By: Hays Carlyon
Save yourself the grief Jaguars fans — especially at Christmas time. Don’t worry about a top-five draft pick. Appreciate defensive end Calais Campbell because he’s a treasure.
The 32-year-old Campbell played another brilliant game on Sunday as the Jaguars beat Miami 17-7 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Campbell got the pressure on Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill that forced him to underthrow a pass that Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith intercepted and returned 33-yards for a touchdown for the game’s final points with 9:34 left in the fourth quarter.
The play doesn’t happen without Campbell’s arms wrapped around Tannehill’s legs.
“There was some pressure,” Miami coach Adam Gase said. “Calais got through on the left side. We were supposed to have him double-teamed and then Ryan, he was late and probably should have just ate it. Once he got around his foot and threw it, it was too late. The guy had … ‘50’ (Smith) had caught up to him.”
Campbell also forced and recovered a fumble at the Miami 17-yard line in the third quarter that the offense failed to do anything with. They actually punted. No, I’m serious.
The 11th-year veteran also recorded a sack, his ninth of the season. Campbell has 23 ½ sacks as a Jaguar in 31 games.
We should all show up at TIAA Bank Field with torches and pitchforks if the Jaguars don’t bring Campbell back next season. He’s scheduled to count $14.5 million on the salary cap. I call that a bargain.
I asked Jaguars coach Doug Marrone if Campbell has had a Pro-Bowl season earlier this week. Campbell is currently an alternate. Marrone said yes to my question and elaborated more on Campbell’s worthiness after Sunday’s win.
“He’s been probably the most dominant run defender in the league this year,” Marrone said. “He always shows up every single week, every single game. He has a great impact in the locker room, great impact with the younger players, great impact with the coaches. It’s something that we know that when we look at him, that as we move on or whatever we do in our careers, we want to get players like him.”
Embrace Calais and put your draft dreams on hold. There’s no need to get upset about draft positioning until we see who Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan brings back.
If he retains personnel chief Tom Coughlin and Marrone for their third seasons, it will be a make-or-break year.
Who honestly believes Coughlin would entrust a rookie quarterback in what might be his final season in a 31-year NFL run? Coughlin knows once this job is done, he’s done as an NFL decision maker.
Coughlin will more than likely do everything he can to sign the most accomplished veteran quarterback the Jaguars can squeeze under the salary cap.
Now, if Khan cleans house and a new administration comes in ready to launch with a first-round quarterback, then losing the draft positioning could sting.
Just enjoy Calais. You get one more opportunity this season when the Jaguars (5-10) travel to Houston (10-5) in the finale on Sunday.
Maybe he can deliver more of what we saw against the Dolphins and continue to inspire his teammates.
“This is what we can do,” Campbell said. “We have a great group of guys. When we do it right, we’re tough to beat. It looks good. We have to be consistent. This game is about consistency. Great teams have to do it week in and week out and we have to mature to that. But this is a good step in the right direction that we can build on.”
Campbell should be one of the cornerstones in which the Jaguars build the 2019 team around.
(You can email Hays at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)