The Jaguars will likely have standout running back Leonard Fournette back this week. The focal point of the offense missed Sunday’s 31-20 win over visiting New England with a hamstring injury, but has been able to participate in practice all week.
Having Fournette back is huge for the Jaguars. His combination of physicality and speed is rare.
However, there’s a question the Jaguars (2-0) need to answer on Sunday when AFC South rival Tennessee (1-1) visits TIAA Bank Field.
How much has quarterback Blake Bortles truly elevated his game? You can’t take the ball out of his hands now and give it to Fournette 25 times.
Bortles was near flawless against the Patriots. The fifth-year veteran completed 29 of 45 passes for 376 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. Bortles also ran for 35 yards, as the Jaguars converted 10-of-14 third-down situations.
The Jaguars need to see how far Bortles has progressed. That doesn’t happen if the Jaguars revert back to a run-heavy approach.
Tennessee can be beat through the air.
The offense should also have quite a bit of slack to work with in this game. The defense is taking this one very personally after the Titans swept the Jaguars last season. Expect Sacksonville to flat-out dominate a Titans offense that enters the game limping.
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett should once again build an aggressive game plan that allows Bortles to throw consistently on first down.
Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel still has to load up the box to stop Fournette. The space in the secondary will be there.
While pushing Bortles again makes sense, the Jaguars also need to find out more about their receivers. Second-year players Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook shined against New England, while Donte Moncrief also caught a touchdown. Can Cole and Westbrook start to show consistency as playmakers?
The only hang-up to the plan is the presence of Josh Wells, who takes over at left tackle for the injured Cam Robinson. If Wells can’t hold up in pass protection early, Hackett might have to adjust to a more run-centric approach. Until then, Wells has to be trusted and will certainly have help from tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins on many snaps.
The Jaguars are a Super Bowl contender because they play exceptional defense and can run the ball. If Bortles and the passing game become a consistent threat, the Jaguars become phenomenal — like 17-2 hoisting the Lombardi Trophy phenomenal.
Let’s see what Bortles can do. Let’s see how great he can be.
(You can email Hays at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)