Coming into today the Jacksonville Jaguars had played one great game and one poor one. It had us asking just who they were this season.
Today they answered that question emphatically, demolishing the Baltimore Ravens 44-7 in a game that was over by half-time.
Jacksonville’s defense took charge from the get-go in a performance that was eerily reminiscent of their Week 1 thrashing of Houston.
Baltimore’s first drive got all of -1 yards thanks to Dante Fowler and Calais Campbell crushing Joe Flacco. It continued in that tone all afternoon.
Jaguars defense was sublime
For years now the Jaguars defense has been gathering assets, preparing for an assault on the league. From paying for free agents like Malik Jackson, AJ Bouye, and Calais Campbell, to investing draft picks in Dante Fowler and Jalen Ramsey.
They have been striving for the pinnacle of defensive excellence that is so usually the home of the Baltimore Ravens. And today was the kind of performance that has been promised for so long.
“I feel like we have a lot of talent.” said Calais Campbell after the game, “Coach challenged us to see how we can be if we do all the small things right. I think today was a step in the right direction.”
When asked about just how far the Jaguars can go this season, Jalen Ramsey’s answer was very clear. “No ceilings [...] we can go as far as we can take ourselves. As far as we want to go.”
It’s been a long time since there was confidence like that in a Jaguars locker room, but it’s hard to say they shouldn’t be glowing. The Ravens may have been without star right guard Marshal Yanda, but even his talents wouldn’t have been enough to stem the tide of black and green jerseys. By halftime, the Ravens had run 21 plays and gained just 15 yards.
It was a brilliant performance from the Jaguars who finished the day with two sacks, five QB hits. The Ravens offense didn’t even cross midfield until 49 minutes into the game.
“I wish I could stand up here as a coach and go, ‘I knew this was going to happen’” said Doug Marrone after the game, “but I will say our players did a good job of being focused.”
It was a markedly different performance to their game in Week 2, when they were on the wrong end of a 37-16 scoreline against the Tennessee Titans.
Two terrific interceptions, one from Jalen Ramsey and one from AJ Bouye, and a fumble recovery from Telvin Smith kept the Jaguars offense in good field position and on top all afternoon.
“I’m not sure much changed, it’s all about the mindset and we had the mindset to come and get it done today.” said Ramsey.
Baltimore entered the game 2-0 and allowing 3.9 yards per carry, and while they limited big gains on the ground by Leonard Fournette and company, they couldn’t generate any negative plays. With Brandon Williams left behind in Baltimore, there was a lack of pressure up the middle and it freed up AJ Cann and Patrick Omameh to get up to the second level and keep Fournette clean for long enough.
It wasn’t just the ground game though, Blake Bortles looked for all the world like a quarterback you can win a lot of games with today. Without consistent interior pressure from Williams, and then Brent Urban, he had space to move up into. Any edge pressure was spotty at best and Bortles’ feet were more than fast enough to roll away and buy time.
He took what the Ravens gave him with plenty of underneath throws that kept the chains moving.
“That’s something we talked about.” said Bortles in the post-game press conference, “Let’s take what they give us and get some positive yards.”
All those positive yards, with a lack of negative plays, made the Jaguars offense impossible to stop. They found themselves in 1st & 20 three times during the game thanks to holding penalties and all three were converted. That’s the kind of thing you never see against a Ravens defense.
The biggest weapon for the Jaguars was the red zone presence of Marcedes Lewis, who came into the game without a single catch and left with four receptions for 62 yards and three scores.
It was the kind of gameplan that caught the Ravens off balance, and with a lot of misdirection runs and bootlegs for Bortles, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett really established himself as a playcaller.
They didn’t throw downfield and test Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle over the top, instead exploiting space underneath and working with Marqise Lee, Fournette, and Ivory to move the sticks.
How good are the Jaguars?
That's the million dollar question. This was the worst Ravens performance of the John Harbaugh era and that effects just how we look at the Jaguars.
There were very few dynamic plays from the Jags offense today, because they didn't need them, they grinded away and kept the scoreboard ticking over. Defensively though, they were dominant. The defensive line was a monster all day, even in the fourth-quarter Dante Fowler was driving Ronnie Stanley back three yards off the ball to prevent a touchdown. They played with the kind of fire and hunger we are used to seeing from Denver and Seattle.
In the secondary, both Bouye and Ramsey looked like absolute stars, and while the Ravens lack elite talent out wide the pair seemed for all the world like they could take on Julio Jones and Antonio Brown at the same time.
As Ramsey said to us, this team will go as far as they want to, and on the back of today's defensive performance it could be all the way to the playoffs and beyond.
Next week the Jaguars are in New York to take on the Jets, where they should handle business comfortably before going to Pittsburgh, where they will face their biggest test of the season. Until then the Jags seem to have finally turned the ship around.
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