The Jacksonville Jaguars showed quite a bit in their emotional win over the Seattle Seahawks. What stood out the most?
1. Blake Bortles yet again played one of his best games
This is a statement many have made at several times this season. Bortles has flaws, there is no doubt about that. However, there is talent there, and Bortles showcased that again on Sunday vs. Seattle. Bortles went 18-27 for 268 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no turnovers. He made several impressive throws, which includes the 75-yard touchdown pass to Keelan Cole, the 18-yard touchdown pass to Dede Westbrook, and the fade to Westbrook near the end of the game which helped put the game on ice.
The Jaguars are 5-0 when Bortles does not commit a turnover, and have +101-point differential in those games. Bortles has played two of the better games in his career in December games that matter for the Jaguars. The defense carries this team, but it will go as far as Bortles lets them. Sunday was the rare day the offense had to step up for the defense, and it responded at crucial moments in the game. We cannot expect this out of Bortles every week, but play like this makes the Jaguars one of the more unstoppable forces in the league.
2. The team got the run game going (again)
I can’t lie, it was starting to get concerning that the Jaguars run game had been ineffective the last few weeks. The Jaguars are going to need to run the ball efficiently if they want to win in the playoffs, and that had not been the case recently. In a big game, the run game found itself again, and so did Leonard Fournette, who looked a lot fresher this week. Getting Patrick Omaheh back in the lineup sure helped, as he is a huge step up to Chris Reed in my eyes. Hell, even Chris Ivory busted out a few good runs.
The running game stepped up huge in the end, when Fournette put the game away on a 13-yard run, on third-and-11. Jeremy Parnell, and Omaheh did a great job starting the power run, pushing their assignments out of the way, while Tommy Bohanon and AJ Cann executed their pulls to perfection, which opened a seam in the line for Fournette to cleanly run into. That play is what the Jaguars want to be, and how they want to win games. If they can run the ball effectively, and not turn the ball over, they can compete with anyone.
3. Shout out to the wide receivers
Part of the story of the Jaguars 2017 season has been injuries at the receiver position. Dede Westbrook got hurt in the final preseason game. Allen Robinson tore his ACL in the first game of the season. Allen Hurns got hurt in the middle of the year on a brutal hit, yet still managed to crawl off the field to save the Jaguars form calling a timeout in a crucial game.
There have definitely been some rough patches along the way, but the recievers yesterday did their damn thing.
Marqise Lee made some tough catches, and came up with a few big third down conversions. But the rookies, Westbrook and Keelan Cole really stood out for me.
Westbrook’s maturity as a receiver for someone playing in only his fourth game amazes me. He runs crisp routes, and just has a knack for getting the ball. His catch on the fade route in the fourth quarter was a perfect display of body control, and hand eye coordination. Westbrook has 20 receptions for 235 yards, and touchdown. Stretched over a 16 game time period, that comes out to 80 catches, for 940 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Those are rookie of the year type numbers. Westbrook has earned the right to be on the field for the Jaguars almost every snap, and it will be interesting to see what happens when Hurns comes back.
Cole has been a pleasant surprise the last two weeks, catching the first two touchdowns of his young career. Cole has blazing speed, and just has a knack for getting open. He needs to work on his drops, but his long catch on Sunday was an impressive one, grabbing the ball out of the air, and high pointing it while running full speed. It is a lot harder than it looks. Cole gives the Jaguars a guy who can take the top off the defense, and someone like that is so valuable for a team who may struggle at points to create big plays.
4. Another shout out to the offensive line
Bortles was only hit once on Sunday. To be hit only once against that Seattle defensive line is a testament to how well they played. There have been several games this year where the pass protection has been outstanding, and this was another one of those games. Every quarterback prefers to work in a clean pocket, but when you have a guy who is limited in Bortles, keeping guys out of his face is even more vital.
This line is basically the same for last year outside of Cam Robinson, but the job Pat Flaherty has done with this line cannot go unnoticed.
5. Watching both Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye bait Russell Wilson into interceptions is a beauty to watch
Both Ramsey and Bouye have the skills to smother almost any receiver they come up against. However, both have an incredible football IQ, and are great at baiting quarterbacks into throwing their direction. They both trust their athleticism, and know that they can make up for lost ground when they bait the quarterback.
Bouye is especially good on this, with his first interception in which he cut under the route is a perfect example of. Bouye is not the most athletically gifted corner in the league, but i would put up his IQ and technique with anybody else.
On Ramsey’s interception, he ran the route better then Baldwin did. Ramsey used his athleticism to run with Baldwin down the field, giving him an ever so slight edge to appear that he was open. A second look at shows Baldwin was never really that open, and Ramsey had the ball tracked the entire time.
This is the kind fo stuff scouts drool over, and to have two cornerbacks who use their mind just as much as their athleticism is a rare trait. There are guys who can stick to receiver the whole game, but being able to get interceptions is a skill, and it comes with taking risk. I am a big fan of taking those risk, especially when you have two guys as good as Bouye and Ramsey.
6. I would not get too concerned about the two big plays
The two huge touchdowns the Jaguars gave up in the fourth quarter on Sunday were extremely concerning within the game. Outside of it though, i think it is more of an albatross, then anything to expect going forward. One of the plays was just Wilson doing something maybe only he can do in avoiding the sack, and throwing it downfield. The other one was just a miscommunication, which is something that can be fixed through film study and preparation.
Every team will give up big plays, even the of the most elite defenses. Put it this way. I’ll be surprised if two plays of that caliber happen in the same game in the rest of the games the Jaguars play this season.
7. Both Paul Posluszny and Malik Jackson had underrated games
Poz has been a controversial figure for the Jaguars for a while, but credit has to be given for how he has stepped in for Telvin Smith. Poz has his flaws, but he just looked more explosive the last two weeks, and outside of the coverage on the Baldwin catch, i have nothing negative to say about his play.
Malik Jackson gets overlooked on this defensive line sometimes, but he has been playing really well as of late. Jackson had a solid game all around, and obviously had the huge sack of Wilson that helped the Jaguars win the game. Jackson already has a career high 7 sacks this year, and has time to add on more in the next three games.