NFL Nation: Denard Robinson

Jaguars vs. Bengals preview

October, 30, 2014
10/30/14
8:00
AM ET

So begins the Jacksonville Jaguars' gauntlet.

One week after a two-touchdown defeat to their in-state rival Miami Dolphins, the Jaguars on Sunday begin a treacherous three-game stretch of their schedule against a trio of teams with winning records -- and that all look like prime postseason candidates.

Up first, the Cincinnati Bengals, an organization that found itself at a unique crossroads late in last Sunday's game against Baltimore. Down four with less than four minutes remaining in a division game, the Bengals needed quarterback Andy Dalton to take them on a miracle comeback drive. He did. If he hadn't, the Bengals likely would have lost and fallen to last in the AFC North.

Instead, they're back in first.

ESPN's Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco and Bengals reporter Coley Harvey are here to preview this matchup:

Coley Harvey: Mike, Jags QB Blake Bortles has four pick-sixes this year to go along with his 12 overall interceptions. How much of his growth hinges on how well he can take pressure? Many of his struggles have come against blitzes, and you have to think Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther wants to expose that.

Michael DiRocco: Bortles has struggled against the blitz. Though he is completing nearly 60 percent of his throws against five or more rushers, he has thrown five interceptions, has thrown no touchdown passes and has been sacked nine times. His Total QBR is a paltry 2.8 against five or more rushers. This isn't confined to just Bortles, though, because nearly every rookie QB will struggle against pressure. However, the Jaguars need to see improvement over the final eight games. His decision-making has to be better, and the one thing offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch wants to see is Bortles not continue to make the same mistakes. There are going to be interceptions because it's part of the learning process, and it's also because Bortles has a bit of gunslinger in him and likes to take chances. That's partly why he leads the NFL with 12 interceptions. Fisch would like to see that number drop to six over the season's second half. It's a rough process, but the only way Bortles can grow is to go through it. It would be a problem if he wasn't better in the second half of the season than he was in the first half.

Coley, A.J. Green says he expects to play against the Jaguars. More than quarterback Andy Dalton, is Green the key to the Bengals' offensive success, not only this week but going forward?

Harvey: To be honest, Mike, he isn't. Yes, Green is a Pro Bowler and he is a talented player and having him will bring added life to this offense, but we can't overlook the fact this unit has played well without him this season. Green has missed parts of four games this season because of a nagging big-toe injury, and in his place the Bengals have just rolled out a strong group of receivers, running backs and tight ends. Mohamed Sanu has been the most direct replacement for Green, catching 21 passes for 383 yards and a touchdown in Green's absence. Since Sanu has served as a runner on reverses, and passed balls in addition to catching them, he has racked up 460 yards of total offense in relief of Green. That's good enough for 31.3 percent of the Bengals' entire offensive production in the games Green has missed. Even if Green returns, expect Sanu to factor in similar ways this week and on down the line. Still, it can't be disputed that Green's potential addition this weekend will help any offensive success Cincinnati has.

Mike, Jacksonville's defense currently ranks as the best in the league in red zone territory. What happens when the Jags get pinned deep that allows them to prevent giving up touchdowns?

DiRocco: The Jaguars' defensive line, notably tackles Sen'Derrick Marks and Roy Miller, has played well all season, but especially in the red zone. Teams are averaging just 2.08 yards per rush against the Jaguars in the red zone. In addition, the Jaguars have allowed teams to convert just 27.3 percent of third-down plays in the red zone, which is fifth in the league. They've also intercepted two passes in the end zone. What's funny is the Jaguars have given up six touchdown passes of 20 or more yards, which shows the secondary has been more susceptible to getting beat deep than having trouble in the red zone. The pass rush has helped in the red zone, too. The Jaguars' 25 sacks are tied with Minnesota for second in the NFL behind Buffalo (28).

Which is the real Bengals' defense: the one that held opponents to 11 points per game in the first three games or the unit that gave up 35.7 points over the next three games?

Harvey: If I had a good answer for that one, Mike, head coach Marvin Lewis, Guenther and the rest of the defensive staff might try to find a job for me. Seriously, it's been one of the most perplexing issues of this season for the Bengals. They came out strong the first three weeks, stopping the run and just outmuscling each of the teams they played. Not only did it look like the Bengals were as good under Guenther as they were under the venerable Mike Zimmer, but they looked better. And then came the bye week. A Week 4, early-season interruption derailed the Bengals, and it appeared to hit the defense the hardest. In the first three games after the bye, they were outscored 107-54. Two of the teams, the Patriots and Colts, picked up more than 500 total yards. All three rushed for more than 100.

I'd say the real Bengals' defense is somewhere in the middle of the fast start and the atrocious post-bye follows. Now that players are starting to get healthy again, I'm thinking it might be closer to the unit we saw at the start of the season.

What has Denard Robinson's past two games meant to the balance of Jacksonville's offense, Mike?

DiRocco: The Jaguars' passing offense is dependent on play-action for it to be effective, and until the past two weeks, the play-action fake really meant nothing to opposing defenses. Through the first six games, the Jaguars averaged 69.5 yards per game rushing. In the past two, they've averaged 180.5 yards per game. Most of that has come from Robinson, who has run for 235 yards and one touchdown. He's doing a much better job of running tough: breaking tackles, running through arm tackles, moving the pile forward and falling ahead for an extra yard. It's no coincidence that the Jaguars' first victory came in a game in which Robinson rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown. Had Bortles not thrown two pick-sixes last week against Miami, the Jaguars probably would have won that game, too -- and Robinson had 108 yards rushing. If Robinson can continue to be effective running the ball, that will allow Fisch to take some pressure off Bortles.

Geno Atkins looked very good against Baltimore. Is he all the way back from the ACL tear, and what kind of impact does he have on the defense?

Harvey: I'd say Atkins is back from the season-ending ACL injury he suffered exactly one year ago Friday, Mike. As you mentioned, he played quite well against the Ravens. Guenther called it Atkins' best performance of the season, and you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who disagreed. Atkins played faster, with more explosion and a bit of his old fire in that game. He had two tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble that came when he was one step into the backfield before the ball carrier had time to decide which way he was going to run. It's safe to say after six virtually unproductive games that he's finally all the way back.


Despite the high hopes that came with new coach Lovie Smith, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers weren't very impressive in their preseason debut.

They lost 16-10 to the Jacksonville Jaguars and didn't look sharp in the process. The offense couldn't get much going. The defense played well but allowed Denard Robinson to run for a 23-yard touchdown that gave Jacksonville its final lead. There were penalties and turnovers by the Buccaneers. It was only the first preseason game, but a team coached by Smith has to be much sharper.

Here are some other thoughts on the Bucs' first preseason game of the year:
  • Starting quarterback Josh McCown did not have a great start. He had an interception returned for a touchdown and also lost a fumble and had another that he recovered. He didn't get any help from his offensive line and had to deal with consistent pressure. He completed two of four passes for 20 yards.
  • There has been concern about the offensive line, particularly the guards. It looks like those concerns are legitimate. The first-team offensive line struggled during its playing time.
  • The turnovers, sacks and penalties were disappointing, especially from a team that doesn't have much margin for error.
  • Defensive end Steven Means is probably ticketed for a backup role. But Means was one of the bright spots in the first half, recording a sack and two tackles for a loss.
  • Backup quarterback Mike Glennon (11 of 19 for 140 yards) got more playing time than McCown -- and fared better. Glennon threw a third-quarter touchdown pass to receiver Tommy Streeter, who has been having a nice training camp.
  • Third-string quarterback Mike Kafka had a nice pass to rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but it was wiped out by a penalty on the offensive line.
Examining the Jacksonville Jaguars' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
General manager David Caldwell has said he likes to keep three quarterbacks, which means all three will have to be on the active roster, because Stanzi is ineligible for the practice squad. Stanzi should start the season as the No. 2 because he’s more ready to play than Bortles, but that will likely flip-flop at some point. Stephen Morris is a practice squad candidate.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

If the Jags elect to keep only four backs, Todman and Johnson likely would battle for the final spot. That is assuming Robinson continues to be very good in camp. He might end up getting more playing time than any of the other backs after Gerhart if he shows he can be a reliable pass-catcher. Johnson has to prove he can pass block and doesn’t have problems with ball security.

RECEVIERS (6)

The first four players should be locks, but it will be an interesting competition for the final two spots among Brown, Taylor, free-agent signee Tandon Doss, undrafted rookie Allen Hurns, and former practice-squad player Chad Bumphis. Doss missed most of the organized team activities and minicamp because of a calf injury, allowing Taylor, Bumphis and Hurns to get valuable reps. Doss was not a consistent receiver in his three seasons in Baltimore and has more value as a returner, but Sanders’ strength is as a punt returner and the Jags have other options at kickoff returner. I have Taylor narrowly beating out Hurns because of his experience, but I can easily see that being flipped if the Jags want to add more size. Hurns is 6-foot-3; Taylor is 6-0.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Jensen flashed during OTAs and gets the edge over three other players. He’s a big kid (6-6, 270) who is a raw version of Lewis, one of the league’s best blocking tight ends. Jensen will need a year or two to develop and likely will be used as an extra blocker more than a pass-catcher.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

Some of the battles for starting jobs along the line are going to be intriguing during camp. Joeckel and Beadles are safe, but every other spot is up for grabs. Even Pasztor, who started 12 games last season, is uncertain because we don’t know how his surgically repaired shoulder will hold up during camp. If it’s fine, then he will win the starting job at right tackle. McClendon and Linder are battling for the right guard spot, and Brewster is going to have to hold off Bowanko and two others to be the starter at center. Bradfield has value because he can play both tackle spots.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

This should be the biggest upgraded position on the roster thanks to the additions of Clemons, Bryant and Hood. Despite public perception, Alualu isn’t on the bubble for two reasons: He played solidly last season, and there really isn’t anyone else on the roster as talented as he is to back up Bryant. The Jags are excited about Smith, who could end up playing more than Davis as the No. 3 LEO (hybrid end/linebacker) by the time the season is over.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Either John Lotulelei or J.T. Thomas, two key special teams players last season, could stick if the Jaguars decide to keep an extra linebacker instead of five cornerbacks, or if Hayes’ surgically repaired knee doesn’t respond well. Reynolds did a solid job subbing for Watson (groin) during OTAs and minicamp at the new OTTO position (replaces strongside linebacker).

CORNERBACKS (5)

The Jags will have to decide whether to keep fourth-year player Mike Harris or Jeremy Harris, a seventh-round pick in 2013 who spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a back injury. The 6-2, 185-pound Jeremy Harris is a better fit for what coach Gus Bradley wants in his cornerbacks than the 5-10, 188-pound Mike Harris, who was a member of former GM Gene Smith’s final draft class. Blackmon has been working inside as well, which also makes Mike Harris expendable. Fourth-round draft pick Aaron Colvin will begin the season on the PUP list and doesn't count against the roster limit.

SAFETIES (4)
Chris Prosinski has seemingly been a bubble player since he was drafted in the fourth round in 2011, but there is too much competition for him to survive this time. Martin started 36 games for Carolina in his first five seasons, and that experience gives him the edge. Evans seems to be the name everyone mentions when talking about the first Caldwell draft pick to get cut, but though he might lose his starting job to Guy, he’s likely to stick around at least another year.

SPECIALISTS (3)

These guys should have little or no competition to make the roster.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There they sat on a shelf in Denard Robinson's locker, an inch or so from the edge, quite visible to anyone walking by.

Two collectible figures of Robinson in Michigan home and road uniforms in action poses. He’s throwing the football, of course, since he was a quarterback for the Wolverines.

That sounds neat to someone like you and me, especially since they don’t make sports writer action figures, but it apparently violated one of those unwritten locker room codes and Robinson’s teammates good-naturedly jumped all over him once they were alerted to the figures’ presence.

Denard Robinson
Michael DiRocco/ESPN.comDenard Robinson's teammates poked fun at the action figures he has in his locker.
"Pretty conceited," said receiver Cecil Shorts, whose locker is about 20 steps away. "If that’s what he wants to portray himself as, feel free."

Said defensive end Andre Branch: "That’s a bit much."

Running back Jordan Todman smiled when he saw the action figures and immediately deemed them a fineable offense.

"It’s called reminiscing," Todman said as he called Toby Gerhart over to Robinson’s locker to see them. "We can’t talk about what we did in the past. We’ve got to move forward."

If there was going to be one person in the locker room who had Robinson’s back it would have to be quarterback Chad Henne, the only other Michigan alum on the roster. Not so much.

"He’s big time now," Henne said.

The Wolverine camaraderie apparently has a limit.

"Take it out of the locker room, at least," Henne said. "I mean, c’mon."

Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, whose locker is on the row that backs up to the row that includes Robinson’s locker, said he and the rest of the defensive linemen had no idea about the action figures. Those skill guys live in a different world, he said.

"I don’t go over to that side [of the locker room]. I stay in the hood," he said. "We don’t go over there to Hollywood."

But does he have a problem with Robinson having action figures of himself in his locker?

"We haven’t been on the cover of a game," said Marks, referencing Robinson’s appearance on the cover of EA Sports’ "NCAA Football 14" video game. "When you’ve been on the cover you can do that."

All of these comments were compiled while Robinson was lifting and not at his locker so he was unaware that he was going to have to explain himself when he did return.

"One of the fans [at the Jaguars’ open OTA last Thursday] gave it to me out there when I was coming in," Robinson said. "He gave me another one before. Actually he gave me a Jacksonville one last year."

Okay, but you left them on a shelf in your locker? You had to know that was not going to end well.

"Actually, I was trying to take them home but I didn’t want to take them upstairs [where the players eat lunch]," he said. "I’m trying to be low key.

"I should have hid them, right?"

Uh, yeah.

Then Robinson found out about his impending fine.

"Man, that’s messed up," he said.

Robinson did finally defend himself, and he does make a good point.

"I mean, not a lot of people get a chance to have one of these so I’m glad I could collect that and have fun with that," he said.

Not nearly as much fun as his teammates are having.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars begin organized team activities (OTAs) on Tuesday. While the players are only allowed to wear helmets and are restricted to six hours of work per day it marks the first time the veterans and rookies will be together, so it’s the first chance to get a glimpse at how the team may look in September.

Here are five things to ponder during the 10 OTAs and mandatory minicamp over the next four weeks:

Gerhart
The running back depth chart: Despite the Jaguars' confidence in Toby Gerhart, there is still some doubt among those outside the team over his ability to be a feature back. He has not done it since his days at Stanford, spending the past four seasons backing up Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. The plan is around 20 touches per game, but if he’s not able to handle that workload or be productive, there are not a whole lot of options behind him. Second-year player Jordan Todman, who backed up Maurice Jones-Drew last season and ran for 109 yards in his only start of the season, is the only proven ball carrier behind Gerhart. Denard Robinson has to fix his ball security issues. Seventh-round pick Storm Johnson has quickly become a fan favorite, but he was taken that late for a reason. Moments after drafting him, coach Gus Bradley said Johnson really struggles in pass protection and he also has trouble holding onto the football. After Johnson, it’s undrafted rookies Beau Blankenship and Terrance Cobb.

Who’s No. 5-6? There are four locks to make the team at receiver: Cecil Shorts, Ace Sanders, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. After that, there’s a wide-open competition for the fifth and sixth spots between Mike Brown, Kerry Taylor, Chad Bumphis, Damian Copeland, Tandon Doss, Allen Hurns and Lamaar Thomas. Doss has more career catches (26) than any of the others, plus he’s got good size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds). However, his issue in Baltimore the past three seasons was running routes consistently and drops. He is a solid kick returner and that gives him an advantage over the others. Brown and Taylor were on the roster last season and have valuable experience in offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch’s system, but so does Hurns, a former Miami standout who played two seasons under Fisch as the Hurricanes’ offensive coordinator.

Henne
Bortles vs. Henne: It’s not really a competition between first-round pick Blake Bortles and veteran Chad Henne at this point, but it will be interesting to see them throwing together. The thing to watch will be the 11-on-11, in which Henne should have a significant advantage. He is completely comfortable in the offense and therefore his throws should be quicker and more decisive. If Bortles looks comparable, that may be a clue the competition in training camp may start off closer than most anticipated.

Joeckel’s return: Luke Joeckel spent only about a quarter at left tackle before suffering a fractured ankle that kept him out for the rest of the 2013 season. He spent all of training camp and the first four weeks at right tackle, so this will essentially be his rookie season at left tackle. Defensive coordinator Bob Babich will at times put four leos on the field on third down, so it’ll be interesting to watch Joeckel match up against some of the pass-rushers. One matchup I’d like to see is Joeckel vs. rookie Chris Smith, who doesn't have prototypical leo size (he’s 6-1) but has long arms and is very quick off the line. The Jaguars want to see Joeckel play the way he did before getting injured against St. Louis when he pretty much stoned Robert Quinn, who went on to record 19 sacks last season.

Safety dance: Johnathan Cyprien is the starting strong safety. That’s set in stone. But the situation at free safety is less certain. Josh Evans (sixth round) and Winston Guy (waiver wire) shared the spot last season, but the Jaguars signed a pair of undrafted rookies -- Craig Loston and Jerome Junior -- to compete with Evans and Guy along with Chris Prosinski, Joe Young and Sherrod Martin. Evans really shouldn’t have been on the field as much as he was last season but was forced into action because of an injury to Dwight Lowery in Week 3. That experience should give him an advantage going into OTAs. This position battle will be one of the more interesting ones to watch throughout training camp and preseason.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Toby Gerhart is exactly what the Jaguars were looking for in a running back.

He’s young, turning 27 years old later this month.

Gerhart
He’s got low mileage, with only 374 touches (276 carries, 77 catches, 21 returns) in five seasons with Minnesota.

And he’s durable, missing just three games in his career and only two in the past three.

At 6-foot and 231 pounds, Gerhart is a physical, between-the-tackles runner who can give the Jaguars positive yardage on first down. That’s where the running game was particularly ineffective, averaging just 3.4 yards per rush on first down. That was the third-lowest total in the league.

Gerhart averages 4.7 yards per carry in his career and averaged a career-high 7.9 yards per rush in 2013 working behind Adrian Peterson. He has rushed for 1,305 yards and five touchdowns on 266 carries and has never had more than 109 carries in a single season.

He’s not necessarily a workhorse back, although that’s what he was at Stanford, but he’ll be the main part of a rotation that includes second-year backs Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson and fourth-year back Delone Carter.

The addition of Gerhart, who according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport agreed to a three-year deal with $10.5 million ($4.5 million guaranteed), doesn’t necessarily close the door on Maurice Jones-Drew’s return. The team is still interested in bringing him back, but it obviously would be in a role in which he gets significantly fewer carries than he has since he became the team’s feature back in 2009.

Since then he’s had at least 234 carries in all but one season (he had 86 before missing the final 10 games in 2012) and has had 299 or more three times.

Jones-Drew shared carries with Fred Taylor during his first three seasons so it’s not a situation he’s unfamiliar with, but his return would depend on whether he’d be willing to do it again. Jones-Drew also is seeking at least a three-year contract and that’s something the Jaguars may be hesitant to do.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars have released running back Justin Forsett after one disappointing season.

Forsett
With only three backs now on the roster -- and only one with more than 100 career carries -- and the doubtful return of Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars are almost assuredly going to try and add a No. 1 back in free agency and/or the draft.

When Forsett signed to be Jones-Drew's backup last March, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said he envisioned a bigger role for Forsett, but a pair of injuries derailed that. Forsett suffered a sprained toe on his right foot on Aug. 1 in the first live practice period of training camp and missed the rest of camp and all of preseason. Meanwhile, first-year back Jordan Todman led the team in rushing in the preseason (223 yards) and earned a bigger role on offense.

Fifth-round pick Denard Robinson eventually landed at running back after a stint at wide receiver and also was worked into the rotation.

Forsett carried the ball just six times for 31 yards and caught 15 passes for 82 yards before suffering a broken bone in his foot against Houston on Nov. 24. He has rushed for 1,692 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 115 passes for 850 yards and one touchdown in his six-year career with Seattle, Indianapolis, Houston and Jacksonville.

The most experienced back remaining on the roster is Delone Carter, whom the team signed on Dec. 9. He did not appear in a game for the Jaguars but had 133 carries for 499 yards and five touchdowns in his first two seasons with Indianapolis.

Todman ran for 256 yards and two touchdowns in his first season, including 109 yards on 25 carries against Buffalo in his first start in place of the injured Jones-Drew. Robinson has just 66 yards on 20 carries.

The free-agent market for running backs is pretty solid, with Ben Tate topping the list. Other players available include James Starks, LeGarrette Blount, Knowshon Moreno, Anthony Dixon and Darren McFadden. The Jaguars may add one free agent, most likely a young back, and also are likely to draft one in the middle rounds in May.

Free-agency series: Wide receivers

February, 26, 2014
2/26/14
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Here is the third of a 10-part series breaking down the Jaguars’ free-agency needs, position by position:

Wide receivers

Who’s on the roster: Justin Blackmon, Mike Brown, Chad Bumphis, Jeremy Ebert, Stephen Burton, Taylor Price, Denard Robinson, Jabin Sambrano, Ace Sanders, Cecil Shorts, Kerry Taylor, Lamaar Thomas and Stephen Williams.

Blackmon
Blackmon
Analysis: This position group is solid provided Blackmon is on the field. However, nobody knows when, or if, he’ll get back on the field. He is eligible to apply for reinstatement from his indefinite suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy just before the 2014 season begins. Even if he’s reinstated, there’s no guarantee he’ll avoid another suspension. He is clearly the Jaguars’ best receiver, catching 29 passes for 415 yards in the four games in which he played in 2013. Shorts has played well the past two seasons (121 catches for 1,756 yards), though he has missed five games because of injuries and missed the final three games of this past season and went on IR with a sports hernia. He’s not a No. 1 receiver, though, and had some trouble when he was thrust into that role when Blackmon was suspended. Taylor came on at the end of the season and is intriguing as a No. 4/5 receiver. Brown and Sanders, who caught 51 passes last season as a rookie, are dependable slot receivers. In addition to Shorts, Burton, Ebert, Price and Williams finished the season on injured reserve. Bumphis and Sambrano are on the practice squad. Price’s contract expires next month and he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.

NFL free agents of interest: Hakeem Nicks, Eric Decker, Riley Cooper, Brandon Tate and Golden Tate.

Need meter: 5. The Jaguars could get by without adding a receiver in free agency, because it’s likely they’ll draft at least one. The position group needs an upgrade at the top end, but to get a big-time player the Jaguars will have to spend big-time money, and it doesn’t seem likely they’ll do that on a receiver. Regardless of whether it’s a free agent or a draft pick, it’s likely to be a bigger, more physical receiver, because that’s one thing the Jaguars lack. Burton (6-foot-1, 224 pounds) fits the description, but has just 15 catches in three seasons and battled a concussion much of last season.

Free-agency series: Running backs

February, 25, 2014
2/25/14
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Here is the second of a 10-part series breaking down the Jaguars’ free-agency needs, position by position:

Running backs

Who’s on the roster: Delone Carter, Shaun Chapas (FB), Justin Forsett, Maurice Jones-Drew, Denard Robinson, Jordan Todman and Will Ta'ufo'ou (FB).

Analysis: Jones-Drew becomes an unrestricted free agent next month, but every other player is under contract through at least 2014. Jones-Drew fought through ankle, hamstring and knee issues to rush for 803 yards and five touchdowns. The running game, though, never really got going until the 11th game of the season. The Jaguars ran for at least 112 yards in games 11-14 but things dropped off the table after that: 105 yards in the last two games combined. Part of the yearlong issue was due to the offensive line’s struggles, but the fact that the Jaguars rarely made any explosive plays in the run game was a big factor as well. The Jaguars had just four runs of 30 or more yards all season. Todman was solid as Jones-Drew’s backup and ran for 109 yards in his only start, but he’s not a featured back. Forsett was hurt in camp and never found his fit in the offense and likely will be released. Robinson never had a defined role until settling in at running back midway through the season and he has had ball-security issues. Carter and Chapas (practice squad) were signed late in the season.

NFL free agents of interest: Ben Tate, Darren McFadden, Knowshon Moreno, James Starks, Anthony Dixon and LeGarrette Blount.

Need meter: 7. If Jones-Drew does not re-sign with the Jaguars -- and right now it appears he won’t -- the team needs to sign a replacement via free agency. There are a lot of affordable options on the market because of the number of players available. Tate tops the list and should be the Jaguars’ top target at this position, but if they’re looking for a cheaper option then Starks, who has been a featured back in spurts with Green Bay, could be an option. Robinson is an intriguing player on the roster, though, because the staff is having him bulk up a bit to handle the pounding of playing running back. If he can solve his fumbling problems, he could be a surprise. Expect the team to draft at least one back as well.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley held a news conference this afternoon at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. Here are some highlights:

Shanahan
Bradley
On what the Jaguars are looking for in a quarterback: "For us, if you put down traits that we're looking for in a quarterback, some of the things that keep popping up are timing, accuracy and decision-making. I think that's what we're really looking at. Obviously there's some things, I mean, people take a look at height and things but the three major components are those things and that's what you evaluate on film. But just as the interviews, you take everything into account, but those are the three major factors."

On running quarterbacks transitioning to the NFL: "Obviously they've got to be able to make the throws in the pocket. They've got to be able to step up and make the required throws, but if they pick and choose their times -- whether it's the play call or I'm feeling pressure -- to extend the play, it creates great strain. I think it provides that added dimension to a game that really as a defense you can't hone in and say, well we have a real good feel this quarterback is going to be here in all of our games, in all of our pressures, in all of our rush. You still have to get to him. It's a challenge in itself, but the added dimension that they can escape and extend the play and create big plays, that throws another dimension into it."

On what he's seen on film from Teddy Bridgewater: "He's got really good poise, very good decision-making, and very accurate, by his stats, the completion percentage, and things like that. I think that's what jumps out."

On Blake Bortles: "To be able to give you a complete evaluation at this point, I don't think I'm ready to do that, but I can tell you that we've watched enough that we're really intrigued by him. The traits that he has, big, tall, things that we talked about before, timing, accuracy, decision-making, those are all things that we take a close look at. The evaluation process is never over. The combine is really important, but it's just another piece of the puzzle, so I'm looking forward to really watching him compete. I think there's a chance to compete here and keep an eye on him."

On Johnny Manziel: "Well, he's very talented. How can you argue with what he's done and the plays that he makes? Exciting player, and again, the evaluation process, I'm really looking forward to watching everything and I know our staff has. We're in that process but we've been watching him for quite awhile and seen his traits. Does some great things. Did some great things for his team."

On Denard Robinson: "The guy is infectious. He's got natural traits. The team really comes to him. They gravitate towards him. He's got explosiveness. He's got really good vision, so let's give him a chance and let's see what he has."
With the NFL combine starting Wednesday, here's a look at the Jacksonville Jaguars' positions of need on offense and which prospects the team might be looking to take a closer look at in Indianapolis. Positions of need are listed in order of importance. A look at the defense comes Tuesday.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars have a lot of holes to fill on the roster and the next part in the process comes this week when general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley evaluate, watch and interview prospects at the NFL combine.

Here's a breakdown of what the Jaguars need, in order, on offense and some potential targets:

Quarterback: There's no question this is the Jaguars' top need, although pass-rusher is only slightly behind. Caldwell wants to re-sign Chad Henne before free agency begins next month, but Henne is a bridge player or someone who can mentor a young quarterback and begin the season as the starter if the rookie isn't ready. The Jaguars haven't completely given up on Blaine Gabbert, either, but he's entering the final year of his contract and it would be surprising if he were re-signed after 2014.

Potential targets: Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Jimmy Garoppolo, Derek Carr, Aaron Murray.

Interior offensive line: The Jaguars have to find a center to replace the retired Brad Meester and a left guard to upgrade from Will Rackley. The Jaguars will address this area in free agency as well but the team also wants to add some young talent. The Jaguars appear set at both tackles (Luke Joeckel and Austin Pasztor) and right guard Uche Nwaneri has two more years remaining on his contract. He's scheduled to make $4.775 million in each year, though, and could be a cap casualty after 2014. Mike Brewster and Jacques McClendon can play guard and center but neither appears, now anyway, to be the long-term answer. It wouldn't be surprising if the team took an interior offensive lineman in the third round, especially if the Jaguars took a quarterback earlier.

Potential targets: G Gabe Jackson, G David Yankey, G Brandon Thomas, C Marcus Martin, C Weston Richburg, C Russell Bodine.

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
Stephen Morton/AP PhotoThe Jaguars need to find a feature back in the event they do not re-sign Maurice Jones-Drew.
Running back: The Jaguars are more than likely going to lose Maurice Jones-Drew in free agency, which leaves them with Jordan Todman, Denard Robinson, Delone Carter, and Justin Forsett on the roster. Forsett is likely going to be cut, but even if he's retained none of those players is a feature back. The Jaguars don't need to invest a high pick at this spot because good backs can be found in the later middle rounds.

Potential targets: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Jerick McKinnon, Tre Mason, Lache Seastrunk, Dri Archer, Andre Williams.

Receiver: The Jaguars aren't planning on getting anything from Justin Blackmon in 2014 because they don't yet know his status, which is the correct way to approach his situation. Cecil Shorts is entering a contract year but has yet to stay healthy for a full season. Ace Sanders, Mike Brown, Kerry Taylor, Lamar Thomas, and Stephen Burton are complementary players. The Jaguars need to find a bigger, physical receiver. If they do that in free agency, this area drops to the bottom of the offensive needs list.

Potential targets: Josh Huff, Odell Beckham Jr., Davante Adams.

Tight end: Marcedes Lewis came on strong at the end of the season and he should be a 50-catch player in Jedd Fisch's offense if he stays healthy. After Lewis, though, there isn't much. Clay Harbor is a flex tight end but he's a free agent and the Jaguars will have to decide if they want to re-sign him. Danny Noble is raw and needs more work. The Jaguars want a bigger tight end who can line up next to Lewis in two-tight-end formations.

Potential targets: Marcel Jensen, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Crockett Gilmore, Jake Murphy.

Franchise/transition tags: Jaguars

February, 17, 2014
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When you have one of the least-talented rosters in the NFL, you’re not going to have much use for any of the franchise tags.

That’s the situation the Jaguars are in right now.

The team does have two notable impending free agents -- running back Maurice Jones-Drew and quarterback Chad Henne -- and neither will be given the franchise or transitional tag on Monday, the first day that teams can use those designations.

Jones-Drew
General manager David Caldwell has said several times that Jones-Drew has earned the right to test the market though he’s interested in re-signing the running back. By letting him test the market, Caldwell is risking Jones-Drew not giving the Jaguars a chance to match any offer.

Jones-Drew is after the kind of money that Steven Jackson (three years, $12 million, $4 million guaranteed), Reggie Bush (four years, $16 million, $4 million signing bonus) and Shonn Greene (three years, $10 million, $5 million guaranteed) got when they signed free-agent contracts in 2013.

In each case, the teams overpaid for backs past the midpoint of their careers, but teams usually do overpay for players during free agency. Jones-Drew is at the same point in his career. He’ll be 29 in March and he has significant wear and tear on his body: 2,233 touches (rushes, receptions, kick and punt returns) in eight seasons.

In watching him this past season, he clearly did not look similar to the player who led the NFL in rushing in 2011. He wasn’t as explosive through the hole and wasn’t able to get to the edge and turn the corner as well as he has in the past.

There’s no reason for the Jaguars to use even the transitional tag on Jones-Drew. If he doesn’t re-sign -- and he said at the end of the season it was about the money -- the Jaguars will move forward with Jordan Todman, Denard Robinson, a draft pick or two, and possibly a mid-level free-agent signing of their own.

As far as Henne, Caldwell said he expects to reach out to Henne’s representatives soon to try to work out an extension before Henne’s contract expires in March. It would be ludicrous for the Jaguars to use a franchise tag on Henne because he would have to be paid a salary that averages to the top five (exclusive or non-exclusive tag) or the top 10 (transitional tag) paid QBs in the league.

Turnover woes return for Jaguars

December, 15, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars have been a better team since the bye week for various reasons, but one of the biggest was turnovers.

They were forcing them but not committing them.

They did the first part against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, but it was the other part that cost them in a 27-20 loss at EverBank Field. The Jaguars (4-10) committed a season-high four turnovers, including two on potential scoring plays, and that sloppy play ended their three-game losing streak.

"Four turnovers -- we’re not going to win any games," said quarterback Chad Henne, who threw two interceptions. "You lose the turnover battle your chances of winning are very slim, so our job is to protect the ball and score points when we’re down there and keep it in our favor when we’re on the field."

The Bills (5-9) turned two of those turnovers into field goals, although the second was a questionable call that did not get over-turned by replay.

Henne’s first interception came on the game’s third play. He had hooked up with tight end Marcedes Lewis for a 25-yard gain the play before. Henne tried to go back to Lewis but forced the ball and safety Aaron Williams picked off the pass. Four plays later the Bills had a 3-0 lead.

The Jaguars were driving to tie the game at 13-13 late in the first half when Bills cornerback Nickell Robey ripped the ball way from receiver Mike Brown. Replays appeared to show that Brown never had possession of the ball before Robey knocked it loose, but officials did not reverse the call.

The Bills, thanks in part to a 31-yard pass interference penalty, got into position for a 40-yard field goal and a 20-10 lead as the half expired.

The turnover that hurt the most, however, came on the Jaguars’ first drive of the second half. Denard Robinson broke free for what appeared to be a 25-yard touchdown run but Williams hit him from behind at the 1 and knocked the ball loose. It rolled through the end zone for a touchback.

"I didn’t see him [Williams] but I tried to double up once I [saw the goal-line]," Robinson said. "The ball was like this [out in front of him] and I was trying to grab it and it seemed like he just had perfect timing."

Henne is disputing the final turnover. Henne said Brown was being held in the end zone and he threw the ball to the back corner so they could get a penalty and a first down, but officials didn’t throw a flag and Stephon Gilmore’s interception stood with 3:15 remaining.

"You’ve got to throw it or they’re not going to see who the receiver is," Henne said. “If you don’t throw it they don’t call it. My job is to throw it where he’s supposed to be and obviously they didn’t see it.

Mike and I are sitting there and [coach] Gus [Bradley] went after him [the official], but you can’t do anything about it."

Henne said that play didn’t lose the game, but the offense’s collective carelessness with the ball did. It was reminiscent of the way the team played in the first eight games, when they turned the ball over 15 times and had a minus-7 turnover ratio.

In the first five games after the bye, the Jaguars’ turnover ratio was plus-5: five turnovers against 10 turnovers first. They were 4-1 in those games.

They didn’t follow that formula on Sunday. They picked off Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel once and forced him to fumble on a third-quarter sack, but the four turnovers wiped those out.

"It was a game of missed opportunities," Bradley said. "We had some missed opportunities in the game to capture and we didn’t play like we’re capable of playing, whether it was a fumble, interception, things like that. In the locker room our hearts are broken right now because of this but I felt like our spirit is not."

Rapid Reaction: Jacksonville Jaguars

December, 15, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 27-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills:

What it means: What could have been a gut-it-out victory because of the loss of four starters turned into another loss at EverBank Field in front of 60,085 fans. The Jaguars turned it over four times, including once when Denard Robinson fumbled the ball at the Buffalo 1-yard line, and it bounced out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. The Jaguars had won three games in a row and were coming off their first victory at EverBank Field in more than a year.

Stock watch: It’s harder to be much higher than Jordan Todman, who ran for 109 yards and had 44 yards receiving. The first-year player was making his first start because Maurice Jones-Drew was inactive with a hamstring injury. Todman also had a pair of big plays, a 33-yard run on a drive that ended with a field goal, and a 30-yard catch-and-run to convert a third down and continue a drive that ended with a touchdown. Quarterback Chad Henne did not have one of his better games. He threw two interceptions, including one in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, and threw several other passes that were nearly intercepted. He made some plays with his feet and had to deal with heavy pressure, but he wasn’t able to overcome his mistakes.

Banged-up offensive line: The offensive line was hit hard by injuries. Starting left guard Will Rackley was added to the injury report on Saturday with a concussion and did not play. His replacement, Mike Brewster, suffered a left ankle injury in the first half and did not return. Jacques McClendon finished the game at left guard, which left the Jaguars with just one other healthy offensive lineman (Sam Young).

In a rush: One of the things that had keyed the Jaguars’ turnaround in the second half of the season was better rush defense. They went from allowing 162 yards per game in the first eight games to holding the next five opponents under 100 yards. That changed on Sunday, when the Bills battered the Jaguars for 198 yards on the ground. Fred Jackson rushed for 80 yards, C.J. Spiller 67, and quarterback EJ Manuel 37.

What’s next: The Jaguars play their final home game of the season against Tennessee at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Upon Further Review: Jaguars Week 12

November, 25, 2013
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HOUSTON -- A review of four hot issues from the Jacksonville Jaguars' 13-6 victory over the Houston Texans:

[+] EnlargeCase Keenum
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesJacksonville brought constant pressure against Case Keenum on Sunday.
Shorts involved: Jaguars coach Gus Bradley and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said they were going to get receiver Cecil Shorts more involved in the offense this week after Shorts complained about getting only two catches in a loss to Arizona. They were true to their word. Shorts was targeted a team-high 11 times and caught a team-high eight passes for 71 yards. The Jaguars got him involved early, too, targeting him four times on their first three possessions.

Good gambles: Bradley's new buzz word is "bold," and he's coaching that way. He went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line on the game's opening possession and also called a Wildcat formation pass by Denard Robinson, a play that would have worked for a big gain had Shorts not dropped the pass. Bradley also told Fisch to stay with the offense and not just call running plays when the Jaguars got the ball back with 4:24 to play and clinging to a seven-point lead. "We preach to our players that we're going to be bold when opportunities present themselves," Bradley said.

Front plays well: Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is usually the one who bats down passes at the line of scrimmage, but the Jaguars did a better job of that on Sunday. Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks deflected two and defensive end Andre Branch deflected one. The front seven pressured quarterback Case Keenum all day, sacking him twice and hitting him five other times. The Jaguars generally don't blitz a lot, but defensive coordinator Bob Babich called several middle blitzes to try to get players in Keenum's face. Keenum said he never felt comfortable and could never get in a rhythm.

Henne hangs in: Quarterback Chad Henne took a pounding against the Texans, especially early, but hung in there and had one of his better games despite not throwing a touchdown pass. Henne was sacked four times, including three in the first half, and hit 13 other times. Watt sacked him once and hit him five more times and linebacker Whitney Mercilus sacked him once and hit him four times. Despite the battering, Henne completed 23 of 32 passes for 239 yards. He did not throw an interception. "You just have to sit in there and sometimes you're going to get hit and sometimes you're not, but overall the offensive line did a good job," Henne said. "For the most part we got the ball out on time and really fought through and did really well."

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