The excitement surrounding the Jaguars as we enter the second half of the preseason is surreal.
The 2016 season and the hype that surrounds it for this team is unlike ever before. Don't believe me? Look at the attendance from Saturday's preseason game against Tampa Bay -- 60,000 people were down at EverBank Field to watch the Jaguars' starters play no more than 20 snaps.
It's happening. This is more than fine.
It's been 166 days since free agency kicked off; It's been 116 days since the 2016 NFL Draft began -- and yet it's still hard for the majority of us to believe just how well Jacksonville fared in acquiring new players during the offseason to help the team turn the corner.
Or, at least, we've believed so.
And so far, the odds are ever in our favor.
During free agency proven players such as Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, and Prince Amukamara to help fix the team's questionable defense, as well as Chris Ivory to create a 1-2 punch at running back with T.J. Yeldon. When the draft came around, the team added another three guys to help build upon the free agency acquisitions to further help the defense: Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, and Yannick Ngakoue.
There were several other players added to help build this team, but these guys are the standouts -- the big names. For months, we've been riding on their tape with their former teams and their potential. Now that we've seen them on the field in Jaguars' uniforms, how have they been performing through the first two weeks of the preseason?
Malik Jackson: A-
Malik Jackson, Jacksonville's $90 million man, has so far done exactly what we've expected him to do at the 3-tech position that the Jaguars paid him to play -- open holes for the pass rush and create pressure.
Jackson won't lead the team in sacks. He may not even finish the year with 5 sacks -- and that's OK. His jobs are as follows:
- Stuff the inside run. However, he is fast and strong enough for his position and size to make an impact on outside runs.
- Provide pressure, most likely coming from pushing the opposing interior lineman back to the QB, making the QB move around the pocket into the pass rushers reach
- Create space for LEO's to rush the passer on the outside/open holes inside for inside flush pass rushing.
- If and when possible, sack the QB.
Stunt on em, Malik pic.twitter.com/oONEVS77S6— TC Hanx (@HankJoness) August 21, 2016
Tashaun Gipson: B
Gipson missed the first game of the preseason as a precaution due to a minor training camp injury, and only played about 17 against Tampa Bay -- thus giving me a small sample size of plays to grade.
During his 17 plays against Tampa Bay, Gip totaled one tackle and would have intercepted a Jameis Winston pass in the redzone if Telvin Smith didn't break up the poorly thrown pass (you can see Gip at the end of the play, comi g out of the endzone):
Expect Gipson's playing time to go up next week, and expect the production to rise as well.
Prince Amukamara: N/A
I, honestly, haven't seen much of Amukamara. I would need to go back and re-watch the games, but I'm fairly certain the ball hasn't been thrown his way much.
There's not much detail I can go into here, instead I have to speculate -- perhaps the ball isn't going his way because he isn't allowing many receivers to get open? After the solid performances he put up in training camp, one could allude to that.
I guess this is poor reporting on my part, but I mean, what have you seen? Nothing really comes to mind for me, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Chris Ivory: A
Ivory and Yeldon have looked great as a 1-2 punch, as seen by the rushing attack against the Buccaneers, where they put together a combined six yard per carry.
Ivory himself scored a goal-line touchdown against the Jets, his former team, and has displayed the skill set the Jaguars signed him for -- toughness, speed, and ability to continue plays, as seen below:
If Ivory can keep up this production, the $32.5 million the team spent on him will be worth every penny.
Jalen Ramsey: A
Jalen Ramsey is da Gawd and the only reason you would disagree with this is if your a Florida Gators fan.
And, even if you are a Gators fan, put that aside and accept that Jalen is da Gawd.
Ramsey saw his first NFL action against the Buccaneers as he sat out of the first preseason game as a precaution for his knee injury over the summer. The second he stepped onto the field, you knew he was there. He had two tackles against the run, including this one for a six yard loss:
Jalen Ramsey makes a tackle for a loss on his first NFL play from scrimmage. https://t.co/FVbTjUmPMe— Ryan Day (@ryaneatscake) August 21, 2016
He also looked great in coverage, particularly out of the nickel corner position:
Jalen Ramsey with his first pass coverage of the night, covering slot WR Adam Humphries over the middle. https://t.co/pYMiKzo9k0— Ryan Day (@ryaneatscake) August 21, 2016
But the best part about Jalen Ramsey's performance last night? His no-nonsense, smash-mouth football swagger that he displayed on nearly every snap... IN A PRESEASON GAME!
Teams are going to hate the hell out of this dude, lol. pic.twitter.com/eTm7dqCHat— TC Hanx (@HankJoness) August 21, 2016
The Jaguars look to finally have a player with enough swagger to make A$AP Rocky look poor. Jalen Ramsey is going to be the face of this defense with both his talent and his swag, period.
Myles Jack: B-
Myles Jack has been playing with the second team, both as the middle linebacker and nickel linebacker in a box-safety role. He has looked alright in run defense, making the correct reads, but has yet to register a tackle against running backs.
He has, however, looked sharp in pass protection, making a couple tackles on pass plays in the middle of the field and also limiting passes being thrown into his zone.
Jack just needs to gain more reps with the first team and to cut out any foolishness. Granted, he's amped up to start his career, but in the New York game, he had a clear late hit where he lowered his head to hit an already-down receiver.
All-in-all, Jack has looked promising, but we need to see more.
Yannick Ngakoue: B
If my calculations are correct, Ngakoue has the only sack during this entire preseason for the Jaguars first team defensive unit, which was seen above during my Malik Jackson grading, but I will paste it here again:
So, in about 30 snaps, Ngakoue already has a sack to his name, as well as several pressures and run stops. As I said about Myles Jack, we need to see more from Ngakoue before making more honest grades, but so far, so good.
All in all, the new guys are fitting in well for this Jaguars team. As time goes on and they see increased playing time, as well as mesh together with the rest of the team...
Well, get ready, Duval.