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Jacksonville Jaguars launch “Get in the Game” promotion

Jul 06, 2015 -- 10:40am

Two hundred lucky fans to win on-field pregame experience during Jaguars 2015 preseason home games

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars announced their first annual “Get in the Game” promotional sweepstakes rewarding hundreds of lucky fans with the opportunity to win an amazing game day experience on the field when the Jaguars battle the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 14 and the Detroit Lions on August 28 at EverBank Field.

One hundred fans who enter to win and are chosen to “Get in the Game” will bring a lucky friend or family member to the game, receive pregame field passes and be on the field when the Jaguars starters are announced during the pregame festivities.

“We want to offer the entire North/Central Florida and South Georgia region with the opportunity to experience Jaguars football at the most fan-friendly stadium in the National Football League, EverBank Field,” said Jaguars President Mark Lamping. “Providing hundreds of fans with unique access and making memories that will last a lifetime is something we want to provide for our loyal fans.”

Fans are encouraged to sign up to “Get in the Game” at Jaguars.com/GetintheGame

“Get in the Game” runs through Friday, July 31, with the contest winners announced on jaguars.com and through Jaguars social media outlets.

Comparisons Between Brunell and Bortles

Jul 02, 2015 -- 9:26am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

When Mark Brunell talks about the changes current starting quarterback Blake Bortles is going through, it is probably a good idea for the second-year pro to listen closely.

If there is one player who can identify with Bortles and how it is a challenge to become a success in the NFL, it is the greatest signal caller to ever put on a Jaguars uniform. His advice alone could pay dividends in the growth and maturation of everyone’s favorite passer in black and teal.

“It’s not an ideal situation,” Brunell said last week on Jaguars.com. “You look at the best quarterbacks in our game right now: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers. They’ve been in one system. You can go back: Brett Favre, Joe Montana, Steve Young. They were basically in one system their whole career, and that has a lot to do with their success.

“It’s not something you can’t overcome, but learning a new offense in the offseason can be tough mentally and it takes a lot of time. Every new offense that I experienced and had to learn, it took me a year to get comfortable in.”

Brunell knows how it is to come into a situation after becoming familiar with older surroundings. He was originally drafted in the fifth round by the Green Bay Packers and sat behind some guy named Brett Favre before the Jaguars traded for him in 1995.

The rest is history and the Jaguars have two AFC Championship berths in part because Brunell was behind center.

Bortles is in the same boat, of sorts, in that he is coming into a new system this season and will have to adjust to changes if he hopes to be able to come close to the success of No. 8.

The Jaguars are not in any position to think Bortles will be the next Montana or Rodgers or even Ben Roethlisberger until he can tune in to the same game plan over and over again. Countless hours of preparation and countless hours of repetition have made Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and most recently Russell Wilson a success.

If Brunell’s words seem a bit harsh, it’s okay – maybe they are meant to be. While Brunell wasn’t throwing Bortles under the bus, the Jaguars need to find one system that works – like the one with Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride – and stick to it. Consistency with the wide receivers, running game and the offensive line will also go a long way toward seeing Bortles through this process.

Brunell said his best seasons in Jacksonville were those where the offense was so in sync that he did not have to think – he could just make it happen. Bortles isn’t ready for that yet as he has been working on refining his mechanics and his footwork so the number of interceptions is diminished and the number of touchdowns is increased.

I’d be interested to see what Brunell has to say in the middle of the season should Bortles turn his play around and the Jaguars are winning.

The famed Brunell is right. The idea of changing again after learning an offense just last season is difficult. But if the Jaguars did not think their leader was up to the challenge, he would not have been given the keys to the new offense in the first place.

2015 Jags a Blast to the Past

Jun 30, 2015 -- 9:29am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

So much has been made this offseason about the progression of Blake Bortles and the solid camp Allen Robinson has put together. If you listen to the coaching staff, you hear them rave about TJ Yeldon and his ability to run and catch balls out of the backfield. The team is excited about what they have seen from Julius Thomas in limited action and again have high hopes for Allen Hurns and hope Marquis Lee escapes the injury issues which have plagued him.

The time is now for these Jaguars to prove they belong in the NFL.

The best way to look at this team is to go back 20 years ago and survey the roster the team had put together under Tom Coughlin and Michael Huyghue. Mark Brunell wasn’t a household name. Jimmy Smith was one year removed from being a street free agent. Keenan McCardell was a veteran who had been through the NFL wars with Washington and Cleveland before coming to Florida. The team wasn’t battle tested and it was questionable at best whether the roster could remain competitive in the AFC Central with Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Houston (before the team moved to Tennessee).

Offensively (and to an extent, defensively) there are plenty of similarities to both rosters. The idea that a team from 1996 with a 9-7 record could overcome adversity and play in the AFC Title game shows that on any given Sunday and any given season, magic can happen.

The Jaguars are more talented than they were a season ago. Blake Bortles appears (by all accounts we have heard about) to be in better shape and more accurate with the football. Robinson appears to be faster in practice and fully healed from a stress fracture. Yeldon is the real deal, or so everyone thinks so.

If you believe in cycles, which all sports team appear to go through (unless you are the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Browns) there might be something special about this team. Maybe Bortles, Robinson, Hurns (or Lee) and Yeldon are this team’s answer to Brunell, Smith, McCardell and James Stewart (only to be replaced by Fred Taylor in 1998). Could this be a team that if it reels off a couple of wins and gets rolling becomes the steam engine the 1996 team became? Can Chris Clemons fill the role of Clyde Simmons on defense?

It’s just an idea, but work with me here on this.

The NFL is designed in such a way that one single player cannot carry a football team. Troy Aikman needed Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. Dan Marino needed Mark Duper and Mark Clayton. Joe Montana needed Jerry Rice and Roger Craig. And even today, Aaron Rodgers needs Eddie Lacy and Randall Cobb.

Given the youth of this team and the fact there is a lot of potential (yes, it is a dirty word), could our fan base witness the next great unit in the NFL growing up in front of their eyes?

Yes! Yes! Yes!

I’m not willing to anoint this team as great just yet, but I am willing to predict this is the best group of talent this franchise had since the mid and late 1990s. Those were playoff teams. Those were AFC Title contending teams. It took time for them to gel and mesh and play as a unit, but once they came together, they were some of the best – no, THE BEST players to come through this city.

This is a roster than can get just as good fi not better and instead of looking at history and trying to repeat it, we can all hope this is a team that looks at history and writes its own.

The time is now for players and coaches to start thinking about legacies and how they want to be remembered in this town and with this team. Everyone must look at the past and players as motivating factors, not rosters you only hope you can be as good as. Everyone has to believe they can be better – scratch that – they MUST be better in order for history to exceed itself.

 

Lessons Learned from TJ Yeldon

Jun 26, 2015 -- 10:46am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

My son Bennett isn’t a football fan by any means, but if there is a lesson I wish he would learn from, it comes from one of our own NFL players.

TJ Yeldon has been very humble when talking about his growth so far with the Jaguars. Recently, Yeldon was interviewed about his role with the team. While it is thought to be a foregone conclusion that the second round running back will be the starter for game one of the NFL season against Carolina, the rookie said he still has plenty of work to do.

Yeldon went on to say he felt he was last on the team’s depth chart, that the veterans on the roster we ahead of him and he still had plenty to prove to the team, the fans and to himself.

Excuse me, but was that humility we read about concerning a rookie football player? Was that talk from someone who hasn’t done anything yet and has to prove the Jaguars made the right decision to make him the 36th pick in the NFL Draft? How refreshing is it that you listen or read the things Yeldon says and you get the sense he is going to be something special?

Yeldon comes from an Alabama program where one stud player replaces another stud player once they move on to the NFL or graduates. It’s the theory of “Next Man Up,” that Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has implemented. Mark Ingram led to Trent Richardson. Richardson to Eddie Lacy and Lacy to Yeldon. After Yeldon, our very own Derrick Henry is ready to lead the Bama rushing attack.

The theory produces camaraderie and competition – something Yeldon is facing with his new team in a very young offense. There is no doubt, however, Yeldon is up for the challenge and welcomes it. Greatness was never given to an NFL player. It was earned and still is today. With high salaries and egos and entitlement, it is good to see Yeldon is still grounded and ready to prove something before he claims to be something he is not.

It also falls in line with the Jaguars roster – players who are working hard for something that isn’t there yet, but the vision keeps the team hungry. Maybe that was a concept lost on Jack Del Rio and Mike Mularkey. Maybe that message wasn’t conveyed enough over the last eight seasons of mediocrity or less.

It is also refreshing to read about given players in the NFL are mad with franchise tags that pay them $12 million a season or contracts that afford a team an “option” whether to keep a player if they do not meet the demands of the agreement they sign as a rookie.

If I teach Bennett anything in this world, now that he is 15, it is the world does not owe him a thing. He must make his own way, take chances, stay hungry and most of all, work for everything he wants. Yeldon may set that example this season here in Jacksonville. I can only ask Bennett to read these comments and think about his path in life. And if anything, get some sense of value from Yeldon. If a 21-year-old athlete gets it at such a young age, then maybe us older adults should follow suit. And to my neophyte of a son, I can say listen to Yeldon. He appears to be much wiser than I am, even at such an impactful age.

Cornerback Critical to Jags Success

Jun 25, 2015 -- 4:01pm

By: Patrick Wilkins (@wilp0016)

It’s clear that there is no lack of competition in the Jaguars’ locker room. Nowhere is this more evident than at the cornerback position. While a ton of competition exists on the defensive line, its success rests on the ability of the cornerbacks to remain physical and tight in coverage. 

After finishing the 2014 season ranked 22nd in total pass defense, general manager David Caldwell made it a point to address the cornerback position in free agency. He did so by signing Devon House.

At 6’0”, 200 pounds, House might finally be the lengthy corner that Gus Bradley has been looking been for since moving to Jacksonville. He’s physical in press coverage and will be able to match up against larger receivers like Julio Jones and Brandon Marshall. House’s experience will also help the younger corners reach their full potential.

Behind House, the Jaguars have a load of talent in Demetrius McCray and Aaron Colvin.

McCray recorded 49 tackles in 16 games last season and started the final 12 games after taking the job from Dwayne Gratz. The seventh round pick has great size and is physical at the line of scrimmage, though it’s his starting experience that is valuable to the secondary. McCray was easily one of the Jaguars’ best defenders last year and opposing receivers averaged just .78 yards/ cover snap against him. Pro Football Focus used this stat to rank McCray as the fourth best corner coming into the 2015 season.

Aaron Colvin spent most of last season rehabbing an ACL tear that he suffered at the 2014 Senior Bowl. The Jaguars were able to get an inside look at Colvin when they were the appointed coaching staff in Mobile, AL. Caldwell decided he was worthy of their fourth round pick in the 2014 draft. Colvin’s speed, coverage skills and instincts were on display in the six games that Colvin did play in last season. In his first 140 snaps, Colvin recorded 10 tackles, one pass breakup and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Playing mainly in the slot position in 2014, Colvin hopes to make his presence felt on the outside against receivers that have typically been extremely effective against the Jaguars.

The Jaguars’ pass defense ranking improved by three spots from 2013 to 2014, however the secondary was still ineffective against better quarterbacks. Case in point would be week four of last season. Philip Rivers passed for 377 yards and 3 touchdowns in this contest and embarrassed the Jaguars’ secondary.

The road doesn’t become easier in 2015 for the Jaguars’ corners and they will again lineup opposite of exceptional quarterbacks. Aside from Andrew Luck, whom the Jaguars see twice a year, they also face-off against Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. The potential matchup against Tom Brady in week three also looms, however this all hinges on the appeal of his suspension for his role in Deflategate. All of these quarterbacks have playoff experience and know how to pick apart a secondary.

The play at cornerback will also help define the tenure of Johnathan Cyprien. Cyprien has yet to live up to the expectations that have been set for him, but I believe this is because he’s been trying to do too much. He’s found himself out of position several times which has led to big plays from the opponent. With good corner play, Cyprien will be able to stay in position and be as effective as the Jaguars have hoped.

There will be loads of competition throughout the Jaguars’ roster that will make for an exciting training camp.

How will the defensive line react to the Fowler injury? Will the offensive line be able to give protection to Blake Bortles? Will Bortles show that he should be considered a true franchise quarterback? All of these are important storylines to follow during training camp, though none are more exciting than the competition at the cornerback position. Keep an eye on this position battle and the play that follows after the starters have been named. 

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