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Five reasons why the Jaguars will make the 2018 NFL playoffs

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Wondering if and how your NFL team can make the playoffs in the coming season? Adam Rank and Marc Sessler have you covered in this ongoing series, as they provide five reasons why each of the league's 32 teams will make an appearance in the 2018 postseason. Today, Rank examines the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Before we begin here, let me say a few things to my friends down there in Duval County, Florida. Myles Jack was not down. That should have been a touchdown. The Jaguars should have gone to the Super Bowl. And right now, I should be telling some of the best fans in the world why the Jaguars are going back to the Super Bowl.

But that's not the world we exist in. And that's OK. Sometimes the thrill is in the chase. I mean, "Ocean's Twelve" would have been a pretty terrible movie if, 20 minutes in, Danny Ocean looked at the camera and said, "Yeah, we stole the egg out of the backpack on the train." That would be ridiculous. Oh, yeah, spoiler alert for those of you who haven't seen "Ocean's Twelve" yet.

Here are five reasons why the Jaguars are going back to the playoffs.

1) Welcome to Sacksonville, population: your quarterback
Calais Campbell signed with the Jaguars last offseason. And not only were the Broncos' fans salty, even the players were kind of upset. Calais knew what was up. The Jaguars were about to become the It defense. The Broncos were trying to hang on to their former glory. Like that guy who graduated 20 years earlier still wearing his varsity jacket to a team party in "Varsity Blues." And in the end, Campbell ended treating those Broncos players much in the same way Tweeder treated that party crasher.

These Jaguars have moved past some of the top defenses of recent years, like Denver's No Fly Zone and Seattle's Legion of Boom. Some folks are getting really frisky and starting to compare this unit to the all-time great defenses of the 2000 Ravens and even the '85 Bears. Look, I love you Jacksonville ... but I'm gonna have to stop you right there.

That said, you're very good. Top D against the pass. Second in total defense, sacks and interceptions. So, very good. And not a lot of turnover. Aaron Colvin and Paul Posluszny are gone. But you kick Jack inside. And the Jags signed DJ Hayden to help in coverage. Plus, they drafted Taven Bryan. There are some concerns with the first-round pick, because he had just one good year at Florida and was considered maybe a bit of a workout warrior. But he's joining a team loaded on the defensive line and will be able to contribute situationally, instead of being asked to anchor the whole thing. When you talk about some of those elite defenses of yesteryear, like the Legion of Boom, one of the great things about them is the depth. The Jags have it.

2) Jalen Ramsey is ready to take over the world
When Ramsey rolled into EverBank Field after the Jaguars' win over the Steelers in the Divisional Round (don't you dare call it an upset) and implored fans to bring the noise because they were gonna go to the Super Bowl and win that [female dog] -- well, I was into it. I loved everything about it. The swagger. The killer jacket. It was classic Ric Flair. Stylin' and profilin' out there. Only this Space Mountain isn't the oldest ride in the park -- it's the best attraction, even though it's still relatively new.

Yes, what I'm saying is Ramsey is the best cornerback in the game. I don't care who knows it. He's entering his third NFL season. He's just getting started. And what's scary: This is the first offseason where he hasn't had surgery.

And if that's not enough, his partner, A.J. Bouye, is pretty [deity]damn good, too. If Ramsey is the Nature Boy, then Bouye is The Enforcer.

3) That running game, yo!
The Jaguars like to kick it old school. "Three yards and a cloud of dust" isn't just an expression -- it's a lifestyle. The man who empoys it isn't like the person who claims that he's trying to eat better one minute ... and then is out throwing down a pizza the next because it's a cheat day. He's the guy who is fully committed -- I'm never eating a carb again. You get what I'm saying. And if you don't, I'm saying the Jags run a lot.

The Jaguars ran it 527 times last year. The next-closest team came in at ... 501. Which, honestly, I was expecting the gap to be a little bigger. That's kind of not that far off. But whatever -- the Jaguars love to run the ball and might do it more this year.

Remember: The offensive line was kind of a liability in Gus Bradley's final season. And then Doug Marrone got in there and reworked not only the line, but the entire culture of the locker room. Like he was the NFL's version of Jon Taffer and this was his "Bar Rescue" or something. He got rid of the ping-pong tables, big screens and instilled a smash-mouth offense. It's going to be even better this year, with the free-agent addition of All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell. I saw one executive snipe about this deal, saying you don't throw all of your money at the guard position. But, um, you do if you want to win football games. Which is what the Jags are going to do.

That offensive line is now one of the strengths of the team. Leonard Fournette rushed for 1,040 yards last year with nine touchdowns. He should increase that total this in Year 2, even if he faces a bunch of eight-man fronts.

4) We love Playoff Blake Bortles
There is no quarterback more maligned than Blake Bortles. Maybe no other human being gets the amount of (expletive) that he does. People make jokes. Blake Bortles Facts seem mean at times. Even Kristen Bell got him on "The Good Place" last season. And she seems like the nicest person on Earth.
But much to the chagrin of everyone -- even the producers of "The Good Place" -- Blake made all football-watching Americans wear it during the playoffs last year, because he was freaking great. Oh, stop it; I know he passed for 87 yards against Buffalo. But he ran for 88 yards. And they were big runs, too. He showed a lot of athleticism against the Bills and the Steelers (wish he would have ran more against the Patriots). He was winging the ball out there against all three teams like the quarterback we've wanted him to be. He posted a passer rating of 91.0 in the three games and didn't throw a single pick. We get that Blake Bortles this season, and it's over, son. (And daughter.)

5) Let's be honest: They still have something to prove
You talk about the Jaguars' breakthrough season and there is still some "Yeah, but ..." Mostly because people aren't willing to accept it, for whatever reason. This is the kind of thing that will help keep the Jaguars grounded and humble.

And it's not just the motivation. Look at the roster. This is easily the most talented team in the league. Jacksonville's loaded everywhere. And before you say anything about the receivers, hear me out. I know it's shocking to lose a talent like Allen Robinson. He's amazing. How can they win without him? Well, uh, they did last year. Robinson tore his ACL in the first quarter of the season opener. Other receivers had to step up. I'm here for Marqise Lee. The Donte Moncrief signing doesn't really offend me all that much, because I'm bullish on DJ Chark. Love him. And LSU receivers, amirite? They always play better in the NFL.




Ronnie Harrison saw it all at Alabama, Jacksonville Jaguars coach says

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While taking part in his first NFL offseason program, Jacksonville Jaguars safety Ronnie Harrison was yearning to hit someone.

"I'm so ready for the pads to come on," Harrison said. "You can't do a lot in shirts and shorts. A lot of guys make a couple plays you probably wouldn't have made in pads, so I'm just ready to get them on and let them know what time it is."

NFL teams are not allowed to run contact drills or wear full equipment during offseason practices, taking away what was considered the strongest part of Harrison's game for his first pro work after the Jaguars drafted him from Alabama in the third round on April 27. But Jacksonville's offseason program gave Harrison the opportunity to show he was more than a heavy hitter.

"I like what I've seen so far," Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said of Harrison during OTAs. "We're not in pads. I think that's a big part of his game from what you saw in college -- being able to tackle well in space. I think the thing that we're impressed with is that coming from the school that he came from, Alabama, and coach (Nick) Saban and his background being a defensive-backs coach, I don't think there's really anything you can throw at - and not just Ronnie, but any of those defensive backs that played at Alabama - there's not really anything you can throw at them coverage-wise and scheme-wise and even technique-wise that maybe they haven't seen before.
"He's matter of fact and does a good job and studies and is smart, really picking things up, so that's exciting. And now we're looking for the transfer. Obviously, we have more work to do, but we're looking for that transfer for when the pads come on and we get on the field."
Harrison will have to wait until at least July 28 to put on pads for Jacksonville. As a rookie, he'll report to training camp on July 18. The full team's third practice is the first one where contact is permitted.

That's when Jacksonville will get to see the full range that Harrison offers.

"Let me say in the classroom first, a very good student, attentive to football," Jaguars defensive-backs coach Perry Fewell said about Harrison during OTAs. "He's a good communicator and that transfers on the field also. Obviously, he has some formations, motions and shifts with our defense that he needs to experience and work on his communication with adjustments. But we see a good athlete, an instinctive athlete.

"He's very long. I like the length that he has. I like the size that he has. I think he's going to be a very physical football player. We don't know that until pads come on, but he has the traits of having the height, weight, size and speed that you look for in a good football player."
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Jacksonville defensive coordinator Todd Wash said Harrison had opened the coaching staff's eyes during the Jaguars' offseason program, which ended last week.

"He is actually, I think, a little bit better than we thought we were going to get," Wash said. "We knew he was an in-the-box safety, around the football, a physical player. But now we're seeing him in the middle of the field back in our two-shell coverages that we run and you see his athleticism really show through. He adds, obviously, great quality depth to some very good players we have back there."
Harrison said he had hoped to show he wasn't one-dimensional and could handle a variety of assignments for the Jaguars.

"I feel like that's what I bring -- versatility," Harrison said. "That's what I do the best, coming out, so you know if that's what they want to do, I'm down for it."

Jacksonville has two veteran safeties in Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson, who both have logged five NFL seasons as starters. The Jaguars also signed five-year veteran safety Cody Davis in free agency. Generally viewed as a special-teamer, Davis had done some good things with Jacksonville's defense in offseason practice, too, Wash said.
"It's going to be a heck of a battle back there at those two positions," Wash said.




The Jaguars and the Rams won’t win as many games in 2018

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Looking at upcoming schedules as we try to map out a season, we tend to default the previous season’s record to infer strength of schedule heading into the new season. What we need to examine more closely are the quarterbacks on the schedules. That’s a better way to determine the possible records for teams heading into the 2018 season.

Using that information, I’m taking the under for both the Los Angeles Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Los Angeles skyrocketed to the NFC West title last season behind first year head coach Sean McVay, quarterback Jared Goff, their run game, and the defense. If we take a closer look at their 2017 schedule, we see it’s littered with below average quarterbacks. The two best quarterbacks they beat were Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, with the Seahawks being a shell of themselves by the end of the season.

The Rams lost six total games (11-5 regular season) and the list of quarterbacks they were defeated by were some of the best they played all season — Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Case Keenum (based on his 2017 performance), and Carson Wentz. (I’m excluding Jimmy Garoppolo for the moment.)

If we look at their 2018 schedule, there’s improvement among their opponents, especially those within the division. Jimmy G twice a season and either Sam Bradford or Josh Rosen in two games. They also face Derek Carr, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Brees, Matthew Stafford, Cousins, and Wentz. You can also include Pat Mahomes and Mitch Trubisky, who could be much improved by Week 11 and 14, respectively, when they play the Rams.

The Rams did add Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib, and Marcus Peters to their defense, which should bolster Wade Phillips’ unit. Also, Goff and company have another year in McVay’s offense.

The Rams have potential to be excellent, but I don’t like their schedule. I’m taking the under for Los Angeles Rams to reach 10 wins.

When I scan NFL win totals, I keep coming back to one as my most confident pick. That’s the under on the Jacksonville Jaguars for nine wins.

I’m supposed to bet the over on Blake Bortles? Nope, not happening. The Jaguars often won last season in spite of him. In the last five road games of the season, Bortles was 1-4 with four touchdowns and six interceptions, and he only averaged 6.7 yards per attempt.

While teams are becoming more creative on offense, the Jaguars seem to want to ground and pound. It’s hard for me to see this working as well in 2018 unless they are ahead in every game. That’s possible with that defense, don’t get me wrong. It’s an outstanding group, but unless the Jaguars are ahead in every game, we’ve seen that the staff doesn’t trust the quarterback to win it for them.

Bortles and his team had a 2017 season with very little bad luck. Everything went their way, including their schedule. They missed on Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson twice. They lost to a Titans team with Marcus Mariota not playing close to where his career trajectory points. This year, they get the NFC East and AFC East (which outside of Tom Brady isn’t so great at the quarterback position). They also have to play the Chiefs and Steelers. Combine that with their much improved division, take the under on the Jaguars at nine wins.





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