Three Jaguars to watch Sunday against the Dolphins
By David Levin
With two weeks remaining in the season, can the Jacksonville Jaguars find some firepower on offense and stop the Miami Dolphins for a road win?
I know it sounds like a broken record, but no predicted a season like this for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A laundry list of injuries, questions about the offensive line. A coaching staff that is under fire for a lack of performance and victories. A front office that could also see changes this offseason.
These kinds of issues have were reserved for other organizations last season. This season, the Jaguars are that organization.
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Doug Marrone and his staff are still coaching this team to win games. Tanking for a draft pick, however sexy it might seem given the team’s issues at quarterback, isn’t an option. The defense has played much better in the second half of this season.
The offense, on the other hand, continues to plummet into the depths of the NFL abyss.
The Dolphins are still considered a playoff contender, although it may take maneuvering to make that happen. A loss this week could keep them from making the postseason. Will Jacksonville take on a new role of being a spoiler to their in-state rivals hopes of a second season?
Here are three players to watch on Sunday when the Jaguars face the Dolphins from Hard Rock Stadium.
Dede Westbrook – Has there been a more important player to this offense this season than Dede Westbrook. While the team is scoring at 13 points a clip, the second-year wide receiver continues to go out and play hard and make critical catches.
Watch for the former fourth-round draft pick get plenty of chances in the passing game, the return game and potentially as a runner this weekend.
Westbrook leads the Jaguars with 56 catches for 662 yards and five touchdowns. He has played well enough to be considered the team’s No. 1 pass catcher moving into the 2019 season. Watch what he does in open space this weekend.
Taven Bryan – I added him to the list before and he remains here because he is getting better as a run-stuffing interior lineman. Taven Bryan is finally fitting into this defensive system.
As John Oehser of Jaguars.com wrote this week, the improvement in the rookie’s play is evident with each snap he plays.
"“Bryan, the No. 29 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, has played at least 21 snaps in each of the last five games after playing that many just once in the first nine games,” Oehser said. “He has two tackles for loss in the last four games, and nearly had his first career sack against Washington.”"
I suspect this could be another game where Bryan gets enough penetration up the middle to get to Ryan Tannehill and record potentially the first sack of his career.
The offensive line – I am putting everyone here on the list. Since he was named the starter, it has not been a good situation for quarterback Cody Kessler. If we have learned anything about the former Cleveland Browns signal caller is he can take a hit and bounce back up.
"“Kessler has been sacked 13 times in three games as the Jaguars’ starting quarterback – and 17 times in four appearances this season,” per Jaguars.com. More hits like those and the team may send Blake Bortles out there to provide more mobility."
It is imperative that the offensive line, no matter how make-shift it is – keeps Kessler upright. While he is mobile and can move out of the pocket, his size is not conducive to a long career in the NFL if he continues must avoid pressure from 300-pound defensive linemen.