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Unknown, But Important Contributors – Jacksonville Jaguars Edition

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Lacking the glitz of Miami, the tourist attractions of Orlando, or the beautiful Gulf waters of Tampa, Jacksonville should be able to make up for that by having a good football team, right?

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The Jaguars have only been playing football since 1995. The team had remarkable initial success, making the playoffs from 1996-1999, with two trips to the Conference Championship game in that run. After that, particularly the last few years, the league has not been kind at all to the Jaguars. Since 2008, the team has gone 31-68 with their best year being a .500 season in 2010. This includes the 0-3 start to this season.

It seems as though the rumors of improved talent on the roster and good coaching of that talent by Gus Bradley and his staff may have been exaggerated or premature. We may not know the names, but the Jaguars are going to need good performances from these guys to win in San Diego on Sunday.

UBIC – Offense

Frank Scelfo, QB Coach - Rookie Blake Bortles will make his first NFL start against the Chargers on Sunday. The coach usually associated with keeping an NFL QB sane, calm, and effective in executing his part of the offense is a team’s Quarterbacks Coach. A QB coach with a highly drafted rookie also has the additional job of teaching the young man how to play QB in the NFL.

Scelfo will have his work cut out for him, though his resume indicates that he has had some success in teaching young quarterbacks the craft of running an offense and making plays. Among the obstacles Scelfo and Bortles will have on Sunday are:

  • An ineffective and inexperienced offensive line that has allowed 17 sacks in 3 games (the Bolts have allowed 2), and getting a paltry 2.8 yards per carry (still better than Bolts 2.4) in what has been a limited rushing attack so far in 2014. Those rushing stats are skewed upwards by runs from Henne and Bortles. The Jags have yet to score a rushing TD this season.
  • An unbalanced offense (102 pass plays and 55 rushing attempts) that is not good at either type of moving the ball. With an anemic 604 yards in the air (201.33 per game), the Jaguars cannot be called a good passing team either.
  • A mostly young, unproven, and inconsistent receiving corps. The teams leading receiver for catches is Allen Robinson, the team’s 2nd round pick in 2014 out of Penn State. The leading receiver for yardage is 1st week fantasy sensation Allen Hurns, an undrafted rookie FA out of Miami. The team’s veteran TE, Marcedes Lewis, just went on the IR, with an eligible to return designation, so a reliable safety valve is unavailable. The Jaguars will get Cecil Shorts back in the lineup this Sunday; he had been dealing with a balky hamstring during the first 3 games of the year.

The Jaguars had a patient plan in place for Scelfo to execute this season, but this is the NFL and things can change in a hurry. The original plan was to have Bortles, the 3rd overall pick of the most recent draft and first QB selected, sit and watch Chad Henne play for a season while he gets trained to take over as the (hopefully) Jags first franchise cornerstone QB since Mark Brunell in the 1990’s.

Henne, who showed some signs of competence late in the 2013 season, appears to have regressed badly in the most recent 8 quarters he played in the 2014 season. He was benched in the second half of the blowout loss against the Colts last week. A 53.8% completion rate through 10 quarters of football does not make it in the NFL these days.

There has to be a question of whether Henne’s regression happened despite the coaching he was being given or partially because of it. Scelfo’s record suggests that Henne’s problems were elsewhere. Scelfo tutored current NFL QB Nick Foles while he was the QB coach and offensive coordinator at the University of Arizona. Prior to that, in a stint at Tulane (hardly a powerhouse program), he coached four future NFL passers, Patrick Ramsey, J.P. Losman, Lester Ricard and Shaun King.

If the Jaguars have any chance of success against the Bolts improved defense on Sunday, Frank Scelfo will need to develop a game plan with offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch that Bortles can execute. Without reliable pieces in place around Bortles, this will be a tall order indeed.

I would suspect that some read option and perhaps a few other things that have yet to show up on tape will be run against the Bolts defense on Sunday. Hopefully, McCoy & Co. were able to locate some tape of Bortles from last season and of Shaun King’s last season at Tulane to get a flavor for some of the things that might be coming at them.

Honorable Mention

Marcel Jensen, TE (#87) – I could have also listed Clay Harbor or Mickey Shuler here as they are both ahead of Jensen on the depth chart, but I did not. Of the three back-ups to Marcedes Lewis, Jensen is the only one to record a reception in 2014 (that would be the one reception for 8 yards). Jensen was also the only one that has yet to appear on a Jacksonville injury report. The Jaguars saw something in Jensen to keep the UDFA rookie out of Fresno State around after training camp. I suspect it is the 6’6", 265 pound package that at least looks the part of "match up problem, play making TE". On a team starved for playmakers, the Jaguars have to hope that Jensen can provide some sort of spark. It would not surprise me if the Jaguars tried to put in a wrinkle for this game with a tall, powerful athlete that got used to a pro-style passing offense at Fresno State.

UBIC - Defense

Dwayne Gratz, CB (#27) – Jaguars opponents have passed on the team 124 times in the first three games. In those 124 attempts, current league stats reveal that the ‘jags have 7 recorded "Passes Defended". No, that is not an editorial error and I did not leave off a "1" or a "2". 7, S-E-V-E-N passes defended through the first 3 games. (The Bengals lead through Week 3 with 23; your own Bolts have 9. Tampa Bay has a league worst 4, but I am fairly certain that their secondary took the night off against the Falcons in Week 3.) Clearly, the Jaguars are having some issues in their secondary.

With the Chargers running game in an iffy state, it is expected that PR and the rest of the offense will put on an aerial challenge against a defense that has allowed a league worst 119 points (That is 39.67 per game) through the first 3 games of 2014. This is where Gratz comes in. If he remains one of Jacksonville’s starting CB’s (Coach Bradley publicly ripped his secondary after the last week’s loss to the Colts), he will need to play better against Allen, Floyd, and Royal to give his team a chance at slowing down the Bolts.

Gratz did get some starts last year. He was one of Bradley’s first picks, taken in the 3rd round out of Connecticut in 2013. Starting in 8 games last year, he got two picks, defended 3 passes and made 26 solo tackles. Starting all three games this season, he has not gotten a pick, but has made 13 solo tackles, and is tied for the team lead with two (2) passes defended. Bradley and the rest of the Jaguars have to be hoping that Gratz can do more this week then he has so far this season.

I could have easily put Alan Ball, the team’s other listed starting CB in this slot. He too is unknown, but is tied with Gratz as the team leader for passes defended with two. After Bradley’s very public calling out of his secondary, I am certain that the Jaguars coaches and fans are hoping for better play from both of them this week.

Honorable Mention

Andre Branch, DE (#90) – Branch is the team’s leader in sacks with 3. While listed as a defensive end, the 6’4" 260 pound Clemson alum actually has more of 3-4 OLB look to him than a 4-3 DE. Selected by the Jaguars in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft, Branch has established himself as a pass rushing specialist. Look for him to get a lot more snaps than usual this week, as the Jaguars have to expecting that the Bolts will be a pass first team. Unless the Jaguars can get some pressure on Rivers and create a turnover or two, it may be a long and uncomfortable day for their defense.