Ryan Day from the SB nation Jacksonville Jaguars site, Big Cat Country, talked with me this week a little bit about the Jaguars and what to expect. I got to ask 5 good questions so everyone here at Baltimore Beatdown can learn a little more about this week's enemy.
Q1: The Jaguars used to be the Ravens main rival back in the day. Ravens fans remember Mark Brunell and his ability to pull games out. The new Jaguars look to have a pretty good quarterback coming along in Blake Bortles, even if the stats don't show it this season. Is the consensus around the Jag fans that Bortles is a guy that the team can build around or is this more likely a bust player?
A: There is definitely more hope in Blake Bortles than we've had in a quarterback in a long, long time. To be a bust, you've got to have zero hope that a guy can get better. That's not the case with Bortles. Sure, he makes mistakes pre-snap with his coverage reads and threw some interceptions early. And yes, he still needs to work on certain throws (like across his body and to the left sideline) but when he flashes, he shows something really, really good.
Take for instance Bortles' first quarter touchdown last week against the Houston Texans. Bortles used his mobility to buy time and then connected with fellow rookie Allen Hurns with a beautifully thrown ball in the bottom corner of the end zone. That's the kind of play that almost forces us Jaguars fans to hope in the rookie.
Q2: Speaking of Bortles, the Jaguars currently have the worst ranked offense in terms of points scored per game. His successes haven't really matched up well with the number of sacks he has taken, even though he ranks third in the number of sacks taken this season, even though he has played two less games than the guys ranked above him. Has he really just been all over the place or have his lack of weapons, a running back or have the pressures and sacks really rattled him at times in a way that the Ravens can replicate on Sunday?
A: I think the Jaguars running game has been far, far worse what anyone -- including Jaguars coaches -- expected this year, and that's had a huge impact on Bortles' development. Before he got hurt, Denard Robinson was providing a legitimate threat at the running back position, but with just Toby Gerhart, Storm Johnson, and Jordan Todman left, I'd expect you all to come after Bortles even harder on Sunday. In my opinion, the sacks and the pressure haven't rattled him. He's still out there, running naked bootlegs onto J.J. Watt's side, or (as demonstrated in the play above) willing to hold onto the ball for as long as it takes for a receiver to get open.
Q3: The Jaguars are coached by Gus Bradley, a guy really known best for his defense in Seattle. While he is only in his second year as a Jaguars coach, some say he is on the hot seat already. While that can be understandable given his record, are Jaguar fans ready to give up on Bradley and maybe jump on the Jim Harbaugh bandwagon?
A: Jim Harbaugh to the Jaguars. I haven't heard that one yet. Listen, for better or worse, owner Shad Khan has given head coach Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell a three-year leash. Six wins in two years, no matter how bad your roster, is unacceptable. But so was the quality of players that was left to this current regime. Next year, I think is when you'll see the team turn a corner. It won't be the playoffs, but you'll see more wins and fewer games lost by more than one possession.>
Q4: Since we are on the topic of Gus Bradley and defense, the Jaguars currently have the 29th ranked defense in points allowed per game. While the pass defense has been mediocre and right in the middle of the rankings, the rush defense is allowing a massive 132.5 yards per game on the ground. Going against one of the best rushing offenses in the league this week, what is the plan to slow down Forsett and this offensive line from manhandling the Jaguars upfront and gashing them for yards?
A: While our run defense hasn't been phenomenal, I think those stats can be a bit misleading. For example, Arian Foster had 127 yards last week, but nearly half of them came on one run in the first quarter that led to just a field goal. The Jaguars have a bend-but-don't-break philosophy that will give up chunks of yards, but hold on the third down that will make the difference between field goal and touchdown. As far as the pass defense, it's hard to do anything when two of your top three cornerbacks are on injured reserve and your free safety position isn't figured out until midseason. However, I fully expect for them to be even better next year. Demetrius McCray, who started the year as the fourth- or fifth-string guy has shown he can play with the big boys. According to Pro Football Focus, he's given up just 21 catches to 41 targets all year, for just 231 yards and one touchdown in 621 snaps. That's the most snaps of any cornerback in the top-32 when you rank by fewest yards allowed all season.
Q5: What is your prediction for this game? Can Blake Bortles and Gus Bradley get their third win on the season and possibly save jobs or do the Ravens stampede over the Jaguars on the way to a playoff spot?
A: I think we're gonna get waxed, but in keeping with my win-loss predictions from before the season began, I say we lose by just a touchdown. I think the Ravens win 24-16.