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Sunday, 21 December 2014

Jacksonville Jaguars: Celebrating a Huge Win

Add cheerleader to the many titles head coach Gus Bradley has with his role in Jacksonville. His post victory speeches are stuff of legend and have become viral in NFL circles. The problem is Bradley’s victory celebrations are few and far between. If the Jaguars won more often, Bradley might get serious consideration for a spot on “Dancing with the Stars.”

Now that the Jaguars have pulled themselves out of the bottom of the AFC South and have given the Tennessee Titans a chance to draft first in 2015, the team travels to Houston who they faced a few weeks ago and fell 27-13.

The good thing about playing on a Thursday is the 10 days the Jaguars have to plan for their season finale. It also gives Blake Bortles, who proved to be gritty in the 21-13 win at home. His foot will heel more before he faces a tough Texans pass rush and the “beast” known as JJ Watt.

Here is what we learned about the team and the win on Thursday night, according to

1. Winning is fun. We’ve learned this a couple of times this season, but it can’t be overemphasized enough. And throughout Thursday night, fans felt it, too. They reveled pre-game and once the Jaguars got past an early slow start, they cheered raucously after that. There was real energy and passion at EverBank Field Thursday. And yeah, it was fun.

2. Toby Gerhart can be effective. The veteran running back struggled much of the season, and many, many observers – including this one – perhaps overlooked the aftereffects of a foot/ankle injury in the regular-season opener against Philadelphia. But in the last two games, Gerhart has run strong and gained yards after contact. Maybe foot injuries really do bother running backs.

3. Marqise Lee is the real deal. He’s not a finished product. He’s not supposed to be a finished product late in his rookie season. But the improvement Lee has made from London to now is remarkable – and it’s only a scratch of a hint of his ultimate potential.

4. The Jaguars’ wide receivers have a chance to be good. This is an offshoot of No. 3, but with a week remaining in the regular season, the Jaguars have better reason to feel good about their receiving corps than they have in some time. Lee. Allen Hurns. Allen Robinson. All are rookies. All are showing flashes. All can get much, much better – maybe in a hurry.

5. Sen’Derrick Marks is a fun, fun guy … OK, we obviously knew this already, but Marks capping Thursday night with a Johnny Manziel money sign toward General Manager David Caldwell was pitch-perfect. His last-play sack secured a $600,000 bonus for reaching eight sacks for the season. His teammates’ happily mobbing him afterward was all you need to know about his respect level in this locker room.

6. … and Marks is good, too. Don’t overlook that. Marks may or may not make the Pro Bowl. It likely will still be difficult, but Marks’ value to this defense is enormous. He signed a contract extension last offseason and played better this season. That doesn’t always happen.

7. Aaron Colvin was a very good draft pick. The Jaguars took him in the fourth round last May knowing he wouldn’t play early while rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Put this one on the “success” category, because Colvin already looks like the team’s best defensive back.

8. The offensive line needs to improve … This is a season-long theme, and even in the victory, you can’t ignore four sacks – or the 66 the Jaguars have allowed as a team.

9. … but it’s still not as bad the numbers indicate. This has turned into the Great Twitter/Talk Radio Show debate. How can a line allowing sacks at such an alarming rate not be atrocious? How can you not blow it up? How can all the players not be terrible? Because sacks AREN’T ALL ON THE LINE! And because many of the sacks are missed assignments and blitzes and communication. That’s not a talent issue. That’s an issue that needs to be taught and will be learned with experience.

10. Blake Bortles is improving. It’s not happening in huge, oh-my-goodness strides, but it’s difficult for a young quarterback in a phenomenally young offense to make dramatic strides. But Bortles has reduced his interceptions in recent weeks. And he has had more significant stretches of solid, efficient play. That’s progress. The next step will be immersing in the offense in the offseason.


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