The Miami Dolphins will host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday in a Week 16 showdown with playoff implications for Miami. If the Dolphins can come away with a win over the Northern Florida franchise, the South Florida team could be in position to make the postseason for the second time in three years.
To get a better look at the Jaguars and what Miami can expect on Sunday, I turned to Ryan O’Bleness from Big Cat Country. He answered my questions about Blake Bortles/Cody Kessler, Leonard Fournette, and more.
You can check out my side of our conversation previewing the Dolphins here.
1. The Blake Bortles era ended after the Jaguars lost to the Buffalo Bills, but it sounds like there is a chance it returns this week. Do you think the Jaguars go back to Bortles, or is this Cody Kessler’s team the last two weeks? What should Dolphins fans expect to see from whichever quarterback is under center on Sunday?
It sounds like the Jaguars are sticking with Cody Kessler under center this week. Kessler -- although he made some plays with his feet, -- is coming off of an awful game against the Washington Redskins, where he passed for just 57 yards and 3.4 yards per attempt. In three games with Kessler as the starter, the Jaguars have scored just one offensive touchdown, and two touchdowns total. Jacksonville’s offense is almost unbearable to watch at this point. Kessler is not going to push the ball down the field or take chances. In fact, he didn’t complete a single pass that traveled more than 10 yards through the air last week. So, Dolphins fans have little to worry about from the quarterback position, and can probably expect another conservative game plan with a lot of short passes and run plays.
When Blake Bortles was benched, it was necessary, but Cody Kessler is not a starting-caliber NFL quarterback. Going back to Bortles at this point -- with the season all but over -- just doesn’t make a lot of sense, though, and Bortles very well may have thrown his last pass in Jacksonville (barring an injury to Kessler).
2. What is going on with Leonard Fournette?
Fournette has dealt with a lot of injuries so far during his tenure in Jacksonville, and has only played in seven games this year due to a hamstring injury. It also doesn’t help that his offensive line is depleted with three starters lost for the season on the IR list, and right tackle Jermey Parnell also missed the last game. Fournette also lacks discipline, as he has already had multiple suspensions in short time in Jacksonville, most recently for running off of the Jaguars sideline and getting into a fight with Shaq Lawson of the Buffalo Bills. He’s also struggled with his vision and his yards per carry leave a lot to be desired (3.4 in 2018 and 3.7 for his career). He’s struggled to make impact plays this year like he did as a rookie last season. He is still ultra-talented, but he needs to be more durable and see the field better. Personally, I would be shocked if this happened, but there are rumors that the team may move on from him this offseason.
3. The Jaguars defense carried them to the AFC Championship Game last year, but the team is sitting at just 4-10 this year. The defense still seems to be one of the league’s best, allowing just 289 points this year - sixth fewest in the league. Is this just a matter of the offense being inept and the defense wearing down after carrying them so far last year? Is there a way the Dolphins can find success attacking the Jaguars? - Oh, and do me a HUGE favor. Keep Calais Campbell away from Ryan Tannehill’s knee. Thanks.
The majority of Jacksonville’s issues do fall on the offensive side of the ball, which led offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to lose his job earlier this season. The defense has been statistically strong all season long, and the unit has remained solid for the most part, but just has not made the impact plays that made Jacksonville’s defense so feared in 2017. The sacks, turnovers and defensive touchdowns, which were a constant last year, have not been there this season. Because of that the defense has not been able to mask the ineptitude of the offense and carry the team to wins. The defense has also lacked discipline and has had some costly penalties and bone-headed unsportsmanlike conduct calls in clutch points of the game. The offense is awful due to both injuries and poor roster construction, but the defense is not completely blameless. A team that boasts Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Yannick Ngakoue, Telvin Smith, Myles Jack and Calais Campbell should dominate opposing offenses, but that has not always been the case this season. And no promises regarding Campbell. ;)
4. It seems like Doug Marrone’s future is very much in doubt with the Jaguars. I know BCC had a list of potential coaching candidates, both at head coach and then if there is a shakeup to the staff but Marrone stays. What do you see as Marrone’s future and what has/has not worked in Marrone’s tenure?
Here is the article you are referring to. I would be surprised to see Marrone be fired following this season, as just last year he took his team to the doorstep of the Super Bowl, but if Jacksonville loses the next two games and finishes 4-12, I don’t think that is out of the question at all. At the very least, there needs to be changes at general manager (Dave Caldwell’s tenure is likely to come to an end), defensive coordinator (Todd Wash) and a few of the position coaches. of course, Jacksonville will also be hiring a full-time offensive coordinator this season. I think executive vice president of football operations (and former head coach) Tom Coughlin is safe and will influence the hiring of the new GM and potentially new coach, though, but again, I would expect to see Marrone back next year, but on the hot seat.
Marrone and Coughlin built this team based on smashmouth football--run the ball down your throat and play incredibly tough defense. They also wanted to instill discipline into the locker room. And this approach really worked in 2017, as the players bought in, taking a three-win team in 2016 to an AFC Championship in 2017. This message just doesn’t seem to be getting across in 2018, though, and it’s strange. But when you look at the rule changes in 2018, which really favor offenses and now see that the league is seeing its highest-scoring year ever, the foundation the Jags were built on just isn’t sustainable anymore. So, it will be interesting to see what happens with Marrone anf others at the end of the season.
5. In a year of disappointment up in Duval, what is the bright spot? Where can the Jaguars build for the future?
The Jaguars still have Jalen Ramsey--love or hate his personality, he remains one of the best cornerbacks in the league, and will start in the Pro Bowl this season. Also, while the Jaguars may have to make some cuts in the offseason, the majority of young defensive stars will return, as will the veteran presence Campbell. Also, it appears that the Jaguars have finally admitted defeat with Blake Bortles, and the team will get to choose its own quarterback to start the future with in the draft in April (maybe somebody like Justin Herbert or Dwayne Haskins). This was the first year in probably 10 years that the Jaguars had Super Bowl aspirations from both the organization and the fan base, so yes, this season was a major league disappointment.