There are two backdrop notes to consider before even trying to evaluate anyone from this game…
1) It was drizzling rain from the beginning — so it was very sloppy conditions for making cuts and especially trying to hold onto the ball for the receivers. It was that annoying light drizzle that just makes for messy play.
2) This was mostly first-team against first-team for the first half with a few top players missing or leaving early here and there – but for the most part, it was a lot of ‘1s’ against ‘1s’ for a half.
Cam Newton (2-2 for 21 yards, 1 TD/0 INT) played one series and led a TD drive. Carolina led 7–0 quickly. By halftime, the Jags crawled back to a 10–10 tie at the break. Neither team really jumped out at me, but more so the field conditions kind of jumbled everything up.
In the end, the Panthers won 24–23 as the Jaguars tried to ‘go for two’ to win it late…and, of course, Blake Bortles was intercepted on that throw. Let’s start by talking about the Jaguars quarterback situation.
Fantasy player notes…
— You should never guarantee anything, but I guarantee Chad Henne (8-14 for 73 yards, 0 TD/0 INT) is going to start opening day for the Jaguars and let’s just go ahead and guarantee that Blake Bortles (12-16 for 125 yards, 1 TD/1 INT) will be traded per my sources…that’s if they can find a taker. There’s always a sucker out there for mainstream scouting loves you just need ‘coaching up’. If not takes, he’ll be cut. If I understand the ‘5th-year option’ correctly — an injured/on I.R. Bortles costs the Jags $19M next year. They can’t take that risk. If I’m Bortles…I’m looking for banana peels to slip on.
I know Henne is starting just by reading the tea leaves of this game. Week 3 is normally when the starters play a half because they’re not playing in Week 4. Chad Henne played the entire first half with the starters. Once Bortles came in, he was NOT surrounded by his familiar faces like Allen Robinson, etc. He was not set up for success in any way. The team deflated when he entered the game – you could see it, feel it through the TV.
Bortles threw a pick-six ball early into his stint, but the runner was ruled out just before the end zone…but let’s call it a pick-six. He was inaccurate, blind throws most of the game, per usual. And when the team did set him up to win the game late with a two-point conversion throw, Bortles threw an interception – potentially throwing it over the head of a wide-open guy in order to throw it to where he intended before the snap occurred…to a guy that was ultimately double covered. That’s Blake Bortles. That’s the stuff that can’t be scouted in shorts and T-shirts workouts or in college games when they beat up on FCS/inferior opponents. You can have all the size and arm you want, but when there’s a guy wide open in front of you under pressure, and you throw over top of him as if he isn’t there so you can throw to a planned target that’s clearly double covered – you’re just bad at being a quarterback. You can’t see the field because it’s too blurry. I’m saying this from experience. I’ve shared this sentiment before, but just to share it again for a lot of new readers this here and perhaps you can identify with me…
Maybe you can attest to this if you played sports as a youth or higher – from my youth and into grade school and high school, I played several sports like many kids. Youth football as a quarterback. I played a ton of baseball and was locally good from age 6, playing with 11-12 year olds at age 9. I played a lot of street basketball and then more organized basketball in my high school years.
I was the worst quarterback ever because I was totally afraid of getting hit. I was QB because I knew the playbook…which was 99% handing the ball off to real stars. When I dropped back to pass all I wanted to do was throw it to where the play was called. Everything was a blur. My primary goal was to throw the ball and not get sacked. In baseball, I struggled as I got older because I was afraid of the ball striking me. I was a delicious practice player and dominant at an early age because of my dad playing with me nonstop – I was great when there was no pressure or in a batting cage. But live action against real heaters and curveballs – forget it. I swung with my eyes closed hoping I made contact. However, I played basketball about every waking free moment I had from about age 12 on. I loved the physical play of fighting for rebounds, boxing out, whatever. I was a gifted point guard/point forward. I loved playing because I could see things developing on the court as if I had a sixth sense…like everything was in slow motion. I made brilliant no-look passes. I was a little magician against competition at my level. I was so comfortable with a basketball in my hand. With a football, everything was happening like everyone else was in fast-forward on video but I was in slow-mo. When I scanned for a receiver, I just saw a color of a jersey and threw it – no matter how many other colors were there. I was much better in practice and great in sandlot. Baseballs came at with a blur. I made bad plays because of fear or just untalented as I got older. In basketball, it was poetry. I felt so at home. I can still feel the difference between me and baseball and football as a youth – I can close my eyes and visualize it. I know the difference.
I think many NFL QB top prospects flame for the same reason. It isn’t easy processing everything with people trying to kill you. You need a certain DNA on top of all the athletic attributes. The physical tools are meaningless if it’s not in your DNA. I can spot one-read, scared throwers right away from college tape. I don’t think they can be coached out of it. I don’t mean scared like chickens – I mean they can’t see it and they panic, they do what they can – throw hard to where someone might be. All the ‘first in, last out’ of the practice facility is meaningless. Coach’s playbooks have a lot of timing passes because, unwittingly or not, most QBs cannot read the field properly…they don’t have the stomach or internal clock for hanging in the pocket. It’s why many bad QBs look great throwing on the run/roll outs – they are away from the cloud of fear. They are free. Jameis Winston is the most perfect example I can think of today…before that Jake Locker was. Awesome throwing on the run…brilliant. Cut that off and keep them in the pocket – toast.
I saw problems with Blake Bortles day one when everyone else proclaimed him a future star – I even saw it when he had his big 2nd-season…a con of blind throws that just happened to land because his receiver came up big against soft defenses in games where the Jags were down a bunch.
After four years of complaining about it, I will be once again crowned righteous…all by myself. Proclaiming it in detail, publicly many years ago. You are owed an apology by Mike Mayock, et al. – and you will never get one.
Every time we reach the tipping point of when I am declared to be right in scouting against the entire football scouting community, I’m going to add this video in to celebrate as my theme song.
…so, get used to seeing it…a lot.
…the funny thing is, I wear the same outfit as Puddles when I’m typing football analysis.
— The reason I’m moving Christian McCaffrey (7-21-0, 1-12-0/1) further up the rankings ahead of consensus is despite whatever jokes I constantly make on how ridiculous the focus and adulation and mythical creature creation the media is making out of him – all of that still means fantasy gold in PPR.
I think we all realize McCaffrey’s going to see a lot of dump and other style passes out of the backfield. That’s a given. But what I’m seeing in the preseason is Carolina constantly running him between the tackles. If you thought he’d be more in the 5–6 change-of-pace carries per game zone, like I was initially, then you’re underestimating. I think he’s getting 10+ carries a game to go with his 5+ targets and maybe 5+ catches a game.
I can argue all I want about whether he’s elite or great or just good – the fact of the matter is the media is pushing the story to where McCaffrey has to get a huge amount of touches – or the team is going to face fan and media retribution. If McCaffrey were a fourth-round+ pick, the fans being upset wouldn’t matter. But McCaffrey has it all – the draft pick status plus absolute media protection. He’s a made man like a mafia figure — and you have to consider the value of that for Fantasy. Not much fantasy floor but a giant fantasy ceiling on touch count.
Two years from now this will all settle down, but in 2017 it’s definitely going to be a thing.
It also means your Jonathan Stewart (5-39-0) stock could not be worth any less.
— Carolina second rounder Curtis Samuel (4-15-0/6) finally got on the field. It was kind of interesting how he was used, but not as interesting as I hoped it would be.
First things first – Russell Shepard (0-0-0/3) is working as the Carolina #3 WR. For how long, I don’t know but based on this game — that’s how it’s going to start the season. Samuel never saw time with Cam Newton.
Samuel did come into the game and did work some with Benjamin-Funchess, and Carolina started doing something I hadn’t seen them do until Samuel into the game. Samuel went in motion from his flanker spot a few times. They never handed him the ball, but they were bringing him across the shotgun spread and easily could have handed him the ball if they wanted. I’m wondering/hoping this might be the forerunner to what they’ll really do once the regular season hits – constantly send Samuel in motion as a starting WR and sometimes hand it to him. That’s where his fantasy gold lies. As a wide receiver only, he’s good — but a dime a dozen small speedster. Throw in his running back skills and it’s a totally different world for Fantasy.
Samuel saw a decent amount of targets in this game, but they were all short catches and quickly stopped after the catch. He had no catch and run moments. Again, the field was kind of sloppy to deal with for the passing game.
I have no good or bad news to report about Samuel’s debut other than he didn’t hurt himself in any way…but he’s definitely not starting Week 1.
— The rookie WR in this game that very well may be starting Week 1 is Keelan Cole (1-4-0/3) for the Jaguars. For the second week in a row, Cole ran with the starters…Robinson-Hurns-Cole. It was that way the whole first half. Once the second half started, Robinson and Cole left, but Hurns remained for extra work.
I believe Jacksonville is going to start Cole in what was the Marqise Lee role…maybe. Trade Lee or just keep him for depth or switch him in and out with the youngster Cole. Hurns is rumored to be on the block…doubtful, but he will be dropped next year because it avoids a big contract escalator.
I want to get more excited about Cole, and I am already, but the last two weeks have introduced a couple of speed bumps that are holding me back from getting totally giddy.
Last week, Cole (starting) put an excellent move on Vernon Hargreaves and got himself a wide-open for a TD – and Chad Henne threw him a ball on the money…and Cole gaffed it. This week, on the very first drive, on 3rd & 8, there was a play called for a bubble screen for Cole — that’s a huge endorsement. The play was whistled dead just as the quarterback went to throw. He threw in any way to Cole, who was half jogging due to the whistle and tried to catch it and dropped it. That may be nothing, but after seeing him drop a TD prior week something simple like this has my antennae up on this young, mysterious rookie WR. Further so, because later Cole might have had a 70+ yard play on a perfectly thrown bomb from Henne. Cole had to reach out on a full sprint and try to haul in the ball. It was a fingertip grab in the drizzle, so there are excuses that can be made, but a guy like Cole, if he wants to start, he has to make that catch…he didn’t. Cole has missed two huge opportunities the last two weeks after cashing them in in Week 1 and in all of training camp.
I think the Jaguars are in love with Cole, and there’s definitely some hope here. I’m going to explore it more with a full scouting report I’m putting the finishing touches on for College Football Metrics.com.
— Quick and easy observation from this game – Corey Grant (10-58-0) should be the starting change of pace back running alongside Leonard Fournette to give Jacksonville an incredible thunder and lightning duo.
Grant has been nothing but impressive this preseason. He ended last year with a 100+ yard rushing game. He’s one of the great sleeper talents in the NFL, as a guy should be used like Christian McCaffrey – who may be better than Christian McCaffrey as an athlete…only Grant gets slightly less media publicity.
He’s not going to overtake Fournette or slice deep into his touches, but more that Grant can be used as a 5+ carries a game guy and can also catch 2–5 passes out of the backfield or as a quasi-sometimes lined up as WR who can create lightning in a bottle.
— Can I just mention Myles Jack (4 tackles, 1 TFL) is a huge conundrum for the Jacksonville Jaguars?
I keep mentioning it over and over – he’s not a good tackler. He needs to be in coverage primarily/only. or rushing the backfield. I think Jacksonville has figured that out and is moving him into that role. However, it could’ve been coincidence but Carolina early on seemed to be running every play wherever Jack was lined up.
There was a simple play in this game that explains everything about Myles Jack if anyone was looking… Jacksonville drops back into coverage/zone and Kelvin Benjamin slices right across the middle and catches a wide-open pass over center from Cam. Myles Jack is racing in from a distance to make the tackle. Benjamin catches the pass and continues running sideways getting ready to turn up the field but Jack is going to hit him before he can turn. Jack had three choices — (1) he could have broken Benjamin and a half with a waist level tackle like a Goldberg (not Roman Reigns) spear…or (2) he could’ve torpedoed Benjamin’s legs out from under him for the most sure tackle ever of a guy who hadn’t even turned around yet. Instead, Jack takes door #3…against a 6’5″/240+ pound mammoth WR he tries to hit him up high without really wrappingup. Benjamin almost doesn’t go down keeping his balance for a moment because he’s so big, but Jack had enough force to knock him down. Jack will not tackle with his arms unless he’s grabbing a ball carrier. It’s a huge problem for this defense and I’m not sure the coaches fully realize it.
Later in the game, Jack blitzes a running play to the outside and has the ballcarrier trapped near the sideline — there is no escape from the speedy Jack. It’s going to be a big loss when Jack makes the hit – but what does Jack do? Because he refuses to tackle properly, he tries to grab the RB up around his shoulders/jersey and rip him down — and gets his hands inside the collar and horse collars him down. What would’ve been a great play ended up to be a terrible play due to penalty – because Myles Jack is a terrible linebacker when not in coverage.
— FYI, new Jaguars safety Barry Church (9 tackles, 1 TFL) was everywhere in this game. He looks good and should have a sweet IDP season.
Also note, about the Jags defensive backfield – Jalen Ramsey started and played for a little bit, but A.J. Bouye is still being rested.
— One final note…
Once Jags QB Brandon Allen (1-5 for 22 yards, 0 TD/0 INT) came into the game for the final minute with a long shot/no timeouts chance to drive the field for FG win, I was watching it happen with the feed from the Jacksonville announce team.
As what you would expect, the two announcers exchanged quick pleasantries about how well Allen has held up in training camp, etc. Completely what you would expect. Then it turned weird and it pissed me off.
The one non-Mark Brunell guy asks if Brandon Allen could be considered a starter because he’s looked so good. Mark Brunellpolitely hesitated and basically said, “Not really.” So the non-Brunell replies – keeping in mind his only function is to shamelessly promote the Jacksonville Jaguars and all their players — he says the following in response (approximately), “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Can you imagine Allen taking the first snap in Week 1 against JJ Watt?” Then the two chuckled like Brandon Allen was some kind of joke quarterback.
Hey, paid Jacksonville shills — you been watching Brandon Allen for a couple of years now and you still don’t understand anything about observing football talent. I’ve got a joke for the two of you jokesters…
“Imagine Blake Bortles lined up against J.J. Watt for the last four years with every one of your lap dog asses praising and making excuses for him the entire time…despite the fact that anyone who knows anything about football should have seen how flawed a quarterback prospect he was. Instead of pointing that out, you put on your tutu and tap shoes and danced around with fawning Bortles praise — and conned the public with your ignorance. How about you start imagining you guys doing your jobs properly instead of imagining Brandon Allen scenarios to laugh at? Allen is a good QB talent…and you are paid by the team to talk nice about him anyway, morons.” It would go something like that in my head if I met them. Probably, would be shortened to…”Nice to meet you.”
That was for you Brandon Allen – best quarterback talent on the Jaguars for the past three years…
If that last statement is wrong, I can’t be any more embarrassed about it than the people who thought Blake Bortles was a superstar.
Memo to my nonexistent personal assistant – scratch Jacksonville off the list as one of my potential places of employment in the future. I may have just hurt my chances. I’m also pretty sure I could make good pay per view money à la Mayweather-McGregor if I could charge all of you that have been with me for years to watch my future Jacksonville Jaguars interview to be their next general manager live. It might go like this…p;
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