Hopes, dreams and unusual realities for the Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have a winning record. That sentence hasn’t been uttered since week one of the 2011 season when, in front of 61,000 fans at Everbank Field, the home side ground out a 16-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
It was a superior defensive display that day too, but Jags fans have rarely seen a performance so dominant than Sunday’s 29-7 win over the Houston Texans, which ended with 10 sacks, a franchise best. Marquee free agent signing Calais Campbell picked up four on his own – another team record – as the Jags’ D repeatedly made light work of the Texans’ offensive line and drove opposition QB Tom Savage into the ground on multiple occasions.
Dante Fowler capped a fine display with a 53 yard touchdown from a fumble recovery, as the Jaguars finally showcased the potential they have been threatening to unleash for 18 months. This is a young, hungry and talented defense, and if they can add confidence to that concoction, it could prove to be one of the strongest in the AFC.
Rookie running back Leonard Fournette made his NFL bow with 100 yards and a TD on the ground, as well as another 24 yards from three catches. Chris Ivory also played a role, contributing 42 yards, but a brittle throwing game won’t get any stronger after it was confirmed WR Allen Robinson tore his ACL and will miss the rest of this season. Though he didn’t turn it over, quarterback Blake Bortles only put up 125 yards and a score, leaving the rest to the run game, which he won’t be able to do every week.
It was a great start for a fan base starved of success, but don’t expect fans in Duval to be getting carried away just yet. The Texans are far from figuring out their own offensive identity, and appear no closer to settling on a quarterback, which is becoming a running joke for head coach Bill O’Brien. Savage was wildly erratic, gifting the visitors two turnovers, while rookie Deshaun Watson, who replaced Savage just two quarters in, also fumbled and threw a wild red zone pick that Tashaun Gipson returned for 67 yards.
Jalen Ramsey locked up De’Andre Hopkins, Houston’s only meaningful threat, and despite a monster reception for J.J. Watt after his hurricane Harvey fundraising efforts, the team couldn’t match the home fans as Jacksonville dominated the early drives to quiet the crowd.
So what’s next for the as-yet undefeated Jaguars? Uncertainty still looms large over the region as players were delayed in returning home in light of Hurricane Irma and, with a large portion of the state without power and a “humanitarian crisis” called in some areas, it is still unclear whether the Titans will travel to Florida for their scheduled week two match up.
On the field, Doug Marrone’s men should feel confident having watched Tennessee stutter in their opener against the Oakland Raiders. It is a huge opportunity to add another divisional W and send a commanding message early in the race for the AFC South.
So, I hear you cry, whatever happened to the last Jaguars team with a winning record? They lost their next five and went 5-11, a record the team have failed to better since. This is the cold, harsh reality of a team without a quarterback, and the 2017 edition of the Jacksonville Jaguars still find themselves in that same struggle. In Fournette, the organisation has a future Pro Bowl talent but he can’t carry the offensive game on his own.
The next three games (Titans, Ravens, Jets) are all distinctly winnable but will also give a good indication of whether this team is ready to compete, or still stuck below their five win ceiling.