The 2016 season has been a rough one for the Jacksonville Jaguars. A team that was expected to make a bit of a leap this year, the Jags have had a disastrous season thus far, currently sitting on a record of 2-10 and riding a seven-game losing streak. They’ll be welcoming our Minnesota Vikings to the Florida coast this weekend in a contest that the purple and gold absolutely need in order to keep their rapidly fading post-season hopes alive.
Our friends over at Big Cat Country are the best source for all of the information about the Jaguars, and we’ve gotten an opportunity to sit down and exchange some questions with them about these two teams and this Sunday’s game. Ryan Day, one of the main writers at BCC, answered some of my questions about the Jaguars, and those questions will follow below. Once the BCC folks have posted my answers to their questions, I will put the link to them up on the main page of our site here. For now, here are the questions I had for Ryan and the answers he gave me.
1) The biggest question surrounding the Jaguars, from an outsider perspective, is what the heck has happened to Blake Bortles? After throwing 35 touchdown passes in 2015, he's been a disaster this year. Why has he fallen so far so fast?
What happened to Blake Bortles is Blake Bortles. It begins and ends with Bortles. I don't think he takes this game as seriously as he should, in terms of preparation, studying, and keeping his mind and body right. I won't go into any of the countless rumors and pieces of gossip that gets tossed around Jacksonville, but suffice to say -- there's enough out there that if a fraction of it is true he needs to get his head right. That doesn't mean Super Bowl-winning, 24 hours a day of study type a guy. But it does mean looking competent in games, not being the reason for losses, and not throwing interceptions to defenders who are 10 yards from the nearest receiver. It also means not throwing a franchise-worst 11 pick-sixes in your career.
2) It appears that Gus Bradley has reached "dead man walking" status for the Jaguars. Is there anyone in the organization that you think the team could look at for their next coach? Do you think Shad Khan goes scorched earth on the front office, too?
I really wish Shad Khan would just burn the whole thing down but he won't. He'll likely hire a guy to be President of Football Operations to help with that side of it. That person will likely be the boss of the general manager and head coach and be able to really install a culture that's going to (hopefully) produce winning. I would like to see that person also bring in a new general manager because Dave Caldwell has not done a good job with four years and a whole bunch of freedom. Blake Bortles is looking more and more like a bust everyday, the running game is horrendous, and the edge rush is nonexistent. He also picked Gus Bradley who is terrible. Why should Caldwell get a free pass into this next regime?
3) Jacksonville appears to be building a pretty solid defense, at least in terms of yards allowed, where they're currently fourth-best in the NFL. Who you do feel is the centerpiece of the Jaguars' defense going forward?
Jalen Ramsey and Telvin Smith. They're both young, freakishly athletic, and the most talented on that side of the ball. Jalen is going to be an All-Pro type player and I am so sad his first year was under Gus freakin' Bradley. Telvin is a fighter who I don't think has been ruined by Gus. I'm excited to see what Tom Coughl-I mean, the next Jaguars head coach can get out of those two.
4) Give us one player on each side of the ball that Vikings' fans might not know about that you think will play a big role in Sunday's game.
On offense, it's probably Neal Sterling. He's a backup tight end who has been forced into playing time because of injuries to Marcedes Lewis and Julius Thomas and he's been really, really dependable, especially on third downs. As far as defense, I'll say Yannick Ngakoue, who has 6.5 sacks as a rookie mid-round pick. He could be our best edge rusher in years and he was a third-round flier out of Maryland who figured to be a designated pass rusher. Good for him.
5) How do you see Sunday's game playing out? Is it first team to double figures wins?
Man, I hope not. This is the day we induct Jimmy Smith, arguably the franchise's greatest player, into our Ring of Honor. If we lose with some damned score of 13-9, Jimmy might become a Falcons fan or something. I think the game plays out a little better than that. I'll say Vikings win 21-17.
Thank you to Ryan for taking the time to answer these questions for us. We’ll have more on this week’s game as we get closer to kickoff.