The Jacksonville Jaguars are winning football games at the right time at the midway part of the NFL season.
If someone had said the Jacksonville Jaguars would be 4-4 at the midway point of the NFL season and in contention to make the playoffs after the first game of the season, I might have had to spit my drink out. This has been a season of grit and perseverance for this football team, one that has been as memorable as any in the team’s 25 years of existence.
In the first eight weeks, this team has…
- Lost it’s starting quarterback after only 10 plays in the first game of the season.
- Dealt with a diva who wanted out of Jacksonville
- Saw the birth of a phenomenon called Minshew Mania
- Watched Leonard Fournette become a more complete football player
- Witnessed the development of DJ Chark and Josh Allen
- Saw the defense play its best football in the past two weeks, sans the diva
- Dealt with plenty of controversy about how the front office handles this organization.
The fact remains the Jaguars are 4-4 headed to London this week with a chance to make a statement against their AFC South rival, the Houston Texans. Add the fact the team has a bye week and then faces the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans in back-to-back weeks and this roster can control how it finishes out the 2019 season.
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"“Let me say, it was a good win,” head coach Doug Marrone told the media following the game. “The team, like I said before, guys that have been around on a daily basis, I like the way the team’s been going to work, working hard at practice, working hard at meetings.”"
Yesterday’s 29-15 win over the New York Jets was a masterpiece with Allen, Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell all getting in on the sack game of Sam Darnold. The offense still has some issues work out with the run game and protecting Gardner Minshew in the pocket. But this team is here, competing for the postseason because of how the players on the field have come together through adversity.
"“He’s been really good [with] touch,” Marrone said of Minshew and how he performed on Sunday. “I kind of go back and forth. Sometimes I look and you’re like, ‘That’s a veteran move. That’s a veteran player.’ … He does not play like he was brought into this league, a sixth-round draft pick or something like that. He doesn’t play like that.”"
Despite the Jets handing around in the first quarter and at one point holding a 7-6 lead, this was never a game that appeared to be out of the grasp of the home team. The Jaguars moved the football downfield, mainly by air and let the defensive side of the ball take control when it had to. Four more turnovers and eight sacks later, this unit looks more like the 2017 version of Jacksonville than the 2018 choppy addition. As A.J. Bouye explained after the game, this secondary is coming together at the right time.
"“You know, we don’t really get a lot of credit after Jalen [Ramsey] left, so hopefully we just keep earning it every day. But, that’s just good job on the guys staying together,” he said. “… We’re going up against a good team in London. They’re in the run for the [AFC South] Division, too. We know what happened last game, so we’ve just got to stay ready this game.”"
There’s an argument to be made the Jaguars should be 5-3 by winning at Houston or 6-2 if the offense could have mustered a touchdown against New Orleans, but this is a good situation for this franchise. It should only get better.
The most pressing question for Marrone and his staff is how to make sure the team continues its winning streak and then how to prepare for a potential return of Nick Foles in two weeks. More importantly, how do you bench Minshew with his ability to make things happen out of the pocket?
Things here in Jacksonville have been interesting the first two months of the NFL season. They are about to get even more interesting as the team faces an easier schedule and gets back it’s prized free agent. Even without drama and questions about the organization, the Jaguars will remain one of the more talked about teams in the NFL.