against him have been, it’s been “garbage time stats” and “throwing interceptions”.
As a teacher, I can say from experience that putting a student with a new teacher will show immediate improvement (INTs). In two games, he hasn’t thrown an interception, and only one INT in two other games. As I understand it, even Bortles detractors/questioners have pointed out that the single INT in Game 5 (Pittsburgh Steelers) was really not Blake’s fault (Steelers defender apparently took the ball away from Jags TE’s hands, according to First Coast News). If we accept that explanation, the true stats show THREE games with no INTs. He’s playing smarter, and taking less blind risks.
Will he at some point “figure it out” and turn into Brett Favre or Ben Roethlisberger, two giants to whom Bortles had early on been compared? Maybe.
Does he need to? Let’s ask the 2000 season Super Bowl winners, the Baltimore Ravens.
Trent Dilfer played only that one season in Baltimore, before the Ravens decided against renewing his contract. He went to Seattle to become a backup to Matt Hasselbeck. Here’s a quote from the L.A. Times’ Sam Farmer back in 2012:
"The Baltimore Ravens showed in 2000 that it’s possible to win a Super Bowl with a game manager at quarterback. Trent Dilfer wasn’t elite, but he didn’t make costly mistakes, and was supported by a dominant defense."
Although we’re a long ways away from such acclamation as a ‘legendary’ defense, we can look at the 1985 Chicago Bears. Can you name their quarterback?
His name was Jim McMahon. He served as QB of the Bears from ’83-’88, and then became a journeyman backup for the remainder of his career. He wasn’t terribly average, but he wasn’t terribly great either.
My point is that it is still too soon to decide Blake’s long term place within the Jacksonville Jaguars.
I will say that if the Jaguars do draft a quarterback next offseason, unless Blake requested a trade, I’d bank on him being with the team in 2018. He’d be a better backup than Chad Henne.
Back to the Original Point
Well, that’s it. I’ve rambled enough about the particulars. Now let’s spend the next few days looking forward to the Los Angeles-St. Louis-Los Angeles Rams. This is a team looking to be a stiff challenge for our beloved Teal Cats.
Let’s see if the Jaguars can put together their first back-to-back wins of the 2017 season, and improve to 4-2!