Jacksonville Jaguars: Andrew Luck

Which player should the Jacksonville Jaguars take with the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft? That's a question that general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley are trying to answer before the first round on May 8. Not that they're asking, but I'm here to offer some help. Every day until the first round I'll argue for a certain player. We're going to go with the caveat that each of the players is available when the Jaguars make their selection.

Today I make the case for quarterback Johnny Manziel. Friday will be quarterback Blake Bortles.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There is no Andrew Luck in this draft, a can't-miss quarterback that can carry a franchise for 10-15 years.

But there is one available that abused one of the country's top college defenses coached by one of the greatest college football coaches of all time. Twice.

He made All-Americans look confused and silly. He made high draft picks look like walk-ons getting their first playing time. He had coaches throwing up their hands because they didn't know what more they could possibly do to stop him.

So when it's time for the Jaguars to make their pick in next week's NFL draft, they should select Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.

The Jaguars finished 22nd in passing, 31st in rushing, and 31st in total offense and averaged just 15.4 points per game last season, so they desperately need a playmaker on offense. There has been no bigger playmaker in college football than Manziel the past two seasons. He threw for 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns and ran for 2,169 yards and 30 touchdowns while playing in the toughest conference in the nation.

In two games against Alabama and Nick Saban, Manziel accounted for 907 yards and seven touchdowns of total offense. The Aggies beat the Crimson Tide, which would go on to win the national title, in 2012 but lost by a touchdown in 2013. He rushed for 190 yards in those games and most of that came on scrambles outside the pocket.

Then again, a lot of his passing yards came that way, too, with him running around, juking defenders, and finding receivers for big gains.

Granted, that style is not going to be as successful in the NFL. Manziel has to learn to play more from the pocket and quit taking off and running at the first sign of trouble. He has to refine his fundamentals and mechanics so he's not relying on his strong arm and athleticism. He has to get stronger so his somewhat slight frame (5-foot-11 3/4, 207 pounds) can better handle the pounding he's going to take at the NFL level.

That's what coaches are for, though. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo can fix those problems (all but the height, obviously).

But it's the other stuff that makes Manziel special. The ability to escape from trouble, improvise, extend plays with his legs, and make big plays. That's instinctual, and it's Manziel's greatest asset. You have to have all those things to be an elite quarterback in the NFL. Robert Griffin III does, and so does Luck. Unless a quarterback is operating at the level occupied by Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, he's got to have the ability to make plays outside the pocket.

Caldwell and Bradley still have work ahead in improving the talent level on the roster. The team won't contend for the playoffs until they do. But adding Manziel can speed up the process a bit.

Though it shouldn't factor into any football decision, there's also this: Adding Manziel would make the Jaguars instantly relevant nationally. The NFL would surely flex a couple Jaguars games to get Manziel on national television. Fans, tired of being the butt of jokes around the country, would revel in the attention.

Manziel isn't a perfect quarterback, but he is the best choice for the Jaguars.
Blaine Gabbert AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackIf they draft another QB, the Jaguars don't plan to play him early, as they did with Blaine Gabbert.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley have been adamant for months that whichever quarterback they draft next week will not play right away.

Chad Henne will be the starter. That is why they signed him to a two-year extension in March.

The rookie’s only responsibilities in 2014 are to learn the offense, adjust to the speed of the NFL game and develop his skills. It’s tough enough to do that without also having to worry about winning games each week.

The offense belongs to Henne, and it’s the right move for the Jaguars. None of the quarterbacks in this draft are in the Andrew Luck/Robert Griffin III/Cam Newton category. Draft experts are divided on whether any of this draft's QBs are ready to play right away, and the pieces are not yet in place for a young quarterback to succeed in Jacksonville.

The Jaguars still need a playmaking wide receiver and have to continue to upgrade the offensive line, especially in the middle. The pass rush has been last in the league the past two seasons (51 sacks), and the speed on defense needs to improve.

It’s hard for a young quarterback to succeed without a strong supporting cast, and the Jaguars certainly can’t put a complete one on the field in 2014.

Sitting a rookie quarterback drafted in the first or second round is not an approach shared by every NFL team. Of the 40 quarterbacks drafted in the first two rounds over the past 10 years, half started at least eight games as rookies. Of the remaining 20, five started between three and seven games. Only one (Brian Brohm in 2008) failed to take a single snap as a rookie.

Granted, the group that started at least eight games includes Luck, Griffin, Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. That is a pretty good list. It also includes Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Jimmy Clausen and Matt Leinart. That is not as good a list.

But among the players who started fewer than eight games as rookies are Aaron Rodgers (none), Eli Manning (seven), Philip Rivers (none) and Jay Cutler (five). However, it also includes Brady Quinn (none), J.P. Losman (none) and JaMarcus Russell (one) – three of the bigger first-round quarterback busts of the past decade.

This shows there is no correlation between playing a lot as a rookie and success, so that doesn’t mean the Jaguars’ decision to keep the quarterback they draft (expected to be in the second round) on the bench will ensure that he develops into an elite player. But it certainly can’t hurt.

And if a QB isn’t really ready for the burden, it can be devastating. The Jaguars are all too aware of that.

Gabbert certainly had his issues in the pocket, was unable to transfer what he did on the practice field to Sundays, and had trouble staying healthy. The first two were certainly related to being put on the field before he was ready.

Then-general manager Gene Smith traded the Jaguars' first-round pick (No. 16) and second-round pick (No. 49) to Washington to move up six spots to take Gabbert with the 10th overall pick in 2011. The Jaguars' starter that season was supposed to be David Garrard, who was in the fourth year of a seven-year, $60 million contract, but in a surprise move the team released Garrard just five days before the 2011 season opener.

Luke McCown started the first two games, but then-coach Jack Del Rio made the switch to Gabbert. He was robbed of minicamps and OTAs because of the lockout and was just 21 years old when he stepped on the field for the first time. It’s no surprise he struggled and went on to win just five of his 27 starts before being traded to San Francisco in March.

There is at least one other organization that agrees with the Jaguars’ new approach. Houston Texans owner Bob McNair recently told the Houston Chronicle that having rookie David Carr start 16 games in 2002 was a mistake. Carr was sacked a league-high 76 times and threw nine touchdown passes and 15 interceptions in ’02. McNair says it would have been better for Carr and the Texans if coach Dom Capers had gone with veteran Tony Banks that season instead.

The Texans, who own the No. 1 pick this year, are expected to draft a quarterback in the first or second round next week, but the team’s starter will be Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum or T.J. Yates.

What the Jaguars are hoping for is what happened in Green Bay. The Packers took Rodgers with the 24th pick in the 2005 NFL draft, but he didn’t start a game in his first three seasons as he learned and developed behind Brett Favre. Rodgers became the starter in 2008 and has led the Packers to a 58-29 record and a Super Bowl title.

That might be asking too much. But avoiding what teams went through with Russell, Losman and Leinart isn’t.

So the Jaguars are going to sit the rookie and wait … and hope.
Which player should the Jacksonville Jaguars take with the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft? That's a question that general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley are trying to answer before the first round on May 8. Not that they're asking, but I'm here to offer some help. Every day until the first round I'll argue for a certain player. We're going to go with the caveat that each of the players are available when the Jaguars make their selection.

We'll start with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Tuesday will be linebacker Khalil Mack.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The best argument for the Jaguars to draft defensive end Clowney came on Feb. 2, 2014.

Russell Wilson played well. Marshawn Lynch was effective. Percy Harvin delivered the knockout blow. But the reason the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl was its pass rush. They sacked Peyton Manning only once but they were in his face all day. They disrupted the rhythm of a record-setting offense and the Denver Broncos could only manage eight points.

If quarterback is the most important building block, then finding someone who can disrupt the quarterback is 1A. There is no better pass-rusher in the draft than Clowney.

There may not have been a better pass rusher in any of the past 10-15 drafts, either.

Clowney is 6-foot-5, 266 pounds and he ran an official 4.53 second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. More impressive was the fact that he covered the first 10 yards in 1.56 seconds. That's a faster burst than running backs Montee Ball and Zac Stacy had in 2013.

It's another example of Clowney's explosiveness and athleticism, which is off the charts for someone of his size. He's got long arms (83-inch wingspan) and his vertical jump of 37 inches was a half-inch higher than Mike Evans and more than 3 inches higher than Sammy Watkins. So you can make the argument that he's the best pure athlete in the draft regardless of position.

Forget the questions about Clowney's work ethic. We, the media, are more to blame for that criticism. In the days after the 2012 college football season ended, there were countless columns and stories and experts saying that Clowney should sit out the 2013 season so he wouldn't risk his status as the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft. That went on for months. Clowney only turned 21 in February. How many 20-year-olds would not have been impacted by reading that he was potentially jeopardizing millions of dollars by playing -- especially after seeing South Carolina teammate Marcus Lattimore rip up his knee twice and end up becoming a fourth-round pick?

Clowney has the potential to be a double-digit sack guy immediately and it may only take him a year or two to become one of the league's best pass-rushers.

And if he doesn't work hard consistently? Well, the Jaguars have already proved they can fix that. Second-year defensive end Andre Branch looked like a bust because of the same issue, but Bradley, defensive line coach Todd Wash, and defensive coordinator Bob Babich worked with him and got him to give consistent effort. The result was five of his six sacks last in the last seven games.

The Jaguars certainly need to get more pressure on the quarterback. They've been last in sacks in each of the past two seasons (20 in 2012 and 31 in 2013) and haven't had a player with double digit sacks since Bobby McCray had 10 in 2006.

Another reason to take Clowney: Andrew Luck. To win the AFC South the Jaguars are going to have to beat the Indianapolis Colts. Sending one of the league's top pass-rushers after him twice a year would certainly make things tough for Luck.

Ask Manning.
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Predictions

Breakdown: If the Jaguars are going to get off to a good start in 2014, they’ll have to do it against some pretty tough competition. They play three of their first four games against teams that made the playoffs last season, including two on the road (Philadelphia to open the season on Sept. 7 and San Diego three weeks later). In fact, the Jaguars play five games against four teams (Indianapolis twice) that made the playoffs last season and four of those games come within the season’s first nine games. In addition to Philadelphia and San Diego, the Jaguars play host to Indianapolis on Sept. 21 (home opener) and play at Cincinnati on Nov. 2. If the Jaguars are going to challenge the .500 mark this season, they can’t afford to play like they did in the first half of the 2013 season when they lost all eight games by double digits.

Complaint department: The Jaguars have just one home game in the season’s first month and play four of their first six games on the road for the second consecutive season. It’s not as bad as it was in 2013, when they played at Oakland and Seattle in Weeks 2-3, but it still robs the team of gaining a little momentum from an attendance boost because of the new scoreboards and amenities at EverBank Field. There’s also a stretch in which the Jaguars don’t play a game at EverBank for nearly a month because of the annual Florida-Georgia game, the game against Dallas in London, a bye week and the Great Jacksonville Agricultural Fair.

Secondary concerns: We’ll quickly get a chance to see how much cornerback Dwayne Gratz and safety Johnathan Cyprien have improved in their second season and whether the pass rush is any better. The Jaguars start the season by facing a run of pretty darn good quarterbacks in the season’s first five games: Philadelphia’s Nick Foles, Washington’s Robert Griffin III, Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, San Diego’s Philip Rivers and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger. The Jaguars finished the 2013 season tied for 25th in pass defense (247.6 yards per game) and tied for last in sacks (31). The addition of defensive end Chris Clemons and linebacker Dekoda Watson, plus a potential high draft pick, should improve the rush.

Strength of schedule: 29th, .453 | Vegas over/under : 4.5

Jaguars Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7, at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14, at Washington, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21, Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 28, at San Diego, 4:05 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, at Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, Miami, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 2, at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 9, Dallas, 1 p.m. (in London)
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Nov. 30, NY Giants, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7, Houston, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, at Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Thursday, Dec. 18, Tennessee, 8:25 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, at Houston, 1 p.m.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Jaguars

March, 13, 2014
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s prediction in his third mock draft Insider that the Jacksonville Jaguars will take defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming draft is not surprising. He made the same forecast in his first two mock drafts. It's the pick that makes the most sense.

The Jaguars do need a quarterback and in Kiper's scenario Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles are available, but general manager David Caldwell has dropped several hints that he doesn't believe any of them are a franchise quarterback.

Caldwell has said rookie quarterbacks generally aren't ready to play right away. There are exceptions, such as Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan, but those players didn't leave school early and played in pro-style offenses in college. He also has said Chad Henne, who signed a two-year extension last week, can keep the team afloat with better offensive line play and more weapons.

The Jaguars worked on both of those issues early in free agency by signing guard Zane Beadles and running back Toby Gerhart. They are expected to add at least one more offensive lineman and possibly a receiver before the draft, as well.

So Clowney, whom many regard as the best player in the draft, is the natural pick. He fills an immediate need and upgrades a pass rush that finished last in the NFL in each of the past two seasons. He's ridiculously athletic and exceptionally quick (4.53 40-yard dash, including a 10-yard split of 1.56 seconds) for a 6-foot-5, 266-pound end.

Some have concerns about his work ethic and motivation, but those issues are being overblown. Clowney is a freak who can dominate a game.

And consider this: Since the Jaguars will play six games against the AFC South it's important the team is built to handle those opponents. The Indianapolis Colts are the best team in the division because of Luck so the Jaguars need to be able to deal with them twice a year.

Clowney is the first piece.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan created a bit of a stir among fans when he said it’s no mystery that the team would draft a quarterback in May -- and possibly even two.

Notably absent from his comments, however, was the phrase "in the first round."

The Jaguars have the No. 3 overall selection and will have a shot at Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles. For months I’ve been on the Bridgewater bandwagon. I believe he’s the most polished, NFL-ready quarterback in the draft. Manziel wouldn’t be a bad option either because he’s such a dynamic player and will certainly make the Jaguars instantly relevant nationally.

The Jaguars, though, should pass on a quarterback with their first-round pick. They should do the same in the second round, too.

[+] EnlargeJadeveon Clowney, Dak Prescott
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesUsing the No. 3 overall pick on an elite defender like South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, 7, could appeal to Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley.
That certainly won’t be a popular opinion among fans, who desperately want the team to move on from Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. But it’s the best decision for general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley as they continue their rebuild of the franchise. Fix and bolster the defense first, especially the pass rush and the secondary, then make quarterback a priority.

Two reasons:

Defense is more important to winning championships than most people realize.

Young, inexperienced quarterbacks, provided they have the pieces in place around them, can make it to and win Super Bowls.

Seattle won the Super Bowl last Sunday because of its stifling defense, which led the NFL in yards allowed per game, passing yards allowed and scoring, and finished tied for seventh in rushing yards allowed. The Seahawks absolutely throttled Denver’s record-setting offense and badgered Denver quarterback Peyton Manning in a 43-8 victory.

But don’t believe that what the Seahawks did signifies a changing philosophy or the start of a new trend in the NFL in which defense -- and not elite quarterbacks -- win championships. Defense has been winning Super Bowls for years, but people overlook that because of the elite quarterbacks.

Six of the past 10 Super Bowl winners had a defense that ranked in the top 11 in the NFL in three of the four major statistical categories (total defense, rush defense, pass defense and scoring defense): Seattle, Green Bay (2011), Pittsburgh (2009, 2006), New York Giants (2008), and New England (2005). Each of those teams -- with the exception of the Seahawks because it’s too early to tell how good Russell Wilson will be -- also had elite quarterbacks.

The Green Bay team that thrived on Aaron Rodgers' right arm? The Packers' defense ranked second in scoring and fifth in passing and total defense. Pittsburgh’s 2009 Super Bowl title team led the league in total defense, pass defense and scoring defense.

The last time New England won the Super Bowl was 2005. That was Tom Brady's third title in four years, but the Patriots' defense was one of the league’s best that season, ranking second in scoring, sixth in rushing and ninth in total defense.

The four other Super Bowl champs of the past decade won because of their quarterbacks (Baltimore in 2013, New York Giants in 2012, New Orleans in 2010 and Indianapolis in 2007), but the Giants wouldn't have won without their pass rush, and the Saints might not have won without cornerback Tracy Porter's fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown.

The Jaguars’ defense has some solid building blocks -- tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, linebacker Paul Posluszny, safety Johnathan Cyprien and cornerback Dwayne Gratz -- but Caldwell and Bradley need to bolster the pass rush, get more depth on the defensive line and add help at outside linebacker. They should address those areas in the first two rounds, especially if they can nab defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 3 pick.

Bradley is surely in favor of taking that approach. It’s the way Seattle did it during his four years as the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator, and we just saw how well it worked. The team was built around its defense, and everything was in place for a Super Bowl run once Wilson was added to the mix.

Wilson is clearly not an elite quarterback right now. He wasn’t even in the Seahawks’ plans two years ago when they drafted him in the third round, because Pete Carroll had traded for Matt Flynn in the offseason and gave Flynn the starting job. Wilson beat out Flynn and has played solid but not spectacular football, winning a Super Bowl ring in his second season.

More proof that young quarterbacks aren’t a hindrance to success: Colin Kaepernick led San Francisco to the Super Bowl in his second season in the league; Andrew Luck has led Indianapolis to the playoffs in his first two seasons; Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie; and Brady won a Super Bowl in his first season as a starter, which was his second season in the NFL.

Taking a quarterback with the No. 3 pick won’t guarantee that the Jaguars will be ready for a playoff run in 2014 or 2015, especially if, as some inside the building believe, none of the quarterbacks available in this draft are ready to contribute right away. There is no guarantee that Bridgewater, Manziel or Bortles will turn out to be a better quarterback than Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger or Jimmy Garoppolo, anyway, and those latter three are players the Jaguars could land in the third round or later.

The Jaguars need immediate impact players, which is why taking Clowney or another elite pass-rusher in the first two rounds is the better -- albeit not popular -- option.
Jacksonville Jaguars players don’t agree with the majority of NFL players that named Tom Brady as the quarterback they’d like to have with two minutes remaining and the score tied in the Super Bowl.

In an NFL Nation confidential survey of 320 players, 40 percent (128) said they’d want the New England Patriots quarterback taking snaps. However, most of the 10 Jaguars players that participated in the survey said they want Peyton Manning.

In fact, Brady got just one vote.

Manning got four votes, Aaron Rodgers received two, and Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck each were named once.

Those results are a bit surprising considering Brady and Eli Manning have both led their teams to a pair of Super Bowl victories with late-game drives. When Peyton Manning’s Colts won Super Bowl XLI 29-17 over the Chicago Bears, they didn’t score an offensive point in the fourth quarter. He also threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown with 3:12 remaining in the Colts’ 31-17 loss to New Orleans in Super Bowl XLIV.

The Jaguars had the fifth-youngest roster in the NFL when the season began (according to research done by philly.com’s Jimmy Kempski) which means some of the players were as young as 9 or 10 years old when Brady won his first Super Bowl title after the 2001 season.
A large portion of the 320 players that participated in an NFL Nation confidential survey about which non-teammate they’d like to see play in a Super Bowl didn’t get their wish.

Three Jaguars players did, though.

Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson topped the survey with 59 votes, narrowly edging out Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez (56 votes), who retired last month after 17 years in the NFL.

Obviously neither was able to make to the Super Bowl this year, but three of the players named by the 10 Jaguars players polled did: Denver’s Terrance Knighton and Demaryius Thomas and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. It’s not a surprise that someone named Knighton because he was the Jaguars’ third-round pick in 2009 and one of the most well-liked players in the locker room during his four seasons in Jacksonville.

The interesting thing about the Jaguars’ responses was that no player was named more than once. In addition to Knighton, Thomas and Lynch, seven other players were named: Jake Long, Brandon Carr, Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Peterson and Michael Vick.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning may be 37 years old but he’s still the one person more NFL players would like to have if they were starting team from scratch -- but not by much.

Manning was named on 19.3 percent of the ballots of our NFL Nation confidential survey of 320 players, narrowly edging out Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (17.5 percent). It’s really not surprising, though, considering his record-breaking season and the importance of elite quarterbacks.

In fact, five of the top seven vote-getters in the survey were quarterbacks. Only one, however, is under 30: Luck, who turned 24 last September.

The 10 Jaguars players surveyed fell right in line with those results as well. Manning received four votes, followed by Luck (two), Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers (two), New England quarterback Tom Brady (one) and Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson.

The Jaguars' results, and those in the overall survey, are a bit surprising because I thought the overwhelming winner in the survey would be Luck. He meets all the criteria of someone around who you’d want to build a franchise: young, talented, smart, hard working, humble, and, most of all, a quarterback.

Jaguars fantasy breakdown: Week 17

December, 27, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Looking for some help with your fantasy football lineup? Every Friday I'll give you my opinions on which Jacksonville Jaguars players to play and sit, as well as which of the opposing players might be a good play against the Jags. For more fantasy football advice, check out ESPN.com's fantasy football page.

Jaguars

QB Chad Henne: He has thrown eight touchdown passes in the last four weeks despite not exactly having an elite group of receivers. He is played his best football right now. Verdict: He's a viable option for a No. 2 QB if you can play two.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew: He was limited all week but will play against the Colts, a team he has traditionally had a lot of success against. He may not have a full workload because of his hamstring but he still should get 15 touches. Verdict: Sit him.

Lewis
TE Marcedes Lewis: He has caught a touchdown pass in four straight games and has been a bigger part of the passing offense. He's pretty much the best weapon Henne has. Verdict: Start him.

K Josh Scobee: Scobee has had a great year and he wraps it up by kicking in a dome. The only problem is the Jaguars have passed up some sure field goals in the past few games to go for it on fourth down. Verdict: He's as good an option as any kicker.

Defense/special teams: The defense will be down four starters and the defensive line rotation will likely include two players who joined the team earlier this week. The return game has been solid but still hasn't produced a score. The Colts are going to try to pound the ball like Tennessee and Buffalo the past two weeks. Verdict: Sit them.

Colts

QB Andrew Luck: He's not whipping it around the field like he did as a rookie, but he has been more efficient and his interceptions are down. Don't expect big numbers because the Colts are going to have success running the ball. Verdict: Sit him.

RB Donald Brown: He has emerged as the Colts' top back and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. He should have success Sunday because of the Jaguars' limitations along the defensive front. Verdict: Start him.

WR T.Y. Hilton: He has stepped neatly into the No. 1 receiver role after Reggie Wayne went down and needs just 72 yards to reach 1,000. Verdict: Start him as your No. 2 or No. 3 receiver.

TE Coby Fleener: Fleener burned the Jaguars for five catches for 77 yards and a touchdown in the previous meeting. The Jaguars haven't figured out how to stop tight ends since then. Verdict: Start him.

K Adam Vinatieri: Always go with dome kickers, especially ones that have set career highs in field goals made (32) and rank 15th in field goal accuracy in NFL history (82.9 percent). Verdict: Start him.

Defense/special teams: The Colts have given up a total of 10 points in the last two games. Plus, the Jaguars' situation at offensive tackle is unclear because of injuries and the team may have to play Sam Young, who has played mainly on special teams this season. Robert Mathis (16.5 sacks) should be drooling. Verdict: Start them.

Double Coverage: Jaguars at Colts

December, 26, 2013
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Henne-LuckGetty ImagesAndrew Luck and the Colts will look to take momentum into the playoffs with a win over Chad Henne and the Jaguars.
It’ll be a battle of teams headed in opposite directions at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.

The Indianapolis Colts want to have momentum heading into the playoffs. They also need the victory to have a shot at moving up from the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs. The Jacksonville Jaguars are simply playing out the season before vacation starts following the game.

The Colts easily beat the Jaguars 37-3 in Week 4.

ESPN.com Colts reporter Mike Wells and Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco discuss the rematch:

Wells: Running back Maurice Jones-Drew has been a fixture in the organization for eight years. Will Sunday be the last time he wears a Jaguars uniform?

DiRocco: My gut feeling is that he’ll be back, but it’s certainly not a slam dunk. Jones-Drew said after Sunday’s loss to Tennessee that he wants to be back in Jacksonville, but he has a price and contract length in mind. So does general manager David Caldwell, so I expect this to be a deal that’s going to take some negotiating to get done. Jones-Drew may still want to test the free-agent market to see what kind of money is out there, but he’ll probably find that there isn’t a lot of demand for a 29-year-old running back who has battled injuries the past two seasons. It really would be best for both sides to have Jones-Drew finish his career in Jacksonville. Jones-Drew wouldn’t have to prove himself all over again and he would help bridge the gap between the past five terrible seasons and the new regime.

Since we’re talking about running backs, was the Trent Richardson trade the worst move of the NFL season? What does it mean going forward for both the Colts and Richardson?

Wells: The trade obviously hasn’t worked out the way the Colts envisioned -- Richardson isn't even starting -- but the front office is nowhere near ready to ball up a white towel and throw it in on the second-year running back. They still believe he’s a huge part of the team’s future. The Colts believe a full offseason of organized team activities and training camp will help Richardson’s development. Richardson has shown some flashes -- he ran for 51 yards on seven carries in the fourth quarter against Houston on Dec. 15 -- but the Colts don’t want flashes. They want consistency out of him, and believe that will come.

I know I asked you about Sunday possibly being Jones-Drew’s final game with the Jaguars, but what about the coaching situation down there? Do you think you’ll be covering a coaching search in the offseason?

DiRocco: It may look to outsiders that Gus Bradley should be on the hot seat after a 4-11 season that included an 0-8 start, but he’s just as secure in his job as Bill Belichick, Andy Reid and Pete Carroll are theirs. Owner Shad Khan knew this was going to be a rough season because he, Caldwell and Bradley agreed to essentially blow things up and start over. The Jaguars’ roster is the least talented in the league, and it’s also one of the youngest. Caldwell is committed to building through the draft (the Jags have 10 picks in the 2014 draft) and Bradley is on board with that. The first priority is finding a quarterback, which likely will be done in May. Now, if the Jaguars are still only able to manage single-digit victories three seasons from now, Bradley would be in trouble.

Did Chuck Pagano use QB Andrew Luck correctly this season? Even with the Reggie Wayne injury, shouldn’t Luck have been throwing it all over the place?

Wells: The Colts put a heavy emphasis on being a power-running team this season. Any thought of that happening basically ended when Ahmad Bradshaw was lost for the season with a neck injury after the Week 3 game against the San Francisco 49ers. The Colts became a team that simply wanted to be able to run the football, and they weren’t going to let anybody stop them from trying to do it. They’ve gained at least 104 yards in 10 games this season, with the idea of helping ease the burden on Luck’s shoulders. Luck’s passing yards are down from his rookie season, but he has had a better overall second year. His completion percentage is up and his interceptions are down. It didn’t seem that would happen after Wayne was lost for the season and there wasn’t much continuity with the rest of the receiving group outside of T.Y. Hilton. Have you ever heard of Da'Rick Rogers? But Luck’s faith and trust with his receivers has improved each week because he has put in the time with them in practice.

The quarterback situation in Jacksonville is still a mess. Will the Jags look to upgrade the position in the offseason or will Blaine Gabbert get another shot?

DiRocco: I mentioned it briefly above, but finding a franchise quarterback is the No. 1 priority and I believe the Jaguars will select one with their first-round pick. ESPN Insider Todd McShay’s first mock draftInsider had them selecting Johnny Manziel, which would certainly make them relevant nationally and bring some excitement to the franchise. Teddy Bridgewater is still an option, too, depending on how the draft plays out. The Jaguars also could opt to go defense in the first round and take a QB in the second. Regardless of their approach, I’d be stunned if the team doesn’t draft a quarterback. Gabbert’s days in Jacksonville are done.

Denver isn’t a lock to win the AFC, by any means. How do you break down the Colts’ chances in the playoffs?

Wells: Health, continued improvement from the receivers, the defense forcing turnovers and having a running game are the biggest keys for the Colts in the playoffs. I believe it’s a two-team race between Denver and New England in the AFC, but both teams have their flaws and are beatable. The Colts are in a situation where they could finish anywhere from the No. 2 seed to the No. 4 seed. They’ve been able to overcome the loss of Wayne to be in the position to possibly match their win total of 11 games from last season, but I think it’s in the playoffs -- possibly in the second round if they get there -- that the Colts will miss Wayne’s talent and experience.

 

Previewing the Jaguars' second half

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars begin the second half of the 2013 season Sunday still in search of their first victory.

Since the schedule is considerably easier than it was in the first half, the Jaguars have a much better chance of avoiding becoming just the second team in NFL history to go 0-16. Or do they?

Here's a look at the remaining games:

At Tennessee (Nov. 10): The coaching staff, scouting staff and management had a huge meeting last week to evaluate every player on the team. The coaching staff also evaluated schemes, personnel groupings and strategy. With all that information, they should be able to put together a game plan that takes advantages of the few strengths they do have. The defense has regressed the past two games, struggles to stop the run and can't get off the field on third down. The Titans' offense isn't explosive, but it is efficient. Running back Chris Johnson should have a pretty big day against a team that's giving up 161.8 yards per game on the ground.

Arizona (Nov. 17): The Cardinals have one of the NFL's worst offenses (29th overall), which would be a good matchup for a Jaguars offense that struggles to run the ball (66.0 yards per game). Now that the Jaguars have finally scored a touchdown in a "home" game, maybe that could open the door for the team to score a TD at EverBank Field.

At Houston (Nov. 24): The Texans are somewhat of a mess, as high expectations have disintegrated during a six-game losing streak. Even though he has looked solid, Case Keenum is still a first-year player. Arian Foster is banged up, too. That's as good a scenario as the Jaguars could hope for in Houston.

At Cleveland (Dec. 1): This is a game many probably circled as a victory when the schedule came out, but the Browns just manhandled the Baltimore Ravens last week. They have the league's No. 4 overall defense and rank in the top 10 in rush and pass defense. That's not a good matchup for an offense that struggles to run the ball and is ineffective in the red zone (five TDs on 20 trips).

Houston (Dec. 5): The schedule certainly helps the Jaguars here. The Texans play host to New England the Sunday before this Thursday night game. The Patriots shredded a good Houston team twice last season, so what will they do to this year's Texans? It could be a demoralized team coming into EverBank Field.

Buffalo (Dec. 15): Quarterback EJ Manuel is scheduled to return from a knee injury this weekend, and the rookie from Florida State has been all over the place. He delivered a game-winning drive against Carolina but has also made confusing throws. Which guy shows up?

Tennessee (Dec. 22): This could be the game in which we see a lot more of some young players -- Ricky Stanzi, perhaps? -- if the Jaguars have already secured a victory.

At Indianapolis (Dec. 29): What if the Colts can't improve or hurt their playoff seed based on the outcome of this game? Does Chuck Pagano play Andrew Luck and other starters for a quarter, a half, or not at all? If the Jaguars are 0-15 entering this game, does that factor into his decision? It could be the biggest game of the season for the Jaguars.

RTC: Jordan Todman penalty nixed

October, 4, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars running back Jordan Todman had his late-hit penalty nullified. Now he's working on getting the fine wiped out, too.

According to Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union, the NFL admitted the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty Todam received in the first quarter was unwarranted. He said his agent is going through the appeals process with the league to have the $8,000 fine eliminated, too. Todman was a sixth-round draft pick by San Diego in 2011 but had played in just one game until this season.

"Honestly, it could be Year 10 for me and I’d still feel like eight grand is a lot of money to have to give away,” Todman said. “Hopefully, it gets overturned and they agree with me, so I can keep my money.”

Here are some other pieces of Jaguars content from around the web in our daily Reading the Coverage feature:

The T-U's Vito Stellino recaps offensive tackle Austin Pasztor's journey from hockey goaltender to starting right tackle. Stellino also writes that defensive end Jason Babin received a letter from the NFL office, which probably means he's been fined for his late hit on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Babin hadn't opened the letter yet, though.

Here's a roundup of items from this blog: general manager Dave Caldwell says the team is not having a fire sale; the weekly mailbag; the Jaguars' interest level in quarterback Josh Freeman is "very little to none."

Upon Further Review: Jaguars Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
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A review of four hot issues from the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 37-3 loss to Indianapolis:

[+] EnlargeBlaine Gabbert
Phil Sears/USA TODAY SportsThe Jaguars are sticking by starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert -- at least for the time being.
Staying with Gabbert: Blaine Gabbert has thrown five interceptions and has led the offense to just three points in two home games this season, but Jaguars coach Gus Bradley is sticking with him as the team’s starting quarterback. Gabbert has a 5-21 record as a starter and has shown little progress since he was selected 10th overall in the 2011 draft, but Bradley wants to see more of Gabbert in the team’s current system before making any judgments about his future with the team. “I know you say, ‘Gus, we’ve waited to see,’ but I’ve got to see it,” Bradley said. He said some of the issues on Sunday may have been receivers not finishing routes, plus all three interceptions came after receivers bobbled passes.

No help: With Marcedes Lewis’ return lasting just the first series before he had to leave the game after reinjuring his calf, the Jaguars were again without any complementary playmakers to receiver Cecil Shorts. It’s one of the offense’s main problems because teams are able to roll coverages toward Shorts and force Gabbert to beat them with the other receivers -- two of whom were signed from the practice squad on Saturday. It didn’t work, obviously. Gabbert completed just five passes to other wide receivers (four to Ace Sanders, one to Jeremy Ebert). Justin Blackmon returns this week from a four-game suspension, so that should help, but Lewis’ absence is still significant.

TE troubles: The Jaguars again struggled to cover the tight end. Coby Fleener caught five passes for 77 yards and one touchdown, a 31-yarder in which he was wide open. Depending on the defense called, responsibility for the tight end falls to a linebacker, safety or nickel back. Regardless of which player had responsibility, there have been mistakes that resulted in big plays. As good as he is against the run, linebacker Paul Posluszny sometimes struggles in coverage, and the Jaguars started a pair of rookies at safety against the Colts. Through four games, tight ends have caught 20 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns. The Seahawks' and Colts' tight ends combined to catch 14 passes for 183 yards and three touchdowns.

Discipline problem: It’s not the fact that the Jaguars committed nine penalties for 65 yards that’s troubling. It’s the kinds of penalties that are the issue. Eight of the nine were discipline penalties: four defensive offside/encroachment, one illegal substitution, one false start, one roughing the passer, and one unsportsmanlike conduct. Those are mental mistakes that are avoidable. Jason Babin committed three, including lining up offside twice. The Jaguars aren’t close to being talented enough to be able to overcome mistakes like that, especially against a quarterback like Andrew Luck. “We cannot have that as part of our game,” Bradley said. “Obviously our players aren’t getting the message, and that’s on me.”

Jaguars fantasy breakdown: Week 4

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Looking for some help with your fantasy football lineup? Every Friday I'll give you my opinions on which Jacksonville Jaguars players to play and sit, as well as which of the opposing players might be a good play against the Jags. For more fantasy football advice, check out ESPN.com's fantasy football page.

Jaguars

QB Blaine Gabbert: He returns to the field after missing the last two weeks because of a cut on the back of his hand. The good news is he gets Marcedes Lewis back, too. The bad news is two of the Jaguars’ four active receivers for the game might come from the practice squad. Plus, he’s facing league’s 11th-best passing defense. Verdict: Keep him out of your lineup.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew: Lewis’ return should help in the running game, too. But will it make enough of a difference for Jones-Drew to finally get rolling? Probably not because the interior of the line is still struggling. However, Jones-Drew has averaged 106.8 yards per game in his career against the Colts. Verdict: He might not be a bad gamble as your No. 3 back in deep leagues.

WR Cecil Shorts: Shorts has caught 16 passes in the past two games. However, only three have come in the first half and the rest came when the Jaguars were in catch-up mode. But in fantasy football, it doesn’t matter when you accumulate catches and yards. Verdict: He’ll be the top target again this week so he’s a viable play as a No. 2 receiver.

TE Marcedes Lewis: Lewis finally makes his season debut after missing the first three games with a calf injury. He should be a factor in the passing game because he’s a familiar and reliable target for Gabbert. Verdict: He’s worth a gamble if you’re trying to decide between players among the second tier of tight ends.

K Josh Scobee: The offense still isn’t consistent enough for Scobee to get a lot of work, but he has kicked four field goals of 50 or more yards in his career against the Colts, including a 59-yarder. That’s more than he’s had against any other teams. Verdict: Start him, especially if you get additional points for long field goals.

Defense/special teams: Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton against a secondary that is starting two rookies. Not a good matchup. But the special teams are intriguing because rookie Ace Sanders is finally going to return punts, which is something he did very well at South Carolina. Verdict: Don’t use them this week.

Colts

QB Andrew Luck: Luck isn’t exactly throwing it around the yard through the first three weeks. He is averaging just 227.7 yards per game passing but he also has rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns and is averaging 7.1 yards per carry. He’s also going against two rookies in the secondary. Verdict: He’s a definite start.

RB Trent Richardson: He has now been with the Colts for more than a week and is slowly picking up the offense. With Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) out Richardson is sure to get the bulk of the carries against a Jaguars defense that is giving up 167.7 yards per game. Verdict: Start him.

WR Reggie Wayne: He may be in his 13th season but he’s still the Colts’ top pass catcher (18 receptions, 205 yards, one TD). There could be times where he’s matched up with rookie seventh-round pick Demetrius McCray. That probably will end badly for McCray. Verdict: You should have him in your lineup.

WR T.Y. Hilton: The second-year player is the Colts’ big-play receiver. He’s averaging a team-high 14.3 yards per catch, and his 10 catches are second only to Reggie Wayne’s 11. Verdict: You could play him as your No. 3 receiver or flex.

TE Coby Fleener: Fleener was predicted to have a big year, but so far has caught only seven passes for 89 yards and one touchdown -- and one of those receptions was a 40-yarder. The Jaguars, though, have had trouble with tight ends (see last week’s game agaunst Seattle). Verdict: He’s a solid play.

K Adam Vinatieri: He’s not the point machine he was during his heyday, but he’s a reliable kicker who should get plenty of work on Sunday. Verdict: Play him.

Defense/special teams: The Colts are coming off a surprising 27-7 victory over San Francisco in which the defense forced two turnovers and limited Colin Kaepernick to only 170 yards of total offense. They now get a Jaguars offensive line that has struggled up the middle and a quarterback making his first start since Week 1. Verdict: Definitely play them.

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