Cap Space and the Jaguars, don’t let the number scare you, it’s all an illusion.

We keep hearing that the Jacksonville Jaguars are in the hole concerning cap space going into 2019 and the franchise will lose all kinds of talent. Like most things, there is a grain of salt to it and a whole lot of BS.

It’s good to know that salary, dead money and cap space are three separate things. To keep this short, teams and players can work out varied ways in contracts to help a team stay within the suggested 2019 190M cap space. 

When a player is released, traded or retired, some of his salary and cap can go with him, sometimes not because of the way they are structured. As of right now, going into the 2019 season, the Jags have to remove $7,098,827 in cap space. Sounds awful, right? 

First off, Jacksonville will roll over their 11M surplus this year to cover next and that puts them with almost 4M to the good. In addition, the cap will go up, as it always does – right now it’s projected to be about 190M, up about 13. That’s almost 17M to work with.

I doubt they’re going to keep Donte Moncrief who cost 9.6M, or several others regardless of the money. 

When you look at the contracts, you realize there are several players who are worth more gone, than on the team. Like Barry Church. It’s clear he’s not being kept, hence Ronnie Harrison starting instead of him.

No matter how you slice it, Blake Bortles, whether cut or someone trades for him (don’t laugh), will cost the Jags 16.5 in dead money; however, they can write off 4.5M in CAP. That would give them about 16.8M in dead money for next season. Tanner Lee and Don Carey make the other 299,669. That’s not great, but it could be worse.

While the dead money goes against what they can spend, freeing up cap space allows them to sign players they want, they only need to be creative with contracts. Since Jacksonville is one of the cheapest NFL cities to live in, that helps in negotiations. 

Typically, QB’s and OL want and get big guaranteed money and they want it upfront. This front loaded money can be spread out over the life of the contract, as long as the second year is half or more of the first year. That’s the kicker. So, a two year contract has the money split in half because there’s no other way to make it add up. 

On three years for a 70M contract, you could have 33, 16.5 and 20.5. Teams usually like to push the cap hit out because as we see, each year the cap limit goes up and money is worth less. Pay the cash up front, spread the cap accounting out.

Most big name players do this, especially ones on their third contract. They don’t care about the accounting, only that the money makes it to the bank. New England is a master of paying Brady*, but finding creative ways to keep spreading the hit out. 

In addition, a player can restructure his contract, instead of taking a huge salary each week, take a big chunk up front in a signing bonus or whatever they want to call it. The player makes the same money, the only difference is how its paid out. 

If you love Bortles, he could do the same. Restructure his contract, so the 16.5 in dead gets spread out and they keep him as a back-up and mentor for a draft pick. What’s he going to do, say no? What team out there will pay him more and take him to be their starter?

Right now, injured Andrew Norwell is the big money miss. If they cut him before June 1 2019, the hit is 9M and dead is 25, if traded, the dead is 12M and cap savings is 4M. If he’s traded post 1 June, the dead is 3M, cap save is 13M; however, if he’s healthy and playing well, why trade? If he’s not, no one will take him. He, not Bortles, is the oh, crap. If the Jags are smart, they get him to redo his contract, to lessen the hit if he’s injured again next season.

AJ Bouye is another player who should rework a contract. He gives the Jags 9.5M cap savings by cut/trade, with 6M in dead money if cut before 1 June. 

Malik Jackson is among the top candidates of who’s most likely gone. Not only did he lose his starting gig this season and his production was low, the Jags will save 11M be removing him, dead money is 4M. 

These three players will allow the Jacksonville to save 25M in cap space, but racks up 25.5 in dead money. Which basically equates to a loss of 1.5M of cap space, better than 7, but not the best way to get there.

Tons of dead money is a bad thing because it means the front office is picking bad players, or making bad contracts or have bad coaches. None of which is a good, but it’s easier to fix the bad contract part than the other two.

It now becomes about releasing players who get more than counterparts at their position group and keeping the dead money far less than cap savings.

Calais Cambell, who spent a lot of 2018 on the injury list, would save them 9.5M compared to the 5M in dead money. We want the Mayor, but this article is about cold hard numbers, not love in our hearts. 

Marcel Darius is the must-cut player, though. His production was down and by removing him they save 10.585M with no dead. That’s a big un.

Tashaun Gibson would save them 7.45M, with 1.6M dead. Barry Church is a must cut. Besides his London behavior, he was benched and that’s because there’s no dead money and 6.250M cap savings.

If you add up Campbell, Darius and Church, that’s 20.835 in CAP with only 5M in dead. These three make sense. If they cut/trade the players from up above and add in these, that’s 15.335 in cap for 2019, which factors in the dead money.

Obviously, those six will need to be replaced (if gone), but 15, plus 13 (new cap #), plus 11 (carry over) minus the 7, gives them 20M cap space (this is with 12M deducted for rookies and accounts for the dead money) to play with on replacing 6 players. 

How do you feel about the below players who spent almost every week on the injury report?:

Brandon Linder – 6M savings, no dead.

Jeremey Parnell – same

AJ Cann will be a FA. 

Abry Jones would be 4M savings, no dead. That’s an additional 16M cap savings with no dead on players who they may or may not want back. The money is there to pay them.

There are several lesser players who could be released/traded for more savings, but they’re all in the hundred thousand ranges, not millions. 

This draft will be crucial to some of the names in this article. If they can pick up some top talent, why pay Church if there’s another safety out there for way less? Or, even an ex-CB like Richard Sherman who will swap to S?

The defense and OL is top heavy and it’s where cuts need to be made. The Jaguars aren’t in serious money trouble, they’ll have enough to sign a vet QB even someone like Joe Flacco if he works with them on a contract, pay most everyone they want back, minus ones they shouldn’t, sign some FA’s and pay the draft class. 

Flacco, if you want him, could take his “guaranteed” money as bonuses which can be spread out over the life of the contract, so they can give him a 44M bonus and spread that out over five years (even if it’s really only for two). It would require several players to restructure, but it can be done.

In case you didn’t know, teams have to spend their cap in a revolving four year window, it’s not as if you can escape spending it, it’s just a matter when.

Bottom line, the Jaguars are only screwed if they can’t bring in younger talent who costs less, which points to the front office. So far, they’ve done a fairly good job of being creative with the money, so don’t worry Jags fans. 

 

For Justin Simmons, the NFL is an affirmation of his hard work and faith.

* Below is a repost from my time writing about the Broncos. The Simmons are such a great family, I wanted to send it out again. Besides, you never know, he could move back to his home state and become a Jaguar.*

This article started out about Justin Simmons and football, but what was unearthed grew it into far more. It became not just a tale of his love of football, but a tale of two sets of couples and their love for each other. Of a son learning from his parents about loyalty and commitment to both football and family.

It began with an interracial couple fighting the odds

Kimberly and Victor Simmons first met at West Virginia Wesleyan. He was there for football, she for a degree. Even though she moved on to Marshall University to get her MBA, the two stayed in touch through old-fashioned love letters. Their long distance relationship of poetry turned into marriage, three sons, and a winding journey to the NFL.

For them, being an interracial couple required more than just a great love, it took deep faith and strength.

A star is born

That faith, not just in each other and their religion, but family itself was passed on to their sons, Justin, Nate (DB-WV Wesleyan) and Tristan (DB-Arizona Western).

After the Simmons finished college, they moved to Manassas, Virginia where Victor did ten years in the Air Force Reserves. This is where their sons were born and Justin honed his leaping skills. Kim shares a story of him loving his bouncy chair so much as a toddler, he’d try to reach the top of the door frame. They’d raise the height to keep him from being so crazy; however, he’d just try harder. 

Those powerful legs built as a youth, can be seen on Sundays. It was no fluke in New Orleans he blocked that kick–the little Tigger has been practicing his jump skills since he was a toddler.

Virginia was also where he first played football. His keen feel for the game was seen even as a child. During one play when he was eight, while running for a TD, a faster kid chased him down. As he was about to be tackled, he did a quick side step leaving the defender eating dirt. When asked after the game how did he know to juke, his reply was, “I saw his shadow.”

Athletic genes run in the family, from an Uncle who was a pro basketball player, to his father and a grandfather who played football in NJ. Back then, it was tough for blacks to get a chance to play, but he persevered. Showing grit and determination is another Simmons’ family trait.

Kimberly was born in Canton, Ohio, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It gives one pause to consider someday Justin may have family members from there, watching him don a gold jacket and no doubt give a well thought out speech.

His gift was seen at a young age 

When asked if any play or game gave an indication Justin may be good enough to make it at a higher level, his parents said it was during a Jr. Pee Wee Super Bowl game in Orlando, Florida. They lost against an Indiana team, but Justin made plays beyond his age. It was the catalyst that set the future in motion.

Unless you grew up in Florida, especially along the east coast, it’s tough to describe to outsiders how sports dominate the culture. Some states like Texas, know about the football side, or states like Indiana and basketball, but in Florida, minus under 32° sports, it’s all sports, all the time.

Not only does the wildlife flourish in Florida, but so many athletes do as well, that it’s tough for most to get noticed. This is especially true at small schools like Sandalwood, Trinity or Martin County. The athletes who perform extraordinarily and make it into top colleges, worked harder to gain the spotlight than their peers in other states.

The right mentor

This is why Victor Simmons moved his family to sleepy Stuart. He figured if his sons could make it in Florida, they could make it anywhere. The NFL wasn’t really a dream, though. Because of his slender build, basketball was more of a reality, especially since his team went to State. It wasn’t until his sophomore year did his defensive backs coach, Gary Blackney, say he had a shot.

It was Blackney who taught Justin about playing the DB position well, and to watch game film. Simmons often discusses the importance of film study as a tool to improve reading offenses, quarterbacks and the opposing team’s tendencies. Peyton Manning would have liked having Simmons as a teammate, his cerebral approach would have found a kindred rewind connoisseur.

Gary Blackney told Justin his grades would need to be more of a focus if he wanted a chance to play in college. That carrot motivated Simmons to do better in school, a message he shares with school-aged kids. While Justin knows the importance of talking to kids about education and hard work to achieve their dreams, he also feels he needs to use his standing to spread the word of God. His faith is part of the fabric of who he is and his family.

Philanthropy is a given

His history of giving back and learning to be a leader, began in high school when he was a Best Buddy and a Safe School Ambassador. The former was teaming up with special needs kids and taking them under his wing. The latter was mentoring children how to stand up to bullying. Being involved in his community lead to he and a friend starting an Athletes in Action chapter at Boston College. He also belonged to the Student-Athlete Advisory Council.

While in high school, he learned how to balance family, school, church, giving back and sports. That’s always an issue for most athletes, finding the right combo and right hierarchy of what’s most important and fulfilling those commitments. Kids who make it to the NFL, rarely do so in a vacuum. At home, there’s someone pushing them, believing in them, making sacrifices and these parents or grandparents are just as important to each player’s success.

Overcoming the odds

Simmons has always been a coachable kid who learned from his dad how to “cheat well”. That doesn’t imply being a Patriot*, it means learning to find ways around what you don’t do well. To mask the less, with the more. Simmons isn’t quick off the line, but he’s fast once he gets going. He might not get to point ‘A’ stride for stride with a slot, but Simmons will out think or out jump him.

Some of it came from years of baseball and basketball, but mostly from being on both sides of the ball. Simmons grew up playing wide receiver and on defense. It helped him become so good, so quickly in the NFL. His 70 tackles, 2 interceptions and a sack, while being a back-up in the No Fly Zone, wasn’t from lucky play.

As a former WR, he knows more than most how to read routes, to know where the QB is going and anticipate. Cheat well. Add in his length, plus Tigger legs and you’ve got a special talent.

He’s around the ball all the time. He’s a guy that has a high football IQ. He’s long and tall, so when he’s in those windows, he’s made two or three interceptions that nobody else could make out there because of the height and the length. He’s a very smart player that we’re counting on this year.”-Vance Joseph

Mind over matter

To truly get a feel for how mentally tough Justin is, understanding his Boston College challenge will give you a better idea. As often happens with coaching changes, the one that ‘brung ya’ sometimes leaves and you’re left without a dance partner to cover your back. That’s exactly what happened to Simmons when the coach who recruited him, departed for a better opportunity.

When Don Brown became the new Defensive Coordinator, he and his staff wanted to clean house. Not just remove players, but free up scholarships for the players they selected. To achieve this, he rode the guys hard. Turned practice into basic training, military style. It worked. Players left in droves.

Not For Justin, though. He refused to cave and be gotten rid of. He kept ahead of that shadow of doom. He worked hard and made it through a tough, emotional year. He survived Brown chewing him out during a nationally televised game, and he played through injury in another. For his perseverance, he became part of the #1 pass defense in the NCAA. Even in college, Simmons was, ‘No Fly’. The end result was he and Brown became good friends.

The women in his life give him strength

Through his high school and tough college days, he’s had two women in his life who have been there. His mom, Kim, the “silent glue” as Victor calls her and his wife, Taryn.

Taryn Simmons was a 1,000 point basketball player and on the homecoming court in high school. The two parted ways physically and scholastically when she became a Seminole and he a Screaming Eagle. Fall games must have been fun since BC and FSU are ACC rivals.

Like his parents before him, Justin weathered a college induced long distance relationship and it, too evolved into marriage. Although they’re often still a part from the traveling and many obligations that comes with being in the NFL, he has great mentors to lean on for guidance.

Taryn and Justin often speak together at seminars to give wisdom on dating, marriage and relationships using their experience with God and each other’s life stories. Taryn is also who holds down the fort. She keeps the thousands of little details that NFL players need to deal with, off Justin’s plate. There’s more to being in the NFL than shoulder pads. All the game film he talks about watching, is able to happen because he has his partner carrying some of the load.

As far as the woman who gave him life, Simmons’ mom once watched her baby during a divisional championship game, be loaded into an ambulance after he landed on his head. At the ER, they sawed his helmet off. His younger brother Nate was still playing, so Victor had to stay for him while Kim coped at the hospital.

Justin Simmons pop warner
(photo courtesy of the Simmons family)

A higher power

Faith, a constant in this tight knit family, kept them going. Kim may be the silent glue, but for ‘#TeamJesus,’ a higher power is the motivator. Even though Justin heard a ‘pop’ during that neck injury, he didn’t panic, and mom and son survived the scare. Steel spines indeed. The team lost without him, however.

When an athlete comes from a college without a ton of NFL players, and he doesn’t check all the boxes for that position, questions abound over what round he’ll go. His family figured he’d be a late second round, early third because of his record combine and pro day, but as he fell, they got nervous. Dad stepped outside to pace when the call came in. Had no idea it was John Elway.

When asked if they had any clue their son would get chosen by the (then) best secondary on the planet, the answer was a laughing, “NO”! They still are shocked it happened, Denver had not called or interviewed him. It’s still new to them, having Justin not only play for the No Fly Zone, but see him on TV making interceptions.

Since he had worked out for the Cowboys, the Simmons’ family thought it would be Dallas drafting Justin. Jerry Jones may have indeed wanted him as the third pick in the fourth, but Elway out scooped Jones.

From feeling anxious about falling to day two, to being selected by the best secondary in football, the Simmons family ran the full gauntlet of emotions. Agony to ecstasy in one phone call. Not long after, came a text from TJ Ward, making it even more surreal.

The will to achieve what the mind can conceive 

He admits during his rookie season, he was focused on trying to stay afloat, learning as much as he could about football and not mess up. As he enters his sophomore season, he says he’s more confident in what he’s doing during a play and why. Based on his off season of wreaking havoc against both quarterbacks, it appears he’s made the leap with flying colors. He wasn’t shoddy at it as a rookie, either.

Want to know why Justin Simmons has been succeeding and will continue to? He has every tool in the box. He’s learned courage and commitment from his parents, has a strong and loving partner, has the will to achieve what his mind can conceive, and he believes.

There is something to the phrase so many athletes use: faith, family, football. It’s real. It’s powerful. Together it’s powerfully real and it is what drives Justin Simmons, husband, son, free safety for the Denver Broncos. 

 

Hit or be Hit: 16 reasons why the Jags struggled.

Hit or be Hit: 16 reasons why the Jags struggled.

There’s been lots of angst among the fans about who to blame, who to fire, etc. but, sometimes it isn’t one thing, it’s a whole lot of things. However, it’s easy to look at this team with the same coaches from last season and almost the same defensive roster and think, what happened?

Some missteps could be seen, but oftentimes there’s not much you can do to fix them. I’ve listed the misstep or mistake or unforeseen circumstance that has lead us here.

16 reasons why the Jags struggled.

  1. Blake Bortles. For his team friendly deal, they really had no choice but to keep him because of the free agents and their price tags that were available. Do you see Case Keenum being an upgrade at the same price? They could’ve drafted a rookie, but that would’ve for sure sent them back. Look around, how are they doing? Granted, the Jags are 3-5, doing as poorly as the drafted teams; however, who saw that coming?
  2. If the defense gave up after the offense stumbled week 3, then that’s on coaching and the fact we keep seeing such a disconnect in the linebacking and secondary goes to coaching. But it also goes to losing Paul Posluszny. No, he didn’t play a lot, but he was a leader and when he was out there, the defense knew what they were doing.
  3. Myles Jack was moved inside to Poz’s spot and there hasn’t been the same production. We’re missing an edge guy. Leon Jacobs hasn’t filled that role, Telvin Smith, either. There’s a void at the LB position that’s affecting the entire defense. An unseen outcome?
  4. Losing Aaron Colvin hurt, too because that changed the DB dynamic, but that was a cap issue and one they thought DJ Hayden and Tyler Patmon could fill. Unseen? Maybe.
  5. Last season, Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue and Malik Jackson had sacks because of two reasons: the DB’s playing man, shutting down the WR’s/TE’s and a legit edge guy that made Olines change their assignments. The lines losing their gap integrity allowed those three to barrel through.
  6. An offense that kept them on the field too long, lead to injuries and apathy. This should have been seen once they realized they had no receiving stars. That’s a front office fail.
  7. Too much zone because of injuries. The defense has seen DJ Hayden miss weeks, Tre Herndon, AJ Bouye and Tyler Patmon and a time or two Jalen Ramsey was also on the injury report.
  8. Man takes far more energy than zone. Zone takes more communication and trust. Trust that comes from spending lots of time together as a unit, not having a hodgepodge. That’s the issue Jacksonville has in the back half – there has been no continuity which leads to good communication and trust. The most crucial elements needed to play zone.
  9. Tashaun Gibson and Barry Church have been silent, Gibson was injured weeks ago and while he’s not on the injury report, he could be dealing with a power zapping ailment. Church showed he’s no longer invested in the team after his London outing.
  10. Jacksonville’s claim to fame was how fast they played. Have you seen that this season? No, but that could go to the injuries. It’s easier to play man when you’ve got a 5th DB out there, not a linebacker in coverage.
  11. Right now, you’ve got each player kind of doing his own thing on each play, a combo of man/zone and it’s not working. That goes to coaching.
  12. As far as offense, beyond Bortles, they lost their star WR in Marquis Lee and then their number one running back and number one tight end. Not until Carlos Hyde was brought in were any of those holes filled. That’s on Doug Marrone or Dave caldwell or Tom Coughin. One them thought these three holes were ok. It wasn’t.
  13. When you’ve been through four left tackles and the remaining O-Lineman are the walking wounded, bad things happen to mediocre quarterbacks. Add no weapons and I think even good QB’s would fail. To me though, broken record here, the lack of tight ends was the worst fail of all. Against the Colts was the first time we saw just what has been missing.
  14. The Jags lost their power back, and three tight ends, but didn’t use Tommy Bohanon more. That’s on Nate Hackett. A run-first team without the run needs a FB. In addition, a team built for the run, put a passing game on Bortles and then gave him no weapons.
  15. With all that said, the D-Line has been the most disappointing. Sure, sacks are splashy, but stopping the run is crucial and they’ve been failing at it. If teams can run the ball, they don’t turn the ball over, they can win. Is Campbell dealing with an injury most of the season why? If so, what isn’t Taven Bryan playing more?
  16. One or more of those four should be doing something and they’re not. Name one player who week after week is a guy OC’s fear. Granted, with the backend not doing a great job, it’s tougher to get sacks, but maybe if they made bigger pushes, they’d force QB’s to dump the ball quicker, setting up mistakes.

How can this be fixed? The easy answer is, stay healthy. That’s what the team had going their way last season. Since that’s not feasible, it goes to coaching and players taking responsibility for playing their guts out.

Maybe that’s the real culprit. It’s been said the easiest way to not get hurt, is to not play, to not get hurt. Yes, that needs to be re-read. The pursuer is the one hitting instead of being hit, having more control. More control equals less punishment and injuries.

Right now, the players and coaches are getting punched in the mouth from being passive. It’s time this team got proactive, accepted what’s going on, get on the same page and go HIT SOMEBODY. It’s simple, but football is about HIT or BE HIT. Fix that and we could salvage this season.

The Jaguars need a leader…or three.

I love Ray Lewis. Yes, I know he may have killed two people, but I’m talking about Ray as the football player and analyst. I watch, Inside the NFL, just to hear what he says because he always, ALWAYS imparts wisdom. This article is based on things he said, that got me thinking.

The man knows defenses even though he’s biased towards the Ravens, but he knows what it takes to be dominant. Over the last few weeks he’s said a few things and I’m cobbling them together, along with something I heard here.

Will lead off with what I heard. The first deals with the offense and that is Doug Marrone is old-school ground and pound and doesn’t know how to deal with an offense based on having to pass. Considering he got conservative against NE* in the play-offs, that seems true.

Is he overruling Nate Hackett? It could be that the reason we’ve seen some bi-polar games week to week and even inside a game may be due to this tug-of war. Which means Marrone needs to let his OC do his job or Hackett needs to lead by telling him to piss off and let him do his job.

The ground and pound does a hole in it because why not use Tommy Bohanon more to help Yeldon? Especially in the red zone. He’s been MIA in the game plans. Also, (broken record here) but who has a run game without any Tight Ends? These guys can block and with the OL we saw, they need all they help they could get.

Is Dave Caldwell or Marrone not seeing this or are they blinded to only wanting to use in-house guys? But they pulled guys off the street for the practice squad and then elevated them. Moving on because no is asking them these questions.

Defense. Overheard that the secondary isn’t communicating and there’s no trust among them, so each player isn’t doing just his job. I believe this. Boy, do I ever. The fact that the secondary had no qualms going out drinking until four AM and Ramsey didn’t go with them, says a lot.

Ramsey also pointed to the locker room when asked about issues. I read a coach’s quote recently (sorry can’t remember the coach) who said that one guy can disrupt an entire locker room, drag it down. It would be too easy to say it was Donte Fowler; however, he wasn’t at the bar in London. Maybe they didn’t invite him because he is an issue, but I don’t believe any of the DL was there.

Which circles back around to: who’s the leader? Barry Church and Bouye brought along rookies on their foolish outing. An outing that says, who cares we have a must win game that could move us up? Who cares if we dump large quantities of alcohol into our bodies a day before a game and right after flying for hours? Both dehydrate and can lead to injuries. What did we see in London?

Members of the drinking crew needing trainers. This is after a, come to Jesus meeting, held by Calais Campbell. Obviously, it didn’t work showing he’s not the leader. Or maybe he is, but not to the linebackers and secondary. Nor a few members of the offense.

SO, here we are, 3-5 and it doesn’t appear anyone is leading this ship. Not Bortles or Campbell or the coaches.

Speaking of which, if they didn’t go get a TE, are they thinking the season is over? If so, why not bench all the drinking crew for a game? He benched Fournette for missing a team photo. If they think the season isn’t over, then what message did he give to the team to instill fear and discipline?

Moving on to the secondary, the one piece of the team we thought was rocking it. If there’s no communication, if the four aren’t trusting one another to do their jobs, how is anything going to get better if there’s no leader?

The members of Denver’s once vaunted No Fly Zone often remarked how they knew how each others’ thoughts, they had such great communication and that was key. Sometimes teams find the right four guys and right coach- Aqib Talib, TJ Ward, Chris Harris, Darian Stewart and DB coach Joe Woods had it in 2015. They lost two of their members, the coach and the magic.

Is the problem with the wrong four guys in Jax or the wrong coach? Jalen Ramsey is the nearest to Talib, so it’s up to him to forget his age, kick some ass and take names because the team is dependent upon it.

Ray Lewis also said that during a game, you need that vocal leader to grab a guy and give him hell for not doing his job. Two is even better, he and Ed Reed instilled fear. That bled over to the entire defense.

On offense, you need a QB who also does that. Watch all the micc’d up films, the QB’s are going off on their guys, even mild-mannered Drew Brees is seen losing it and Peyton Manning was so fearsome, some of his teammates were petrified to talk to him. Guess what? His teams won, and won and won.

It’s (past) time for Jacksonville’s front office to look around and find the answers. I’ve seen what lax leadership at the top can do to an entire team. It needs to draft a QB who isn’t a laid-back beach guy (that makes me sad to write). They need to draft guys who eat, sleep and dream football. Young men who burn for football.

I asked Kareem Hunt before he was drafted if there was anything he didn’t like about being a running back, such as getting hit all the time. He replied that he loved everything because it all went to football and he loved football. You can’t take one anyway, you have to accept it all. His eyes burned with that answer, his passion was evident and not a canned reply. That’s what you need.

Guys with chips on their shoulders. Remember, Hunt was the overlooked back because he went to a smaller school.

Who the Jaguars are missing is Paul Posluszny

As I write this, the Jags blew their assignments after Eric Ebron scored and can be seen “discussing” what happened. So, the issue hasn’t been fixed, there is a communication problem and until that is fixed, this season is toast and maybe next one, too.

Just saw another blown coverage, this time because of a linebacker. As an aside, the Colts are using three tight ends which has steam coming from my ears.

A team shows its true character when they lose, how they react to losing. Do they rally together as a team, don the three musketeers motto or fall apart? Teams with good leaders, put their heads down, pull up their socks, blocks out the outside world and works harder (and stays out of bars).

I truly hope this team can bond during this game, pull off a win and show grit and leadership.

 

AFCS Week 10 Game Previews – stats, ref crews, injury reports, QB charts

AFCS Week 10 Game Previews

The Texans have a bye, so this week there are only two games in this AFCS Week 10 Game Previews. To say that the Jaguars must win and the Titans need to lose is an understatement. There will be no hope of winning a play off spot without wins throughout. If the Texans could stumble, that would best. Duh.

Patriots* (7-2) vs Titans (4-4) CBS

This game is in Nashville giving the Titans a slim chance because the refs should be more fair.

Referee Crew

patriots vs titans ref crew

Notable injury is to Gronk, but Sony Michel is back, so these two are washes. I’ve seen different reports on if Gronk is out, but it’s early, so will wait for an official statement. Also, no one ever believes their injury reports, so take them with a grain of salt.

An already beat-up Marcus Mariota will be down his tackle, which is where NE* will attack.

It’s tough muster up any kind of excitement for this game, I can’t stand either team and despise Brady*. How can anyone cheer for NE*? At this point, the AFC PO roads go through KC, LA (yes, said LAR because they could be the dark horse) and NE*. For Jacksonville, if  they were to win out, Titans winning just this game, wouldn’t be horrid to help knock NE* down.

KC is the team Jax would least want to face since they would have to play there in a tie. A tie vs NE* means Jax at home. Since winning the division is key, that means beating Pitt and so the same applies.

Moving on, the Titans defense has a chance because their defense (on a good day) isn’t bad and Tom Brady* beyond ten yards is looking suspect. His accuracy is very off this season; however, his receivers have been helping him out and he finds ways to pick defenses a part even though the zip isn’t there – like Peyton his ending years. His mind wins over strength.

Tennessee is 6th vs the pass, Jax gave the league the blueprint to beat them and the Titans may have the talent to do something similar in their house. They’re really good vs the rush and with Sony Michel back that may be key. Combine that with having 20 sacks and they have a chance. The way to beat Brady* is get in his face and bump him (I’d sack him, but if they touch him harder than a hip bump, they’ll get flagged).

When it comes to Mariota, his passing charts aren’t stellar, but he’s been hurt. New England is 28th vs the pass which could help him out; however, he’s got two hurt WR’s and a tackle out.

New England is 21st vs the run, but they’ve only allowed 3 TD’s and that’s big since Tennessee has five rushing TD’s and Mariota only has six passing. This offense has been one more of opportunity than a well-oiled machine.

When it comes to NE*, they’re 8th in passing and 9th in rushing. They also create turnovers, 11 interceptions, something the Titans don’t do well, they only have six.

Keys for Tennessee to get a win:

  1. hope their secondary finds a way to cover well enough giving them time to jam Brady*.
  2. they can run the ball
  3. Mariota runs

Keys for NE*

  1. contain Mariota
  2. play Patriot* football

Here’s the thing, NE* isn’t a speedy team, they beat you with their play calling. They love their 21 personnel and matching up Patterson (who is a true flex player) on the slowest linebacker. I don’t think TN is quite there, yet in speed and discipline to beat NE*.

Jaguars (3-5) vs Colts (3-5) CBS

Referee Crew

jaguars vs colts ref crew

The Jags injury report is smaller than it’s been in a while, but after a bye week, it should be. It is disconcerting that both TE’s (neither have more than a combined single game of experience) is on here. I just don’t understand their blasé attitude towards having no TE’s.

The good news is: no OL! Can they stay healthy is the biggest question because with a healthy line, we see good Bortles, without, we see the turnover machine. Combine that with two power backs and we could witness what was envisioned before the season was wrecked with injuries.

Meanwhile, the surging Colts are still dealing with injuries and a few of their players go off a week, only to pop back up the next. What’s to note is although they got Jack Doyle back, their other TE’s are out.

Ok, here’s some brass tacks: Jax run defense stinks, it’s allowing over 125 yards a game and almost a TD per outing. Their bread and butter was in the passing game with AJ Bouye. They were stingy with yards per pass and air TD’s.

These two teams on offense are polar opposites and if Bouye was playing, I’d say this could be a strong win. Also, since Indy is middle of the pack stopping run yards (but even with Jax in allowing TD’s), this would be a good match-up for a strong run first team.

However, do we know how Fournette and Hyde will do? How healthy is the OL, really? That’s what this game will come down to: can Jacksonville be the pass defending juggernaut and Fournette be at 2017 form?

If those two are yeses, then Jax could be on the receiving end of a win.

Must add this. Jalen Ramsey has to be a leader out there. If the DB’s aren’t communicating, missing assignments, he needs to channel some Ray Lewis and get in their face. Someone needs to be the leader of the secondary and it for dang sure isn’t Barry, drink until 4am, Church.

Looking at Indy, they’ve really shored up their pass defense which isn’t good news for Bortles if that OL can’t give him the time he needs. To me, I’d try to come out passing because Indy will be expecting the run.

Test them. See if they prepared for a heavy run defense and maybe Bortles can surprise them because that is going to be crucial if the Jags’ secondary isn’t dominant. Jacksonville can’t be spending seven minutes a drive for a rush TD and Luck throws a TD in two minutes.

The way to stop Indy is for the secondary to play man as often as they can buying time for the DL to sack him, hit him. They’ve got to take away the pass game to even things out.

It would seem prudent to play a safety high and stop the short pass which is where getting DJ Hayden could be a huge help (but keep reading). Luck is among the worst at air yards, Indy’s dink and dunk game is the short pass which is averaging 6.4 air yards. The guy throws 4 TD’s in a game with 156 yards.

He’s a surgeon in reading the field and knowing exactly where to go with the ball. That’s the bad news to leaving one safety, he lulls defenses into playing short and then lobs one deep.

Based on that, Jax will need to get very creative in the looks they show Luck. They’ve got to confuse him.

Even though Jax stinks at run stopping, better that than allowing him to pass. Speaking of which, clearly he’s a GOD in the RZ and that is what must be stopped, letting him get there.

I debated posting Bortles passing charts because they’re pitiful, but they include his running and that should be made a part of the game plan. RPO the snot out of them today. Oh, have to add that the receivers drop a lot and that does affect his numbers.

Keys to winning for Jags:

  1. defense: white on rice for the receivers
  2. DL needs to get in his face early and often
  3. OL needs to block, give BB confidence to throw

Keys to winning for Indy:

  1. pick on injured Telvin Smith
  2. pick on Patmon
  3. play press because Jax receivers rarely get separation

From the Jax coaches, we need to see some aggressive play calling out there. The season is on the line, go for broke.

AFCS Week 8 Game Previews – stats, referee crews, passing charts, injury reports

AFCS Week 8 Game Previews

Both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Indianapolis Colts have bye weeks, so this preview is only the Texans and Titans. Unfortunately for the Jags, based on stats and watching the two teams, it looks like the Texans will win in this AFCS Week 8 Game Preview.

Texans (5-3) vs Broncos (3-5) CBS

Referee Crew

Texans week 9 ref crew

The Texans are still beat-up, but somehow still find ways to win. Clowney has been on a tear lately, so his injury hurts. Pun intended.

The Broncos have a couple of key injuries that Watson should be able to use and tear the Broncos up.

The Broncos operate efficiently off their run game and while Lindsey has been their bell cow, Freeman hasn’t been a schlub, but add him with a banged up Janovich and more just got dumped on Case Keenum.

That’s a bad thing if you know stats and his is ranked 29th for TD-INT ratio. The last thing Denver needs is more throwing from their $25M man. In addition, they’re down a starting and back-up CB and their starting SS.

For the Texans, their secondary is also banged up, but Keenum shouldn’t strike fear, he’s thrown an INT in every game he’s played, ranking him dead last in that dubious category.

Denver is third in rushing, Houston 5th; however, the Broncos have 9 rushing TD’s compared to the Texans’ 4. That’s the ball game right there. Keep them out of the red zone where they score and game over.

Houston is 15-7 in TD-INT, so Denver’s secondary is going to have a long day. Strangely, the Texans’ defense is the exact same. They’ve allowed 15 passing TD’s and intercepted 7.

Bottom line, this is a bad match-up for the Broncos because Houston has only allowed two rushing TD’s, the very motor Denver must have to win. In fact, their OC this week said he wants to run the ball even more.

In addition, Demaryius Thomas was recently dumped and one can imagine he’s not too happy and won’t mind pumping the Texans with everything he knows which is everything.

Sure, the Broncos know all about DT, but who are they going to put on him? He may be a little slower in his step, but he’s good route runner, he’s big and if they cover him, that’s an open guy elsewhere.

Denver is ranked 28th against the run and 16th against the pass. With their secondary gasping for breath, doubtful that number increases. This is bad news for Jaguar fans who need a Texans loss.

No comment on these passing charts because they tell the story of who’s safer with the ball and maybe a harbinger of the day to come.

Titans (3-4) vs Cowboys (3-4) Monday 8:15 ESPN

Referee Crew

The Titans look pretty healthy sad to say.

Cowboys are a little banged up, also sad to say.

This is another game the Jags need some help with a loss by the Titans. Fortunately, this one seems more doable than the Texans game. While Dallas will be short-handed, their secondary, which is second against the pass is healthy.

They’ve only allowed 8 passing TD’s. Not to be left behind, TN has only allowed 9, so the passing defenses on these two teams are evenly matched.

When it comes to stopping the run, both teams are also close – TN has allowed 3, Dallas, 4. Both teams are also behind the curve when it comes to giveaways. Each are in the negative.

Which means this game will truly come down to who turns the ball over, least.

When it comes to total offense, both teams are way down in the dregs of the awful. Both teams are 30 and 31st in passing – they like to pass to the other team. Prescott is 50-50.

Tennessee is worse, but they had Gabbert for a couple of games and a hurt Mariota.

The only difference that separates these teams is Zeke Elliot and even he isn’t burning up the charts. I like to use TD stats over yards because who cares if you can throw and run between the 30’s if when you get in the red zone, you get a FG or zip?

Some teams have a lot of empty yards, so it’s the points that’s worth looking at. The cowboys have five rushing TD’s and Tennessee has three. Kind of pitiful.

In case you were wondering, both teams have missed two field goals and made all their XP’s, so the kicking game may not be a factor.

Neither QB is tearing it up, but with the game in Dallas and Dak doing better with the ball than Mariota, the edge goes to the Cowboys.

 

 

Jacksonville Jaguars notes, news for 10/22/2018

Jacksonville Jaguars notes, news for 10/22/2018

When the Jaguars are in the national spotlight, it’s rarely for not being great or horrible. There doesn’t seem to be much coverage without a high or low. Here’s some Jacksonville Jaguars notes, news for 10/22/2018

News/Notes: In a stunning move, if stunning means not shocking at all, the Jacksonville Jaguars decided to start Blake Bortles vs the Eagles in London. Here’s why they did that in no particular order of reasons:

  • After the game, head coach Doug Marrone said he benched Borltes because of turnovers, etc. Cody Kessler got a TD, but he also turned the ball over. And sacked four times with his rock feet. That was the death knell.
  • Even though it’s a Sunday game, it’s a short week. That’s wasted days of prepping a “new” QB. There’s more than just practice – starting QB’s have more obligations on their plates like press conferences, individual interviews, etc.
  • They’ve yet to play Carlos Hyde. If he can be what we hope, he can help Bortles go back to run-first and make the play-action work. Part of that, combined with an injured Oline, is needing a QB who can run.
  • Which brings up the RPO, tough to sell those when one prong is having a QB who is a threat with his feet.
  • Locker room issues. Teams with hall of fame quarterbacks have temporality benched their guys, but their teams still knew who was the boss.
  • It sends a message to the team they give up, and the season is most likely over. Sticking with your starter says you still believe.
  • If they had a first round draft pick, then swapping mid season makes sense, but even if that were the case, doing so before London, where Bortles has three wins, isn’t when to do it.

Add all that up and while fans may not like it, thinking one TD drive by Kessler would make things all better, wasn’t the way to go. For now. How things end in London or even in Indy, point at a better time to make such a big decision – still don’t see that being a change for Kessler.

Swapping quarterbacks isn’t something any team takes lightly, especially when doing so for a QB who had a year of starts, hasn’t shown he’s better.


Roster Move: The Jaguars released Jamal Charles when they promoted linebacker Nick DeLuca from the practice squad. The ink was barely dry on his contract. Kind of bummed he’s gone, he’s a great guy.

Doug Marrone Presser: The bottom line, until they get a better turnover ratio, nothing else matters. With hat said, he said it’s up to him to guide the team, push communicating, have all the players pull in the same way. They need everyone to understand they’r win the same boat, not little groups.

That comment to me, means there’s some cliques going on which happens on every team based on position groups. However, in this circumstance and based on multiple reports, it seems to be more factions inside the defensive line. Anyway, Marrone said it’s up to him to show the coaches and players the same vision. Make sure he has been clear.

Players want someone to show the the way. Speaking of which, they had a players meeting only that is was discussed. Vision, pulling together, etc.

When it came to assigning blame, he said most of the time it’s not one reason why for a mistake – they look at everything, can accept beating sometimes, but if it’s something covered in practice, not a new look, then blame is there.

7% chance of winning a game with -2 in turnovers which went into the decision of sitting Bortles. However, when starters are named, there’s no splitting reps because it’s too tough. He doesn’t believe in splitting reps.He never said anyone was on a short leash, not sure where social media got he said it, it was the opposite. He said that if you start, the coaches show they have confidence in the player.

Payne is week to week, Patmon waiting on complete tests, pushing most on the injury report to play vs the Eagles.

All in all, Marrone talked a long time, said the right things, but said nothing at all. He normally gives pressers that drops some football knowledge. This was just damage control.

More Notes: If I was in that press room, the first question I’d ask is: is there any plan to sign an experienced tight end from another team? It’s understandable in his first game, Grinnage would be overwhelmed (which he was), but that doesn’t protect your QB, help the run game or add a pair of reliable hands.

Here’s another note I’m adding…it’s disappointing seeing the freak out from the fans. Three weeks ago, they loved the defense, Todd Wash, Nate Hackett, Doug Marrone and Blake “BOAT” Bortles.

Now, they hate them all, want them fired. Talk about whiplash. That’s what happens when fans get a taste of sniffing a SB, everything becomes about winning and the fun of just going to football games turns into, win or we’ll roast you on a spit. The worst ones though were some thinking the front office is racist for not bringing in Colin Kaepernick.

He hasn’t played in two years, isn’t in football shape and is out there focusing on saving the world, and suing the NFL.

What makes anyone think he wants to play anymore? To put in all the time and dedication to get back in shape, go to a new team, city, learn a new scheme and playbook?

Has anyone asked him lately if he wants to put all that in? And be prepared to take a lot of heat when he comes out rusty? To shoulder the burden of not being the football god some have built him up to be? If he were to play, again, he’d be toting a heavy load of meeting so many expectations. That doesn’t even address the media scrutiny.

And if he stumbles, will he be judged on that, or will any team be blasted for not giving him better Oline, RB, WR, TE option? Because right now, in Jacksonville, he’d be walking into a team with nothing to offer him to succeed.

That’s the reality. And FYI, I wrote an article back when he was still with SF about him and LB Brandon Marshall’s kneeling (which received approval from the Marshalls), so I’m not anti-Kaep.

Right now, no QB is walking into a place that is set for them to succeed or turn the team around. Know what could? A BYE. Time to heal and regroup. If the Line could all practice on a Wednesday or Thursday as full participants, that would help.

Carlos Hyde, Fournette and Yeldon being healed would help. A TE would help (broken record). And, wide receivers who don’t spend games flipping coins on who can get the most drops. Yes, Bortles needs everything perfect to succeed, but he’s our QB for now, so swapping him out and not addressing the other issues won’t fix anything.

Add in a week of rest for Calais Campbell, and all the other walking wounded on defense and we could see a different team on the 11th. One they had planned week one and watched go up in IR smoke. That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it because freaking out isn’t going to help.

Let’s all just take a breath, let the coaches do their thing, the players do theirs and then see where they are after the Colts game. As far as changing coaches mid-stream, see the previous sentence.

 

Game Predictions Week 6 – He Said/She Said

Last week, was not good for us, especially Jules. She only got 9 correct and Jay got 11 out of the 14 we picked. Here go with our Game Predictions Week 6 – He Said/She Said

1:00 Games

Buccaneers (2-2) vs Falcons (1-4) Fox

Jay: I don’t trust either defense. I have less distrust in Matt Ryan than in Jameis. Atlanta by a touchdown.

Jules: The Falcons are the most disappointing team this season. On paper, this should be an Atlanta win, it’s at home, Jameis Winston’s first game starting and Tampa’s defense is really bad; however, the Falcons’ defense is equally putrid. While both defenses are bad, I’m thinking (and this hurts to write), Ryan can put more points up than Winston.

Steelers (2-2-1) vs Bengals (4-1) CBS

Jay: this is a coin flip game that I’m really excited to see. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ll take Cincinnati.

Jules: Then we have the Bengals are the most surprising good team. It feels so odd to chose Cincy over the Steelers, but I’m doing that.

Chargers (3-2) vs Browns (2-2-1) CBS

Jay: I think the Browns are stingy enough on defense, but I’ll take LA and live to regret it.

Jules: Philip Rivers is among the best quarterbacks getting no love, doubt that will change this week against a good defense. Los Angeles’s defense is missing Bosa and it’s why, along with kicking issues (again), for the 2 losses – but see a squeaker win (I blame the back-up kicker if they lose).

Bills (2-3) vs Texans (2-3) CBS

Jay: Houston is the better team on paper. Paper covers rocks. Take Houston.

Jules: as much as it pains me to say, think Houston wins, again. Neither team is very good, but the Bills are worse and this will be on the road for them. Plus, Watson is feeling more comfortable and that makes a big difference.

Bears (3-1) vs Dolphins (3-2) FOX

Jay: Bears. Next

Jules: Dolphins being 3-0 seemed like an illusion and it was. Bears aren’t complete, but they’re better than Miami…and tons better with Asweiler under center.

Cardinals (1-4) vs Vikings (2-2-1) FOX

Jay: Vikings. Next question please.

Jules: If the Vikes can’t pull this off, then tough to see their season ending well.

Colts (1-4) vs Jets (2-3) CBS

Jay: I’ll take the Colts because I think it will take 25 points to win this game and I don’t think the Jets can score 25 points.

Jules: Picking the Jets because a) the Colts have half their team injured and b) it’s in NJ.

Seahawks (2-3) vs Raiders (1-4) FOX (weird this game is at 1)

Jay: Seattle. In another agonizing defeat for the Raiders.

Jules: Seattle. Oakland has two things going for them – desperation and KISS wannabes.

Panthers (3-1) vs Redskins ( 2-2) FOX

Jay: Carolina in a game that’s closer than it should be.

Jules: Washington has a coaching problem and that’s not going to fix itself against a decent and rested Carolina team.

4:05 Game

Rams (5-0) vs Broncos (2-3) FOX

Jay: Snow is flying around in Denver. Will it slow down the Greatest Show On Surf?? I doubt it.

Jules: LA. When a team president has to go out and say he has confidence in his HC, a franchise is in trouble and Denver is drowning.

4:25 Games

Jaguars (3-2) vs Cowboys (2-3) CBS

Jay: Dallas. Bortles is 8-26 in road games. Low scoring, defensive affair. Have no faith in either team.

Jules: This game comes down to one thing – does Bortles have time? Jamal Charles and Ereck Flowers were added to this decimated offense that desperately needs more bodies. I don’t see Dallas’s offense being an issue even with a gimpy Jalen Ramsey. Jags win if the Oline can do its job.

Ravens (3-2) vs Titans (3-2) CBS

Jay: who are you Tennessee? Give us an identity please. We know who the Ravens are. I’ll take them by 3.

Jules: I guess some suit decided this game was worth national attention. I’m going to pick whomever plays the Titans every week, even if I’m not sure. But, I do believe Baltimore is better than Tennessee.

8:20 ESPN

Chiefs (5-0) vs Patriots (3-2)

Jay: Look for a lot of 21 personnel from the Pats. Michel is going to get 20 touches tonight. The Chiefs defense isn’t as bad as people think it is, but I think Tom makes a few big plays. I think that there’s a little book on Patrick Mahomes now. It’s a small one, and even if there is one, he has so many weapons around him, that he can hide some deficiencies. Look for NE to make him do it the long way on defense. I’ll take NE 34-31.

Jules: Games played in Foxboro are: 50% NE*, 15% refs, so any team going in there has a 35% chance of winning even if they’re 5-0. Both Denver and Jax had their games won, but their QB’s gave the games away. Tough to see even a diminished Brady* be as bad as them. The lone question is if NE*’s slow DB’s can keep up. I should say NE*, but I’m picking KC because I like losing these predictions.

Man vs Zone coverage, learn when to use one or both – Football 101

Anyone who has watched football has heard the terms: Man and Zone coverage. This article will try to explain what man and zone is and when/why one is used over the other.

Because Jacksonville’s base is a 4-3 defense (click here), that’s the formation below. Also, this is 101, so will keep it simple and focus more on what the DB’s do.

Zone vs Man.

Zone – The linebackers cover the intermediate zones, the safeties cover the deep zones and the Cornerbacks cover the flats. No matter the play or who comes into his zone, his job is to shut that guy(s) down.

Man is when a DB is to cover only one designated player. Jalen Ramsey mirroring Tyreek Hill could be a good example. Whether Hill lines up on the outside or slot, Ramsey is on him.

Zone takes smarts and good communication. If A.J. Bouye lets his receiver leave his zone, he has to trust that strong safety Barry Church knows to pick him up. We’ve all seen plays where the WR runs right by a CB and the safety is picking weeds. He wasn’t prepared to cover him.

When Ramsey and Bouye line up on the line of scrimmage across from the wide outs, and they stick to them white on rice, that’s man. Free safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. could be tasked with the slot (if there is one) or a third WR or a TE. Church could be assigned a running back or tight end. Sometimes two DB’s could be used on one guy (double coverage).

It’s important to know that once the ball is being carried or has been thrown, all assignments to go out the window and the DB/LB’s should go to the ball.

Teams can play both man and zone because they want the CB’s to play Man, but want the safeties in Zone. And in any play, the DB’s could show one look, but do another. But boy, they’ve got to be on the same page.

When to play man or zone

For teams with slow corners, it’s tough for them to play man against speedy WR’s, so they could be forced to play zone. Or a team doesn’t have two safeties good enough to cover a WR in their zone forcing the CB’s into man.

The play of the linebackers can also dictate. If the backers can shut down the center of the field, that can make the work of the DB’s easier and a coach has more choices.

If a team has decent DB’s and can pick, then they’ll decide on the play or the team. If a quarterback telegraphs, or doesn’t like to throw deep, or isn’t very accurate, they could choose man.

Say the team is KC who has speedy WRs and RB’s, and a QB with a great arm, it’ll have to be decided play by play. Needless to say, when a defense has to change back and forth, it can lead to mistakes and mental exhaustion. The DC and his assistants better be on full alert.

Above only addresses the secondary and not what happens with the linebackers in man and zone because this article would run 1500 words. Just know that how a team plays zone and/or man can be made easier if they have good linebackers.

Scouting Linebackers: Read what NFL Scouts want to see

Scouting Linebackers

In this NFL Scouting series, we will cover each position group. In the real report I used, there are pictures of the player(s) in various movements, with comments about each. In order to keep anonymity for the Scout, I’m only using the words, no photos, or the handwritten notes used except the ones typed during a game.

When scouting linebackers, not only do they put together these analyses, but visit games, watch film, critique them at the combine, any bowls and often host them at their facilities.

The reports are in-depth and beyond what the average fan would consider. These scouting reports gives the reader a chance to see inside the minds of what NFL general managers are looking for. Hopefully, this will help you watch the game with more detail and talk with knowledge.

Scouting Linebackers

Below were separate categories for different items they were interested in. Photos, hand written notes aren’t included except at the very bottom. What I found most interesting was for all the position groups, how the Linebacker has the least “requirements”.

  • Range
  • Angles
  • Zone coverage
  • Man coverage
  • Blitzer
  • Makes plays through trash
  • Vs inside run
  • Vs outside run

Overruns the Ball?

Tackling

  • Effectiveness
  • Explosion
  • Wrap up
  • Open field
  • Lunger

Pass

  • Coverage concept
  • Receiver awareness
  • Discipline
  • Movement
  • Back Pedal
  • Turns (hips)
  • Route recognition
  • Zone drop depth
  • Plant & close on ball
  • Fluidness in break

Mind/Body

  • Instincts
  • read & react
  • key & diagnose
  • coverage instincts
  • pad level
  • point of attack
  • physical can spill play
  • motor
  • block protection
  • slide off blocks
  • hand use/shed
  • ball skills
  • hands
  • stack & control blocker w hands
  • run with tight end?
  • knee bend
  • lateral movement
  • pursuit/closing speed
  • slide
  • redirect/change of direction
  • burst to close
  • pedal quickness
  • good/bad feet inline
  • clear feet
  • false steps
  • spot drop vs pattern read

Here are the notes I was allowed to share:

  • Player 1: ILB 6’2’’ 230 

Powerful legs.  Physical, tough kid.  Patient LB that reads his keys.  Not a burner and no sideline to sideline.   Good drop in zone coverage.  Could end up playing DE in passing downs.

  • Player 6: RB/ILB 5’11’’ 208 

Big legs, bruiser, and does not turn down a collision.  Lacks total breakaway speed.  Downhill both on O and D.  Good tackler.  Good lateral quicks.

  • Player 7: OLB/TE 6’3’’ 225 

Skinny frame, skinny legs.  I don’t see him putting his hand in the ground in college.  Fast, high motor.  Average athlete, questionable strength.

  • Player 8: ILB 6’3’’ 217 

Thick legs, big but.  Bruiser, good lateral quicks.  Physical and quick with his keys.  Almost beats RB to hole.  N/S runner and a clogger.  Question athleticism/cover ability.

  • Player 9: OLB 6’3’’ 225 

Good closing speed.  Finisher.  Stops momentum.  Gets home with a strong grip.  Good as an OLB in a 50 front.  High IQ.  Need more game film, but like this kid.

  • Player 10: ILB 6’3’’ 220 

Good tackler.  Closers speed.  Between tackles type guy.  Nice job staying home and keeping gap integrity.  Nose for ball.  Not sold on athleticism and functional strength.

  • Player 12: OLB 6’0’’ 205 

Thick legs.  Good lateral movement.  Good in space.  Physical, tough dude.  A little undersized and a step too slow.

  • Player 16: OLB 

Skinny frame.  Is a closer.  Question his hand usage.  Gap shooter who is football smart.  Gets hands up.  Has quickness and is a lanky player.  Question his ability to square up and defeat a block.  Not strong up top.

Hope this gives you insight into what the NFL looks for when scouting linebackers. Any questions, you can comment below.

A Battle Royale is about to go down and the Jaguars can feast on Kermit if they…

Jacksonville Jaguars vs Kansas City Chief game preview

Jacksonville Jaguars vs Kansas City Chief game preview

Everyone knows the Chiefs are on a passing roll, but have a poor defense. However, Denver’s defense kept them to 27 points and if their QB had made one simple throw at the end, would have won.

That’s important for two reasons. First, Denver’s total defense is ranked 16th, but 18th against the pass. That’s a big difference between the Broncos and Jags. Denver’s key was getting in Mahones’ face, not so much from pass coverage, an area Jax is tops at.

Second reason the 27-24 score matters: Denver’s total offense is ranked 15th, but their passing offense is 19th with Keenum having a Rating ranked 29th (last TD pass was week 1). Bortles rating is 18th, the Jaguars total offense at 16th. Denver’s rushing attack is 2nd and Jax is 12th.

I bring this up because KC couldn’t stop the run (141 yards/2 TDS to backs) and they allowed a bottom ranked QB to throw 245 yards. KC total defense is ranked 26th, 30th against the pass allowing an average 7.9 yards a throw and eight passing TD’s. That’s kind of pitiful.

So, if Blake Bortles‘ offense just plays their average game and their defense plays theirs – the Jaguars should win. No craziness needed – just be themselves. Their average rush is 4.3 yards, while KC allows 5.7 – dead last in stopping the run.

Bortles’ average yards per pass is 7.3. KC allows 7.9, ranking 30th. Just based on stats, Jacksonville’s receivers and running backs should have a good day.

Sorry, Pat but this is laugh out loud funny. (except the stolen FSU War Chant)

Jacksonville should NOT defer

Most of the time when a team wins the coin toss, they defer. If Jacksonville wins it, I think they shouldn’t. When the Jaguars score a touchdown first in a game, good things happen – like wins. Not to mention, it’ll help quiet the noise for a bit.

Going first also sends a message – we trust our offense and your defense stinks. Both of these should hold true. In addition, when Jax marches down the field this season, they’ve been burning a lot of clock.

Best way to keep Patrick Mahones off the field and keep the defense fresh is to dink and dunk. Bortles and T.J. Yeldonhave been fairly good at mixing things up which helps in that goal. Yes, we’d love to see aggressive play-calling, which often equates to an aerial attack, but that can still be accomplished with constant short passes.

If Jacksonville can put a TD up first, it’ll change how the Chiefs play because now they’re in catch-up mode. Best way is take the ball first and march down the field. While some may say having the ball first after half-time is the way to go, the Jags have been flat in third quarters.

Jacksonville has scored one TD in the 3rd Quarter, but only allowed 1.

The one TD Jax scored when receiving the ball after the half, was late in the third on  a break out run by Donte Moncrief; therefore, I don’t see an advantage of deferring. By contrast, the defense has come out of the locker room in the 3rd quarter, firing on all cylinders and haven’t allowed a TD on a first possession, yet.

Against the Giants, a FG was allowed after a couple of penalties on their first possession of the 3rd. Against the Titans, a FG was allowed first possession because of penalties. A TD was given up in the third to the Patriots*, after a fumble by our rookie WR. Do you see a theme, here? Against the Jets’ first drive, the defense got a safety. Not until late in the 3rd did the Jets kick a FG.

This season, winning the coin toss hasn’t mattered.

We know our identity and it’s not an aerial attack team – it’s smash mouth defense. Mahones has three tools to use: Hill, Hunt and Kelce. If Gibson can eliminate Travis Kelce like he did Gronk, that’s a huge (literally) target removed.

When Jalen Ramsey dismissed Gronk, although they didn’t match-up all that much, it set a precedent. He’s now done the same to Tyrek Hill. The question may not be between those two, but how Tyler Patmon does since Hill often lines up as a slot. He did well last week, but it was the Jets.

The key may be for the CBs to play hard press, jam the receivers at the line disrupting the timing, but keep Barry Church high. Pressing the wide receivers usually means the QB has to hold the ball a touch longer to find an open guy and that should be when Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue bookend Patrick Mahones and meet in the middle for a for a Kermit sandwich. Denver almost made it work.

A collision is coming

The Jags allow a paltry 5.8 per pass and only have given up 3 passing TDs, QB’s have a 81.3 rating against them. Completion rate is 60.6%, 5th best. Mahones is averaging 8.7 per pass with a completion rate of 65.2%. Obviously, we have a collision coming since Pat’s biggest asset is his receivers making 14 TD’s. That’s the bottom line. Stop them, stop him.

KC rushing gets an average of 4.3 per carry, with 4 TDs and 113 yards a game. Meanwhile, Jax gets 4.3, 113.5. The flaw is only 1 TD and to me that lack of scoring points to Leonard Fournette – big power back who can muscle his way into the EZ is sorely missed.

Here’s the thing about Bortles (and most any QB), give him 2.8-3 seconds and he can deliver the ball. He needs a touch longer because his release isn’t quick due to his wind-up. So, this game may boil down to the Oline. Keep Ford and Houston off him.

The one area KC and Jax are equal is sacks- tied at 12th with 10. That’s where the walking wounded Oline must prevail. Luckily, Bortles can and does scramble well.

When he’s rushed, he throws a lot of ducks – slow and wobbly. This may be why the receivers go on drop runs. It’s tough catching a ball that comes in sideways, especially when you’re on the move. Blake needs to throw better spirals to help them out, that can occur if he has time.

Biggest Key

The biggest key though is PENALTIES. The Jags can’t be giving away 70 yards of flags, especially when they hand offenses points. 11-119 vs NYG, 7-71 vs NE, 8-75 vs Titans and 9-89 vs the Jets = 354 YARDS IN PENALTIES, 88.5 A GAME (avg)

My keys for winning

  • Defer
  • Get the ball first and score, changing how KC may attack.
  • take away Kelce, Mahones’ safety net
  • press the receivers so Mahones has to hold the ball enabling the ends to rattle him
  • stop with the flags

No Jacksonville Jaguars vs Kansas City Chief game preview can be complete without saying – don’t turn the ball over. These sloppy mistakes lost the game to the Titans and kept shut-outs from occurring. The last thing KC needs is extra chances to score. Not to mention, the Jaguars defense needs to stay fresh, they can’t do that if the offense is giving the Chiefs the ball.

Jags win and feast on Frog Legs (yum)

 

Cover 1 simply explained – Football 101

Cover 1 is also called, safety high. The Free Safety is left at the top alone and the Strong Safety moves up like a linebacker. This is used for projected run plays or against dink and dunk quarterbacks. The Jaguars SS is Barry ChurchTashaun Gipson Sr. is the Free Safety.

As in any formation, there are pros and cons and are dependent upon the talent on defense. To leave a safety high, the coach must trust him to cover a huge area, but also trusts the ball never gets there because the front 7 doesn’t give the quarterback time to rip off a pass deep.

*graphic is generic only to show where players could line up on certain basic plays.* Below has two TE’s and two RB’s to show what looks like a run play, but the QB can pass to his TE’s or use the backs as receivers, too.

Cover 1 in a 4-3 defense

 

Teams usually play their CB’s in man coverage, (FS in zone) but they can change from play to play. The FS has the back half to cover and watches the QB so he knows what direction the ball is going. If the QB jukes him out, bad things happen.

The SS is lower in the box to offer run support, but he can still shadow a RB or TE depending on the call. Any of the linebackers could have a specialized blitz plan as well.

In fact, this formation is great to run blitzes from because it is known as ‘crowding the box’ if the SS creeps up even closer. Not only does it make a run play tougher, but it also takes away the short pass, except for the brave or foolhardy – take your pick. This is a good way to force a QB to throw deep.

Cover 1 in a 3-4 defense

Why would a defense want a QB to toss it beyond 15 yards? Because they don’t think the quarterback has the arm to make those throws or maybe he’s uncomfortable doing them.

Cover 1 can give quarterbacks a noose to hang himself with. It also can make a team desperate. They can’t run and the short pass is gone – a powerful tool to use if you want to set up a QB, too.

An example would be If Jacksonville has been taking the short pass away all game, but now wants the QB to throw short, especially in the red zone because they know he’ll target that open guy. So, they play one receiver loose, and then jump in front and have a pick or at least a knock down.

This doesn’t work against good quarterbacks, because he’ll read what’s going on, but it works great against “less than'” quarterbacks.

In addition, the SS can act like he’s playing Cover 1, but drop back into Cover 2. The Jaguars do this often because Church is really good. Or he can do the opposite, show Cover 2 and at the last possible moment, move up to Cover 1.

The bottom line is, when a team has a secondary (and linebackers) as good as ours, it gives the Defensive Coordinator a lot choices. They can play different coverages without losing a beat. The beauty is when you’re so versatile, because you have fantastic talent, there’s little an offense can do against a secondary like Jacksonville’s.