NFL Nation: Will Blackmon

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.
ORLANDO -- Fourteen Jacksonville Jaguars received performance-based incentives of more than $100,000, led by rookie safety Josh Evans.

Evans, a sixth-round pick out of Florida in 2013, was thrust into a starting role because Dwight Lowery sustained a concussion in a Week 3 loss to Seattle. Evans was expected to spend the season in a reserve role but instead ended up playing 653 of a possible 1,016 snaps (64.3 percent). That additional playing time earned him $181,381.06 to bring his total compensation for 2013 to $437,205.

Performance-based pay compensates players whose playing time was much higher than what their salary would have paid. Players whose base salaries are very low -- which is usually low-round draft picks and undrafted free agents –--stand to earn the most money under the program.

In addition to Evans, the following players earned more than $100,000: offensive tackle Austin Pasztor ($175,996.58), offensive tackle Cameron Bradfield ($155,588.53), receiver Mike Brown ($142,384.82), cornerback Will Blackmon ($134,617,61), cornerback Alan Ball ($129,120.82), receiver Ace Sanders ($127,592.32), safety Winston Guy ($112,796.88), cornerback Mike Harris ($110,352.63), fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou ($108,097.31), safety Johnathan Cyprien ($108,018.59), receiver Cecil Shorts ($104,795.99), cornerback Demetrius McCray ($104,681.44) and tight end Clay Harbor ($102,227.69).

On the other end of the spectrum was running back Delone Carter, who received $182.17.

Jaguars players received a total of $3.46 million in performance-based pay, which is the league limit for each team. However, the players will not be paid until April 1, 2016.
Gus Bradley Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesJaguars coach Gus Bradley's enthusiastic approach to his job is attractive to prospective players.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- NFL free agency isn’t quite like college recruiting. Sure, in many places facilities are pretty similar, the possibility of playing time plays a role, and it can be a lifelong dream for a player to join a certain team.

But in the NFL, money is often the No. 1 factor -- and in some cases the only factor -- when a player makes his decision on where to sign.

However, it appears there is the beginning of a twist involved in the Jaguars’ pitch to free agents. Something in addition to the $11 million in upgrades to the weight room and locker room and the plethora of holes in the roster.

Coach Gus Bradley is quickly becoming a crucial part of the draw players are feeling toward the franchise.

Money and fit in a team’s scheme are still the most significant factors for free agents, but Bradley is beginning to gain a reputation around the league as a coach who is good to play for. More importantly, he is becoming known as a coach who is fun to play for.

When multiple offers are relatively equal, something has to serve as the tiebreaker. If what happened during the first days of free agency last week is an indication, it’s Bradley in Jacksonville.

"As soon as you meet him, he is already a likable person," said cornerback Will Blackmon, who joined the Jaguars in August on a one-year deal and re-signed last week. "That’s what’s really cool about all the competitive players that are coming here. They don’t have to come here. Usually teams are like, ‘Oh, Jacksonville didn't do well.’ But once they come here and they see the environment and they see what they’re about, they’re real attracted to it."

Owner Shad Khan and general manager David Caldwell created the environment, but Bradley is the public face. He’s the one who is showing visiting free agents a PowerPoint presentation. He’s the one spewing energy like mud off a tractor tire. He’s the one who had at least one visitor ready to put on his pads and hit the field after only a few minutes.

That was running back Toby Gerhart, who chose the Jaguars over Cleveland and San Francisco, which is led by Gerhart’s college coach Jim Harbaugh.

"I’ve never seen in anything like that," Gerhart said. "Meeting Gus, it was unlike anything I’ve … I walked away, and I was like, ‘Yes, I belong here.’ I actually was going away coming out thinking, ‘What type of person am I?' He talks about different characteristics of people and how can I make people better and the positive, prosperity and adversity. All this stuff he talked about in a quick 10 minutes. I was like, ‘I wish I had a notebook to write some of this stuff down.’

"I was enlightened and fired up and extremely excited. I’ve never met anybody like him. I can see why everybody spoke so highly, and you can tell things are going to get going and you’re going to want to jump on this train."

Gerhart was blown away even though he knew what to expect before his visit. He’s a former roommate of tight end Allen Reisner, who spent the 2013 season with the Jaguars, so he called him. Gerhart also talked to Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne, who also is represented by Athletes First.

"[Henne] said, ‘Trust me, there’s something about this program,’" Gerhart said. "Coach Bradley, there’s something special that’s going to happen."

Gerhart could have been the No. 1 back in Cleveland or gone to a San Francisco team that has played in three NFC Championship Games in a row, but he chose Jacksonville in large part because of his experience with Bradley. Defensive lineman Ziggy Hood and his representatives had contact with Washington, Oakland, St. Louis and Kansas City, but he chose the Jaguars. Being able to move back to his natural position at defensive tackle from defensive end, which he played in Pittsburgh, was the main reason, but Bradley also was a major factor.

"The first time I met Coach Bradley, his energy was high," Hood said. "It was different. This guy has energy. He was bouncing from wall to wall. He was from room to room, side to side."

If most NFL coaches are like poetry readings, Bradley is a monster truck rally.

But perhaps most importantly from a player’s perspective is that he’s a monster truck rally every day.

Players function best when things are consistent. They liked Bradley’s message, the way he treated them on the field and in the locker room, and his positive attitude during organized team activities, minicamp and training camp, but they wondered how it would be during the season. They especially wondered how it would be when they were 0-4.

Nothing changed. Not even when the Jaguars were 0-8.

That’s what Reisner, Henne and other Jaguars players told colleagues around the league. Not only will Bradley let you be who you are and allow you to have fun, but he’s also going to be the same person every single day.

That certainly doesn’t mean the Jaguars will land every free agent they target. Walter Thurmond and Emmanuel Sanders visited last week and signed elsewhere. Not everybody fits the system, and not everybody is willing to come to a small-market team that has won just 11 games in the past three seasons.

But playing for Bradley was a pull for several players this year, and that number may grow as his reputation quickly spreads throughout the league.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars were pretty active on the first day of free agency and first impressions of the moves general manager David Caldwell made are positive.

The Jaguars got the offensive lineman they wanted the most, added depth at running back with a low-mileage player and managed to secure a draft pick in exchange for one of the worst draft picks in franchise history. Not a bad first day at all.

Here are my initial thoughts on the moves the team made Tuesday:

Zane Beadles was the Jaguars' top target at guard and they were able to quickly reach an agreement on a five-year, $30 million contract. Beadles is a good fit because he played in Denver's zone-blocking scheme during his four-year career. The Jaguars' offensive line struggled in the transition to zone blocking last season and eventually mixed in more man-blocking schemes as the season progressed. But the plan is to return to more zone blocking in 2014. Beadles will line up at left guard next to Luke Joeckel.

An elite running back isn't mandatory to win in the NFL any longer and most teams are using a committee approach. With the likely loss of Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars needed to beef up an inexperienced group and the addition of former Minnesota running back Toby Gerhart will certainly help. He was a workhorse back at Stanford, rushing for 3,522 yards and 44 touchdowns in four seasons -- including 1,871 yards and 28 TDs as a senior. Minnesota drafted him in the second round in 2010 and he had just 276 carries in his four seasons as Adrian Peterson's backup. It's not a sexy signing but it gives the Jaguars a young back (he'll be 27) whose body hasn't taken a load of punishment. Gerhart isn't a breakaway threat but he is a move-the-chains type of back. Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch consistently lamented the team's lack of success running the ball on first down last season because it didn't allow them to get into any kind of rhythm and forced them into too many third-and-long situations. Gerhart should certainly help there.

Blaine Gabbert was a bust in Jacksonville. There's no other way to view it. The Jaguars traded up to select him No. 10 overall in the 2011 draft and they got 22 touchdown passes, 24 interceptions, and a 5-22 record in games in which he started. He clearly wasn't in the Jaguars' plans for the future and was heading for the waiver wire, yet Caldwell was able to work a trade with San Francisco and got the 49ers to give up a sixth-round pick this year and potentially another draft pick in 2015. A sixth-round pick isn't much but it gives the Jaguars a chance to draft a player who could potentially help them on the field this season. Gabbert wasn't going to be able to do that.

In an under-the-radar move, the Jaguars also re-signed cornerback Will Blackmon to a two-year contract. Blackmon had the best year of his career in 2013 but his real value is in the meeting room and locker room. The Jaguars have a young secondary and Blackmon quickly became the group's leader. Gus Bradley praised Blackmon's work with the young defensive backs and was an important part of keeping those players focused on Bradley's message of focusing on the process instead of victories.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars re-signing cornerback Will Blackmon to a two-year deal may fly under the radar nationally, but it’s a key move that the team needed to make.

The 29-year-old Blackmon had the best season of his career in 2013, playing in 15 games (eight starts) and making 40 tackles with one interception, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery after signing a one-year contract with the Jaguars days before the final preseason game.

Blackmon
Blackmon
But it’s more than what he did on the field that makes him valuable. Coach Gus Bradley consistently praised Blackmon for his leadership in the meeting room and presence in the locker room. That’s important because seven of the 10 defensive backs on the roster have two or fewer years of experience.

Cornerbacks Dwayne Gratz and Demetrius McCray were rookies in 2013. So were safeties Josh Evans and Johnathan Cyprien. Cornerbacks Mike Harris and Jamell Fleming and safety Winston Guy are entering their third seasons. Safety Chris Prosinski is entering his fourth.

Blackmon is entering his eighth season and cornerback Alan Ball, who signed last March, is entering his seventh.

Blackmon helped Gratz handle missing five games after suffering a high ankle sprain in the season opener. Evans was forced to play much more than anticipated after a concussion to Dwight Lowery and Blackmon helped him learn on the fly.

Blackmon may end up not being on the field as much in 2014, especially if the Jaguars sign cornerback Walter Thurmond, but it’s still a valuable signing.

Free-agency primer: Jaguars

March, 7, 2014
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Key free agents: QB Chad Henne, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, CB Will Blackmon.

Where they stand: The Jaguars’ priority is re-signing Henne, ideally before he hits the open market at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Henne has said he wants to return, and GM David Caldwell has said that re-signing Henne, improving the offensive line and adding a few weapons would help keep the offense afloat -- which seems to indicate the Jaguars are leaning toward not taking a quarterback in the first round of the draft if they re-sign Henne. Caldwell said Jones-Drew has earned the right to test the market. The Jaguars would like to bring him back, but Jones-Drew is looking for a longer contract for more money than the Jaguars are willing to offer. Blackmon was a surprise in 2013, and the Jaguars want the veteran back.

What to expect: Interior offensive line is the biggest need in free agency after the release of Uche Nwaneri earlier this week. The center pool isn’t as deep as hoped, but expect the Jaguars to target players such as Brian De La Puente, Evan Dietrich-Smith and Ryan Wendell. Cleveland put the transition tag on Alex Mack, so the Jaguars also could make a run at him but run the risk of the Browns matching the offer. There are more options at guard, and the Jaguars will target several players here, possibly Geoff Schwartz, Zane Beadles and Shelley Smith. The Jaguars also will try to find help at outside linebacker, running back and receiver.
The NFL's free-agent market is suddenly being flooded with former Pro Bowl cornerbacks -- which is a great thing for the New Orleans Saints.

I think the cornerback position should rank as New Orleans' No. 1 priority in free agency -- even more than the draft, because I think they could use an experienced veteran capable of stepping right into their starting lineup along with Keenan Lewis now that Jabari Greer has been released. I still like third-year pro Corey White's potential, but think he’d be an even better fit as a nickel back.

Whether the Saints have interest in guys such as Champ Bailey, Cortland Finnegan or Brandon Browner, they should still benefit from the fact that there are more options available in a free-agent class that was already pretty deep to begin with.

[+] EnlargeTarell Brown
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezThe 49ers' Tarell Brown is considered one of the top free-agent cornerbacks available this offseason.
The Saints won’t be huge spenders in free agency because they're pretty snug against the salary cap. But I think they'll still be aggressive with one or two acquisitions -- like when they signed Lewis to a five-year, $26.3 million contract last year (after first flirting with pricier outside linebacker Paul Kruger).

Here is a glimpse of who is available in free agency, with some insight from ESPN Scouting Insider Matt Williamson:

TOP TIER: I don’t expect the Saints to be in the market for the New England Patriots' Aqib Talib or the Tennessee Titans’ Alterraun Verner. Those guys could be closer to the $8 million range, similar to what the Miami Dolphins just paid to re-sign Brent Grimes (four years, $32 million). The Indianapolis Colts’ Vontae Davis probably will be too pricey as well.

It's possible the Saints could flirt with the Green Bay Packers' Sam Shields or the Denver Broncos' Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, especially if those players don’t find big offers quickly. But chances are, the Saints will be shopping in the next tier down.

SECOND TIER: This is the range I’d most expect the Saints in -- experienced starters who won’t necessarily break the bank. I like the possibility of the San Francisco 49ers' Tarell Brown (29 years old, 5-foot-10, 193 pounds, a starter for the past three years). ESPN analyst KC Joyner recently tabbed him as a good fit for the Saints Insider. And ESPN’s Free-Agent Tracker Insider, which used input from former general manager Bill Polian and analysts Williamson, Gary Horton and Field Yates, ranks Brown among the top options overall.

"[Brown’s] a good one," Williamson said. "I think he starts for just about every team out there, though it didn’t hurt that he benefited from a great supporting cast."

Or maybe the Saints should consider stealing Captain Munnerlyn from the rival Carolina Panthers after the 25-year-old just had his best year to date in 2013. Munnerlyn is just 5-8, 195 pounds, but he plays physical. And he has an uncanny knack for turning interceptions into touchdowns (all four of his picks over the past two seasons and five out of seven in his career).

"I would think maybe that’s the position you would splurge on a little bit," Williamson said. "I really like Captain Munnerlyn, and you’d steal him from a rival. He’s a slot guy who could be a starter. ... He’s really feisty, a little undersized but a slot guy, tough. He played his best football this last year; he’s peaking at the right time."

Williamson said he also likes Seattle Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond (age 26, 5-11, 190) after his best year to date as a part-time starter in 2013. But Williamson wonders if Thurmond will get overpaid after being part of that Super Bowl-winning defense.

Bailey, Finnegan, Browner and Chicago Bears standout Charles Tillman probably all fit in this same class now, too, but they all come with some question marks.

Bailey, who is being released by the Denver Broncos, is a 12-time Pro Bowler and an all-time great who might have another strong year left in him. But he's 35 years old and missed most of last season with a foot injury.

Likewise, Tillman is 33 and missed most of last season with a torn triceps.

Finnegan, 30, also landed on injured reserve last season with a fractured orbital bone. And his two years with the St. Louis Rams were disappointing after he signed a blockbuster contract there in 2012. Still, the 5-10, 179-pounder is still young enough to have a bounce-back year.

Browner, 29, is facing a four-game suspension to start the season after repeated violations of the league's substance abuse policy. But the 6-4, 221-pounder who helped define the Seahawks' physical style of pass defense should still be coveted.

THIRD TIER: I don’t think the Saints are likely to bring back Tracy Porter, but I found it interesting that he earned one of the highest grades of any corner on ESPN’s Free-Agent Tracker after a nice season with the Oakland Raiders. Health wasn't an issue for Porter last season after it was his biggest issue during his time with the Saints from 2008-2011.

Another wild-card possibility is Derek Cox (age 27, 6-1, 195). Cox was released by the San Diego Chargers after one very disappointing 2013 season (after he signed a four-year deal worth up to $19.8 million). The Saints had lined up a visit with Cox last year before signing Lewis. Maybe they’ll be glad they dodged a bullet -- or maybe they will consider taking a chance again now that he’ll come cheap.

Williamson also suggested Will Blackmon (age 29), Drayton Florence (33), and Rashean Mathis (33) as guys who have had up-and-down careers but played well last year and might be good "under-the-radar" signings on short-term deals.
Here is the ninth of a 10-part series breaking down the Jacksonville Jaguars' free-agency needs, position by position:

Cornerback

Blackmon
Who’s on the roster: Alan Ball, Will Blackmon, Jamell Fleming, Dwayne Gratz, Mike Harris and Demetrius McCray.

Analysis: The Jaguars are pretty solid at this spot, especially if the team re-signs Blackmon, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next week. Ball was signed as a free agent last year, and were it not for the play of defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks would have been tabbed as GM David Caldwell’s best signing. Ball started 15 games, led the team with 14 pass breakups, and intercepted two passes. Gratz, the team’s third-round pick, missed six games with ankle injuries, but started eight games and showed development despite the injuries. Blackmon was signed just before the final preseason game and worked as a punt returner and started eight games. Harris worked as a fifth defensive back and provided solid depth. The group’s biggest issue was it didn’t make many big plays and had several instances, notably against Cleveland’s Josh Gordon, where it gave up game-changing plays.

NFL free agents of interest: Sam Shields, Walter Thurmond and Javier Arenas.

Need meter: 3. The Jaguars don’t have to address cornerback in free agency or in the draft because they have more pressing needs elsewhere on defense, notably pass-rusher and outside linebacker. If Gratz remains healthy and Blackmon is re-signed, the duo can combine with Ball to give the Jaguars three solid options. If one of the better corners remains unsigned later in free agency the Jaguars might get involved, especially if the price is reasonable.

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 29
Preseason Power Ranking: 29

Biggest surprise: When the Jaguars signed defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks to a one-year, $1.5 million contract last April, they thought he’d be a good fit in coach Gus Bradley’s system. Turns out he was a perfect fit. Marks plays the three-technique, which means he lines up on the guard’s outside shoulder, and that position is supposed to provide interior pass rush. Marks finished with four sacks, nine quarterback pressures and eight pass breakups -- all numbers that equaled or surpassed the totals from his first four seasons. He seemed to make at least one impactful play every game and he accounted for two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. His play earned him a four-year contract extension as one of the building blocks of the defense.

Biggest disappointment: The Jaguars’ inability to consistently run the ball, especially early in the season, was vexing. The Jaguars switched from a predominantly man-blocking scheme to a zone-blocking scheme, and the offensive line had trouble with the transition. Four of the five starters at the beginning of the season also started in 2011, when Maurice Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing. The Jaguars mixed in more man-blocking schemes as the season progressed and things got better, but the problem wasn’t “fixed.” In addition, Jones-Drew clearly was not the same player he was two years ago. He missed all but six games last season with a Lisfranc injury and also battled ankle, knee and hamstring issues this season.

Biggest need: The Jaguars have a pretty long list of needs, but two stand out above all others: quarterback and pass-rusher. Quarterback is the top need because former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert isn’t the answer and neither is Chad Henne, who will be a free agent but wants to return to Jacksonville in 2014. The Jaguars haven’t had a bona fide threat at quarterback since coach Jack Del Rio put Mark Brunell on the bench for Byron Leftwich in 2003. New general manager David Caldwell and Bradley need a player around which to build the franchise, and the Jaguars will have the opportunity to possibly find one when they pick third overall in May’s draft.

Team MVP: The first impulse is to go with middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, whose 161 tackles ranked second in the NFL. He was clearly the team’s best defensive player and arguably the best overall player. However, what Henne did to stabilize the offense earns him MVP honors. Gabbert had played terribly in the first part of the season (seven INTs, one TD) and Henne stepped in and played the most consistent football of his career. He didn’t always light it up and he made some poor decisions and mistakes, but he kept the Jaguars in games in the second half of the season and made enough plays to go 4-4 after the bye. He threw nine touchdown passes -- including the game winner against Cleveland with 40 seconds to play -- and five interceptions over the final five games.

Jags stop the run, but not much else

November, 17, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks has said for a while that it would be pretty simple to fix the Jaguars’ porous rush defense.

Everyone just needed to do their job. Stay in their assigned gap. Quit freelancing. Just do what you’re supposed to do on each play.

Turns out he was correct.

[+] EnlargeGus Bradley
AP Photo/Stephen MortonGus Bradley and the Jaguars held the Cardinals to 14 rushing yards on Sunday, but were burned for several big plays through the air.
The Jaguars held Arizona to just 14 yards on the ground in a 27-14 loss at EverBank Field. That’s the second-lowest single-game total in franchise history, behind only the 10 yards the Jaguars yielded to Kansas City in 2007.

It also is pretty much the only positive thing you can say about the defense on Sunday.

Carson Palmer threw for 419 yards and two touchdowns, including a 91-yarder to Michael Floyd in which three players missed a tackle, and the Cardinals controlled the ball for nearly 36 minutes. But the defensive front -- which was without middle linebacker and leading tackler Paul Posluszny (concussion) -- showed up.

"Just like I’ve been saying the whole year, every time we’ve had runs get out on us, we have a guy out of a gap," Marks said. "Our thing was after the bye we had to hold everybody accountable. We’ve been doing it ever since we came off the bye week. We’ve got guys in the right gaps, and everybody is where they’re supposed to be.

"Everybody’s been accountable, and when you do that you tend to stop the run."

Rashard Mendenhall gained 14 yards on 13 carries. One of which was a 5-yard touchdown run, which means he managed just nine yards on his other 12 carries. Andre Ellington, a speedy breakaway threat, managed just 3 yards on eight carries. The Jaguars entered the game giving up an average of 153.0 yards per game rushing.

"We were aware of the run game, and we did not want that to get going," head coach Gus Bradley said. "We did a good job attacking the run and controlling Ellington."

The defense certainly felt the loss of Posluszny, who is by far the team’s best defensive player. He has two interceptions, eight pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. Posluszny didn’t practice all week, and was finally ruled out on Saturday morning. Russell Allen, who normally starts at outside linebacker, filled in and made seven tackles, but failed to deliver a big play.

Actually, he made one but it didn’t count. He stepped in front of Palmer’s pass to Larry Fitzgerald inside the Jacksonville 20-yard line in the third quarter, but officials announced that the Cardinals had called timeout before the snap.

"I think you grow to appreciate Poz and what he’s all about, but for Russell to step in and manage the defense like he did ... then he had the interception that would have helped out," Bradley said. "He did a nice job managing the defense. If he got more reps [during the week] we would see even better."

The Jaguars were certainly better against the run than in stopping Palmer, Fitzgerald, Floyd, and whichever tight end happened to be in the game at the time. Floyd caught six passes for 193 yards, including a 91-yard catch-and-run in which Allen, safety Josh Evans, and cornerback Will Blackmon missed tackles.

Fitzgerald caught a modest six passes for 61 yards and one touchdown, but tight ends Jim Dray, Jake Ballard and Rob Housler combined to catch nine passes for 117 yards -- continuing the trend of tight ends taking advantage of the Jaguars’ rookie safeties (Evans and Johnathan Cyprien).

Things could have been even worse had cornerback Alan Ball not broken up four passes in the first half.

The Tennessee Titans had similar trouble on the ground (83 yards) and success through the air (288 yards, two TDs) last week. The biggest difference is the Jaguars forced the Titans into four turnovers. They didn’t get any against the Cardinals.

"We feel good about how we played against the run, and we felt like it was something we were going to be able to do going in, but unfortunately we gave up too many big plays in the passing game," Allen said. "Any time we can give our offense a short field it’s important, giving them an opportunity to put points on the board. Getting some breaks ... would have helped a lot."
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Bob Babich doubled up, Will Blackmon stepped up, and the Tennessee Titans went down.

Babich called the same pressure package on back-to-back pass plays late in the fourth quarter and Blackmon came through with the biggest play of the season by stripping Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and returning the ball for what turned out to be the game-clinching touchdown in the Jaguars' 29-22 victory at LP Field.

On each play, Blackmon blitzed from the slot. The first time, on second-and-9 from the Tennessee 30-yard line, right tackle Mike Otto picked him up and Blackmon didn’t get close. But the pressure from the defensive line did affect Fitzpatrick’s throw, which fell incomplete.

Blackmon came again on the next play, and this time Otto didn’t pick him up and Blackmon got a clear path to Fitzpatrick. He ripped the ball from Fitzpatrick’s hands and ran 21 yards for a touchdown to give the Jaguars a 29-20 lead with 2:32 to play.

"The second time I kind of held my disguise a little bit and ended up blitzing and he [Otto] didn’t see me at all," Blackmon said. "I tried to go in. I saw Fitzpatrick step up and that’s where I was able to go ahead and go after the ball.

"He bobbled it and he was trying to pick it back up and I just took it out of his hands."

Fitzpatrick still isn’t sure what happened.

"I don’t know if it bounced on the ground or if he just ripped it out or what happened," he said. "Obviously, I saw him running but I can’t let that happen in that situation."

That was the fourth turnover the Jaguars forced on Sunday and it made Blackmon look a little like a prophet. Before the game he wrote down several goals on a small piece of paper and put it in his sack. One was to get a victory for first-year coach Gus Bradley. Another was to force a fumble.

After the game, Blackmon showed reporters the crumpled-up piece of paper.

"I’m not saying all my goals. One of them was one caused fumble, he said. "I’ll show you that, too. See right there: 'I will have one caused fumble.' [Another goal is]: 'We will win as a team.'"

Jaguars finally get to celebrate

November, 10, 2013
11/10/13
7:15
PM ET
videoNASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The noise coming from the Jacksonville Jaguars' locker room was muffled by the concrete block walls, but not by much.

Those standing outside couldn’t make out what was being said, but every 10-15 seconds there were shouts and claps and whistles and stomps. And finally, after four or five rounds of cheers, there was one final, rousing roar.

That is what it sounds like after a victory in the NFL, and it’s a sound the Jaguars haven’t made in nearly a year.

"There was a lot of talking," cornerback Will Blackmon said after the Jaguars held on for a 29-27 victory against the host Tennessee Titans at LP Field. "It’s been silent the past eight weeks."

The last time the Jaguars (1-8) celebrated a victory was Nov. 25, 2012, when they beat the Titans 24-19 at EverBank Field. That was 350 days ago, and since then the Jaguars had lost 13 consecutive games, including the first eight this season by double digits.

They were soundly thumped by Kansas City, Indianapolis, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. In three games at EverBank Field they have scored a total of 11 points: three field goals and a safety.

So damn right they celebrated. They celebrated linebacker Paul Posluszny’s forced fumble and recovery on the game’s first offensive snap, which allowed the Jaguars to take a 7-0 lead – the first time they had held a lead since early in the second quarter of a Week 5 loss to St. Louis.

They celebrated rookie cornerback Dwayne Gratz’s first career interception, which led to a field goal and a 13-0 second-quarter lead.

They celebrated Bernard Pollard’s roughing the passer penalty, which nullified a third-down incompletion and extended a drive that eventually ended with Jordan Todman’s 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

They celebrated the holding penalty in the end zone by Titans rookie guard Chance Warmack, which gave the Jaguars a safety and essentially provided the winning margin.

They celebrated Blackmon’s sack, strip and 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

And they celebrated Johnathan Cyprien’s recovery of an onside kick with 38 seconds remaining.

"Just a long time coming," receiver Cecil Shorts said. "Long overdue. It was good. Everybody was excited and happy."

And a little relieved, too.

Head coach Gus Bradley had been adamant about staying true to the plan he, the coaching staff, and general manager Dave Caldwell had implemented. Keep practicing the way we’ve been practicing, keep doing things the way we want you to, keep working hard. Trust that if you do all those things, the results will come.

Well, they didn’t. It hadn’t even been close, either, until a cool, cloudless Sunday in the Music City.

"To have the ability to stay the course, stay true to who we are and come out and execute the way we did is an awesome deal and an awesome feeling for our guys," Bradley said. "I just appreciate them staying tight with it and really holding true to it."

There was something else in the locker room as well: a bit of defiance. Guard Uche Nwaneri expressed it, but he surely isn’t the only one who felt that way. Through the first eight weeks, the players patiently answered question after question about the team’s poor play. They answered questions about whether they were expecting to be traded. They answered questions about whether there was any feeling that the players were beginning to tune out Bradley as the losses continued to pile up.

Of course, they also answered questions about 0-16.

They saw the stories and tweets about how pathetic they were, about how this was one of the worst teams in NFL history. They heard the jokes and the analysts’ remarks. Each one was an attack on their pride.

So when the clock finally hit zero on Sunday afternoon, Nwaneri was finally able to vent.

"Finally validating the work we’ve put in and getting this win today, it did feel like a breath of fresh air," Nwaneri said. "It was kind of like [giving the] middle finger to all the people who want talk about the Jaguars not winning the game or being the worst 0-8 team in history.

"It’s kind of, ‘Eat this.’ That’s kind of how it feels."

It feels, he said, pretty good. Winning always does.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Observed in the locker room after the Jacksonville Jaguars' 29-27 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

Laughter: That hasn't been heard in the Jaguars locker room all season, which isn't a surprise considering the team had lost its first eight games by double digits. But there was plenty of it on Sunday. There was some good-natured ribbing, too. Cornerback Will Blackmon was talking about the defense forcing four turnovers and said it was good to see "some people holding onto interceptions." The player who did was cornerback Dwayne Gratz, who was sitting in the locker to Blackmon's right. The player who dropped an interception was cornerback Alan Ball, who was sitting in the locker to Blackmon's left.

Hayes
Stepping up: The numbers weren't eye-popping, but Mike Brown, Clay Harbor and Stephen Burton did a solid job helping to replace the production lost from the suspension of Justin Blackmon. The three combined to catch four passes for 64 yards.

Injury report: Burton and linebacker Paul Posluszny each suffered a head injury, though Posluszny seemed fine in the locker room after the game. Burton was hurt when he got hit after making a 15-yard catch in the fourth quarter. He had missed the previous five games with a concussion.

Big game for Hayes: Linebacker Geno Hayes had his most productive game of the season, leading the team with 11 tackles, knocking down one pass and forcing a fumble. The pass breakup was a leaping, one-hander that he also nearly intercepted.

Sluggish O: The Jaguars gained 93 yards in the first quarter but had just 121 yards in the final three. The 218 total yards was the third-fewest of the season, behind the 178 against Kansas City in the season opener and the 205 against Indianapolis.

Rapid Reaction: Jacksonville Jaguars

November, 10, 2013
11/10/13
4:11
PM ET

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 29-27 victory over the Tennessee Titans:

What it means: For the first time in 350 days, the Jaguars have a victory to celebrate after they upset the Titans at LP Field on Sunday. The victory snapped a 13-game losing streak dating back to a 24-19 victory over the Titans in Jacksonville on Nov. 25, 2012. There is one remaining winless team in the NFL: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who play the Miami Dolphins on Monday night.

Stock watch: Nobody's stock is higher now than cornerback Will Blackmon's, who made the biggest play of the season when he ripped the ball away from Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and ran 21 yards for the game-clinching touchdown with 2:32 to play. Blackmon had come on a blitz on a third-and-9 play.

Turnovers: The Jaguars' defense had forced just 11 turnovers entering Sunday but forced four against the Titans. In addition to the game-sealing strip by Blackmon, linebacker Paul Posluszny forced the ball loose and recovered it on the game's first offensive snap to set up the Jaguars' first touchdown. Chris Johnson also fumbled a pitch. (It's credited to Jake Locker, though.) Rookie cornerback Dwayne Gratz also came up with the first interception of his career.

Red zone success: The Jaguars were last in the NFL in red zone production coming into the game, scoring touchdowns on just five of their 20 trips inside the 20. But they were a solid 2-for-3 on Sunday. Their first possession of the game started at the Titans' 19-yard line following a turnover, and they scored three plays later. Their second trip ended with a Josh Scobee field goal. The Jaguars drove 79 yards for a touchdown on their first possession of the second half.

What's next: The Jaguars play their first game at EverBank Field in nearly a month when they host Arizona next Sunday.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars might not have left guard Will Rackley in the lineup for Sunday’s game at Tennessee because of a reappearance of concussion symptoms.

Head coach Gus Bradley said Friday that Rackley was undergoing further tests and might be a game-time decision.

Rackley
"We are not going to push anything with Will Rackley, and will see how he feels leading up to the game and make our decision," Bradley said.

If Rackley can’t play, second-year player Mike Brewster would take his spot in the lineup.

Bradley also announced three lineup tweaks: Winston Guy will get reps at free safety, and cornerback Dwayne Gratz will return to the starting lineup for the first time since the season opener.

Guy, a second-year player whom the Jaguars claimed off waivers from Seattle on Sept. 1, has played just four snaps on defense this season. Rookie Josh Evans has played every snap there since joining the lineup in Week 3 after Dwight Lowery suffered a concussion.

Evans has made 31 tackles, but has just one pass breakup and has struggled with bad angles and missed tackles.

"He [Guy] has shown more consistency, and we just felt like at the free safety spot we just needed to increase that level of play so we’re competing there," Bradley said. "I think it’ll re-direct his [Evans] attention to the competition part of it, and if that’s what he needs to help be focused, then we’ll do that."

Gratz, the Jaguars’ third-round draft pick, suffered a high ankle sprain in the season opener and missed the next five games. He has played in a reserve role the past two games, but will make his second career start on Sunday.

He’ll replace seven-year veteran Will Blackmon in the starting lineup, but Bradley said the team will use a rotation of Gratz, Blackmon and Alan Ball as the cornerbacks.

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