We have been studying the Jacksonville Jaguars from a variety of angles this week. Today, let’s go right to the heart, right into Big Cat Country, for some information. Ryan O’Bleness answers our 5 questions about the Jaguars, whom the New York Giants face on Sunday.
Ed: I will turn the tables with a question you asked me. What surprised you the most about how the Jaguars built their 53-man roster?
Ryan: There weren’t a ton of surprises on the roster front, but I was happy to see Tre Herndon, an undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt, make the squad. He was the only UDFA to make the initial 53-man roster and worked his tail off throughout training camp and the preseason. I was a little bit surprised to see tight end Ben Koyack -- who had the game winning touchdown reception in the playoff win against the Buffalo Bills -- get waived initially, but the Jaguars signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Niles Paul in the offseason. Koyack cleared waivers, however, so he will revert back to IR with some sort of undisclosed injury and have to miss the entire season. The Jags also chose to roll with only three running backs on the active roster, which is a little bit lighter than normal, but not all that shocking.
Ed: Heading into Week 1, any injuries with Jacksonville that are concerning?
Ryan: The Jaguars lost No. 1 wide receiver Marqise Lee (torn ACL) for the season during a preseason tilt with the Atlanta Falcons. This is the second season in a row that the top receiver (Allen Robinson in 2017) has gone down before the first quarter of the first regular season. game has even finished. I guess the silver lining there is that Jacksonville is a run-first team, and has other capable receivers on the roster. Outside of Lee -- knock on wood -- the Jags have been unusually lucky with injuries. The same injury luck was true last season, which helped Jacksonville achieve the success it had. The only notable injury on the active roster is with starting center Brandon Linder who suffered a knee injury in Week 2 of the preseason. With that said, Linder participated in practice on Monday and I expect that to continue throughout the week, so he should be good to go on Sunday.
Ed: How do you see the Jalen Ramsey-Odell Beckham matchup playing out?
Ryan: I’m really looking forward to seeing how this plays out. Odell Beckham is probably a top-three wide receiver in the league, while Jalen Ramsey is a surefire top-three cornerback, and possibly the best in the league at his position. I’m sure both players are going to make plays, but I also imagine the jawing between the two will be pretty intense. I think it will come down to which one can phase out the other one’s trash talk and just play their game. If I had to guess, I would say Ramsey gets the better of Beckham, and by that I mean limits his damage to something like three or four catches with zero touchdowns. Wouldn’t be surprised either way, though.
4. If you could take ONE player not named Beckham off the Giants roster and put him in the Jacksonville lineup who would it be? Why?
Ryan: Interesting question. I’ve always been a fan of Landon Collins, but the Jaguars are pretty set at both safety positions. A part of me also wanted the Jags to draft Will Hernandez early on in the process, but the Jags signed All-Pro Andrew Norwell at left guard in free agency, and A.J. Cann has looked much improved at right guard this preseason. So then, if I can’t have Beckham, I would take Sterling Shepard and see if he could give the Jaguars’ wide receiver corps a boost with Lee out for the year. I do like the young and talented players Jacksonville has there, but they are mostly unproven at this point and I would think Shepard could provide some stability.
Ed: Are you a believer in Blake Bortles? I’m sure there are many who still wonder if the Jaguars can win big with him at quarterback.
Ryan: I am, to a degree, a Bortles believer. With the caveat that I understand what Bortles is and I don’t have crazy expectations. The Jaguars want to play smash-mouth football and run the ball down your throat. The ball is often being taken out of Bortles’ hands, but you also have to deal with opposing teams putting eight men in the box at a higher rate than normal and will need to count on Blake to make plays sometimes. With all of that in mind, this team can win with Bortles, and that was proven last year. Bortles had a very nice playoff run last season, and has looked poised, confident and in better command of the offense throughout training camp. Another underrated aspect of Bortles’ game is his ability to make plays with his feet. He has had both good and bad moments in the preseason games. His teammates trust him, though, as he was named a captain this week. He seems to be in line to have the best season of his career, but it has always been Bortles’ inconsistencies that have caused his biggest issues. If he is able to limit turnovers, make better decisions and make throws in tough situations, then this team will go very far. His play is pivotal.