If the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to make a run toward the playoffs, these players must step forward starting today.
The second half of the Jaguars season starts today with the focus of a tough AFC South matchup this coming Sunday at Indianapolis. As the team takes the field for practice later this morning, all eyes will be on the changes made on offense and the hope the defense can stop their rival on a fast track at Lucas Oil Stadium.
While the Jaguars offense has been decent over the first nine games – 10th in rushing and 14th in passing, the need to score more points is evident, as our own Kathy Clark pointed out in her recent story. The defense has played impressively at times and looked lost at others.
There must be a balance and in order for that to happen, these players must step up in the second half of the 2019 season, especially if the Jaguars hope to make a run at the playoffs.
Nick Foles – There is a certain degree of pressure for Nick Foles to come back from injury and rally this team to the playoffs. Gardner Minshew did better than most expected, but it is the veteran experience of the former Super Bowl MVP this organization expects to help the Jaguars turn the corner and win more games than it loses in the last seven contests.
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For Foles, it’s not a new situation, just a different location. His stat line for the 10 plays in Week 1 was 5 of 8 for 75 yards and a touchdown. Not a bad start. And there is a belief he will get plenty of opportunities to throw the football with his offensive coordinator John DeFilippo excited to have No. 7 back in the lineup.
Will Foles show rust? Will he be able to find chemistry once again with his receivers and running back Leonard Fournette? While we love what Minshew brought to the franchise, starting Foles was the right move after the bye week.
Yannick Ngakoue – There are seven games left this season and potentially seven games left for Yannick Ngakoue’s career in a Jaguars uniform. Ngakoue has played well the past three weeks after a slow start because of a hamstring injury. Now, with him finding a rhythm opposite rookie Josh Allen, can the fourth-year pass rusher get to double-digit sacks and will the team finally reward him with a new contract?
Remember it was Ngakoue who turned down the Jaguars’ offer of a new deal prior to training camp. And after he started the season slowly, it looked as though he may have played himself out of a monster deal. As he continues to put pressure on the quarterback and play “his” game, there is still a chance the two sides come to an agreement before the start of free agency.
The Jaguars still hold the cards here for a long-term deal in Jacksonville and can also use the franchise tag is needed. Ngakoue said he bet on himself this offseason to have a great season. It’s starting to show on the field.
The Jaguars offensive line – The line is better than last season, but it could still use some improvements. Now that Foles is back, the pass protection must better. Minshew was able to move in and out of the pocket and improvise. Foles is not a mobile gunslinger and will wait until the last possible moment to release the ball.
The Jaguars have given up 22 sacks this season, which is the worst in the NFL, but it’s also not the best. Some could argue Andrew Norwell, the much-maligned left guard, has played better as a run blocker this season than in the passing game. Cam Robinson is progressing but still could use some work as well. Jacksonville is getting steady play out of the rookie right tackle Jawaan Taylor.
As of this moment, Leonard Fournette is amongst the NFL leaders in rushing but has been stonewalled when he tries to run up the middle. This unit must give him a crease to run through if the running attack is to remain effective starting next week.