Jaguars Decline 2019 Option on Defensive End Dante Fowler

The Jaguars declined to exercise defensive end Dante Fowler’s 2019 contract option Wednesday, meaning he is scheduled to be a free agent next March, Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union reports.

Among the top 25 picks (as of 4 p.m.), only six first-rounders from 2015 did not have their options picked up: Fowler (No. 3), Chicago’s Kevin White (No. 7), the New York Giants’ Ereck Flowers (No. 9) and New England’s Danny Shelton (originally drafted No. 12 by Cleveland), Kansas City’s Cameron Erving (originally drafted No. 19 by Cleveland) and Denver’s Shane Ray (No. 23).

White has played only five games in three years because of injury, Flowers was replaced by free agent left tackle Nate Solder earlier this off-season and the Broncos drafted Bradley Chubb last week, which could make Ray expendable.

The Jaguars’ decision can be viewed as further proof they will build their pass rush around former third-round pick Yannick Ngakoue, who is eligible for a contract extension after this season. But it doesn’t mean the Jaguars are giving up on Fowler – the sides could come to terms on a new contract before he hits the open market although the choice is now in Fowler’s hands.

Fowler’s fifth-year salary was projected to be $14.2 million had the Jaguars picked up the option. It is the average of the top 10 highest salaries at Fowler’s position and would have been guaranteed for injury only.

Fowler is scheduled to count $7.5 million on this year’s salary cap.

Jaguars Earn an ‘B’ for Their Draft According to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.

The draft grades from ‘Draft Guru’ Mel Kiper Jr. are out, and one team that got a very good grade is that of the Jaguars, who according to Kiper got an ‘B’ for their collection of players over the two days.

Here’s what he had to say:

How loaded is that Jags defense? It already had six Pro Bowlers in 2018. Now it has one of the biggest physical freaks in the entire draft with tackle Taven Bryan, whose talent didn’t match his college production. If defensive coordinator Todd Wash can get Bryan close to his ceiling, he could be a steal at pick 29. Jacksonville could move on from Malik Jackson next offseason, and Bryan might be the ready-made replacement.

I liked the pick of safety Ronnie Harrison at 93, and safety is the one spot where this defense isn’t really young and fast. He has been underrated throughout his career, playing on a dominant defense with tons of NFL talent. But he’s physical, and he’ll help in the box. The question was true speed, because we never saw an official 40 time throughout the pre-draft process. Wide receiver D.J. Chark (61) is the best deep threat in this class, but his tape was inconsistent. Was that because of poor quarterback play at LSU? Either way, he could help replace Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. I like outside linebacker Leon Jacobs in the seventh round. He ran a 4.48 40 at the combine at 246 pounds.

I thought Jacksonville should have addressed tight end early, but maybe the staff believes in Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ ability as a blocker more than I do. If this is a team built around the running game, they could have used an upgrade on the edge. All in all, though, this is a terrific haul.

Round/Pick Name Pos College
1/29 Taven Bryan DT FLORIDA
2/61 D.J. Chark WR LSU
3/93 Ronnie Harrison S ALABAMA
4/129 Will Richardson OT NC STATE
6/203 Tanner Lee QB NEBRASKA
7/230 Leon Jacobs OLB WISCONSIN
7/247 Logan Cooke P MISSISSIPPI STATE

Jaguars Pick Florida DT Taven Bryan in the First Round of the NFL Draft

The Jaguars looked to build their defensive line on Thursday night in the NFL Draft, picking DT Taven Bryan in the first round.

The pick from Florida is sure to add even more beef to an already excellent defensive line, and there’s plenty of excitement about the pick of Bryan.

CBS Sport gave the Jags a ‘B+’ for the Pick:

Pete Prisco: Love this pick even with their quality players up front. They can’t pay them all, so a cheap option makes sense. Oh, he can play.

Chris Trapasso: Tantalizing size, athleticism, hand-use combination. Strong against the run. Reminiscent but not to the level of J.J. Watt. Flashes are All-Pro caliber. Needs to improve his overall consistency.

Jaguars Set to Make the Jump to London Full Time? Owner Shad Khan in Talks to Buy Wembley Stadium

Jaguars owner Shad Khan is reportedly in talks to buy Wembley Stadium, England’s preeminent “football” field, according to Jonathan Prynn of The Evening Standard.

The report claims that Khan has agreed to pay more than 500 million pounds ($700 million dollars) tor the stadium, which is known as the home of English soccer and also hosts NFL games on an annual basis. The report indicates that Khan’s ownership would result in more American football games being played at Wembley, and possibly even an NFL franchise in London. Khan has repeatedly shot down talk that he wants to move the Jaguars to London, but talk persists that an NFL team could eventually be located there.

One of the NFL teams that plays annually in London is the Jags but Khan is trying to frame the move to buy Wembley not as an attempt to move his franchise to London but to strengthen the standing of his franchise overall. Khan released the following statement about the purchase: “The Jaguars have played regular season home games at Wembley Stadium in each of the past five NFL seasons and will continue to do so at least through the 2020 season,” Khan said in a statement. “The games the Jaguars play at Wembley are essential to the financial stability of the Jaguars in Jacksonville, which is one of the smallest markets in the NFL. If my ownership interests were to include Wembley Stadium, it would protect the Jaguars’ position in London at a time when other NFL teams are understandably becoming more interested in this great city. And the stronger the Jaguars are in London, the more stable and promising the Jaguars’ future will be in Jacksonville.”

However strong Khan’s stated commitment is to Jacksonville-and, to his credit, he has poured a lot of money into improving the stadium and shoring up the franchise-Jaguar fans have to be viewing the news about Wembley wthl a strong sense of unease. With this purchase, Khan has clearly staked his claim to London ahead of the other 31 NFL teams and it seems inevitable that the Jaguars will increase their presence there-if one game a year there is so profitable, how about two? Or four? Or basing your operations there permanently.

Jaguars Still Not Sold on Picking Up the 5th Year Option on DE Dante Fowler

Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell says the team has made “no decision” on picking up the fifth-year option for defensive end Dante Fowler according to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

Fowler’s option is worth $14.2 million in 2019, nearly four times the amount of his base salary this upcoming season. The No.3-overall pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of Florida, Fowler’s rookie season was completely wiped out due to injury but he was able to play full 16-game slates in 2016 and 2017 and produced eight sacks last season.

Discipline and maturity have been consistent issues both on and off the field, however, including multiple arrests. The 23-year-old is facing league discipline stemming from an July 2017 arrest involving Fowler allegedly stomping a man’s glasses and throwing his groceries into a lake. He pled no contest to misdemeanor battery in the case and was sentenced to probation and community service.

While his physical talent is undeniable, on a team loaded with defensive talent the Jags are likely asking themselves if keeping Fowler past 2018 is worth the hassle.

The 2018 Jaguars Season Schedule is Out – A Quick Glance at the Good and the Bad

The NFL Thursday evening released the entire slate for the 2018 NFL season, including the 16 game schedule for the Jaguars, an annual big day in the life of football fans everywhere.

Here’s a quick look at the Jaguars schedule, along with two quick thoughts on the good of the schedule, and the not so good.

The Good: A three-game home stretch after a season-opening game against the Giants should get the Jags off to a good start. They get an AFC Title game rematch against the Pats, followed by two games against the Titans and Jets, winnable games. They need to get off to a strong start to show that 2017 was no fluke.

The Bad: Three of the last four are on the road, with the final two away from home against the Dolphins and Texans, two games that this team will probably need to win to put themselves in a position to have some sort of home field in the postseason. Let’s see if they can get in a spot to have these final games mean something.

Calais Campbell to Tell His Jaguars Teammates – “You Start Back at Zero”

When the Jaguars return for the start of the offseason conditioning program next week, Calais Campbell will have a message for his teammates, Michael DiRocco of ESPN reports.

Not only should they not pay attention to the fact that the Jaguars are considered one of the favorites in the AFC in 2018, they should actually approach the upcoming season as if nobody expects them to win more than a few games.

That attitude is the best way for the Jaguars to deal with the hype following their first division title since 1999, first playoff appearance in a decade and surprising run to the AFC Championship Game, Campbell said. He is, unfortunately, speaking from experience.

“You start back at zero, so everybody’s equal,” Campbell said in a phone interview. “You have to earn the right to have the opportunity to make it to the playoffs. When people start picking you as the favorite and [predicting] what you should do, it’s kind of poison. You’re kind of relaxing and start believing you’re better than you are.

“I experienced that back in ’15 in Arizona. We went to the conference championship, and everybody next year predicted us to win the Super Bowl. I think it kind of affected the way we played. I think we kind of believed it instead of earning it.”

Jaguars Gab 2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report: USC QB Sam Darnold

The hype for USC quarterback Sam Darnold has b3en growing by leaps and bounds the last few weeks, to the point where many feel he’s going to be the first overall pick in the NFL Draft in April.

At 6-4, 220 pounds, he’s got the look of a player who with some time learning could be a very good to excellent quarterback in the NFL, but time will tell when he might get that chance.

In his final season at USC, Darnold threw for 4143 yards, with 26 touchdowns to go along with 13 picks. This after throwing 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions the season before.

Here’s a look at Darnold and what various places are saying about him in our latest scouting report.

Walter Football

Strengths:
Naturally accurate passer
Fits passes into tight windows
Excellnt ball placement
Throws a catchable ball
Pocket presence
Has poise
Advanced anticipation; instinctive thrower
Throws with good timing
Can accelerate his throwing motion
Quality arm strength
Pushed team to wins
Good internal clock
Mobility
Throws very well on the run
Throws accurately off platform
Displays some feel in the pocket
Not easy to sack
Can hurt defenses on the ground
Can make all the throws required
Can pick up yards on the ground
Threads passes into tight windows

Weaknesses:
Ball security
Too many interceptions
Too many fumbles
Had some confidence issues in 2017
Doesn’t secure the ball well when getting sacked
Good enough not doesn’t have elite arm strength
Throwing mechanics are a bit unorthodox
Needs to start games faster

Summary: Darnold took college football by storm during the 2016 season, and even though he wasn’t eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft, the redshirt freshman had scouts buzzing about his pro potential. After a 1-2 start to the 2016 season for USC, Darnold was made the starting quarterback. For his debut season, he was an extremely efficient passer who led the Trojans to a 10-3 record. Darnold lost his first-ever start against a good Utah team, but after that he led his team to ripping off a nine-game win streak to close out the year, including impressive wins over Colorado, Washington, and a comeback Rose Bowl win over Penn State. Darnold completed 67 percent of his passes in 2016 for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

The 2017 season was more of a mixed bag for Darnold. The redshirt sophomore completed 63 percent of his passes for 4,143 yards with 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He had an up-and-down season with too many turnovers – fumbles were a particular issue beyond the interceptions. Darnold also made some beautiful anticipatory throws with excellent accuracy in just about every game.

There is a lot to like about Darnold as a future starter in the NFL. First and foremost, he is an accurate pocket passer who throws with good ball placement and is very precise in the short to intermediate part of the field. Darnold has excellent anticipation to know when and where receivers are going open. With his feel and timing, Darnold hits receivers on the run, leading them to picking up yards after the catch. He also regularly will throw receivers open and help them to find space to beat tight coverage. Darnold is a natural rhythm thrower who would fit best in a West Coast system to maximize his ability to throw accurately in the short to intermediate part of the field. He is a smooth precision passer who can be deadly when he gets into a good groove.

Darnold is comfortable in the pocket, but also has the ability to move around to buy time. While he is not a running quarterback, he is functional to avoid sacks and will move around to help his offensive line and receivers. Darnold made a number of really nice plays during the past two years when things went off script as he got creative to move the ball for his offense. Routinely, Darnold would buy time with his feet and then make an accurate throw downfield with the rush closing in on him.

The Drafster

In my eyes, Sam Darnold is a very odd prospect. Talked about as a number 1 overall draft pick. Talked about as the best Quarterback coming out of college this year. However, I am not seeing any of this. When I watch Darnold, I see one of the most streaky Quarterback play I think I have seen in awhile. At time looks very hesitant to throw, missing an opportunity. Other times he looks too eager and makes a bad decision. He has his good moments, but then a play later he will have a combination of bad plays. Moving in the pocket too early and too often, inconsistent accuracy, and staring down a play for too long are major turn offs to me.

The first thing I notice about Darnold when watching him is that he seems to ignore his dump off routes. He seems so locked in on making a big play, he forgets about the guys that are 5 yards away from him. I can respect wanting to make a big play for the team, but after staring downfield for eternity it’s time to hit your shallow routes. At least LOOK at them to see if they are open. There is no shame in taking an easy three to five yards. Not every throw has to get the crowd on their feet.

The second thing I notice is how much he likes to move around in the pocket. And that is just not his style. I get running to avoid a sack, but too many times I saw him run with a clean pocket. Multiple times he would take off to the outskirts of the pocket, making it easier for defenders to get off their block. He seems to just panic unless he has the cleanest pocket one could possibly have. If he would stand tall in the pocket and deliver, his accuracy issues would go down as well. His deep balls are inconsistent, and the times he does go to dump it off, those are not always pretty either. His best throws come from his 10-15 yarders. Which always happen to be when he stands his ground.

I will say though, 4th quarter Sam Darnold seems to be a better player than in other quarters. He reads the field better, has better ball placement, and doesn’t try to run around as much. It just seems something clicks a bit better for him during the 4th. Like he has calmed down. He just needs to be able to play similar to that all game if he is gonna be the number 1 overall pick this upcoming draft.

I think Darnold has a lot to work on. Personally there are 4 other Quarterbacks I would take before drafting him. He does good things, unfortunately, his good things just are not consistent enough and are overshadowed by his flaws. I believe if he can work on sitting in the pocket longer instead of trying to escape right away (while not holding the ball for too long), a lot of his issues will start fading. I think Darnold will have a real rough start to his career, but if keeps his confidence and keeps fixing his game, it will work out for him in the long run.

Cover 1 Scouting Report

Strengths:

Darnold’s entire game is predicated upon his ability to create. Darnold is an athletic player; he is able to pull the ball down and gain chunks of yardage with his legs. His agility and change of direction catch many defenders off guard.

That is why offensive coordinator Tee Martin built an offense that maximized his legs. USC ran a heavy dose of run pass options (RPOs), a concept that gave Darnold many options pre- and post-snap, and he absolutely flourished. On a majority of their plays, Darnold had the ability to give the ball to star running back Ronald Jones, keep it as a runner, or throw it to one of his many weapons outside. This multi-dimensional structure of a play was obviously super productive. His decision making was very good all season, especially on these RPOs. He can process the coverage, find the conflict defender, and distribute the ball quickly.

But what is often overlooked is the accuracy and velocity needed on these kinds of concepts. At times, after the mesh with the running back or play fake, the passing lane is cluttered with defenders coming downhill to defend what they perceive to be a run. Once they realize that it is a pass, they immediately try to get their hands up in the passing lanes. Darnold makes these throws look easy. Standing at 6’4? and 220 pounds, he is able to place the ball in optimal locations, allowing his weapons to make plays.

At the next level, Darnold is going to make his money in the short area. While his elongated release and sloppy footwork will cause issues at times, something I will cover later, it isn’t an issue from 0-9 yards. That bodes well for Sam, because that is where football is won and lost on Sundays. His mechanics aren’t an issue because he is throwing in rhythm and not having to worry about mechanics.

According to SportsInfo Solutions (SIS), Darnold’s short game is phenomenal. From 0-9 yards, he had the highest completion percentage (75.4%), the 4th-most passing yards (1,534), 12th-most touchdowns (10), the 3rd-highest yards per attempt (7.6), and the 5th-highest rating (107.2).

Weaknesses:

As productive as Darnold was over his 27 games at USC, he has some serious flaws that need to be addressed, the first of which is turnovers. Darnold threw 22 interceptions over two years and added another 20 fumbles. This lack of ball security will get you benched quickly.

While the offense surrendered an average of 2.14 sacks a game and a grand total of 30 sacks in 2017, he admitted that he was pushing it too much.

Many of his turnovers are linked to his mechanics. Darnold has some of the worst mechanics I have ever seen from a quarterback. Let’s start with his delivery. Typically, a quarterback with an elongated delivery like Darnold’s will struggle at the next level. From the time he begins his delivery to the time of release is often the difference between a tight window completion and an interception. Defensive backs are just too good on Sundays. If he is slightly late anticipating a throw and needs to drive a pass, the split second longer that it takes to release the ball due to his delivery could lead to an interception, much like it did versus Washington State. The safety bails post-snap, baiting Darnold to throw the speed out as he gets the 1-on-1 coverage. The defensive back reads the route, breaks, and picks him off.

What Matt Miller says about Darnold – Ranking him as the #1 QB on the board

1. Sam Darnold, USC

A two-year starter at USC, Sam Darnold is widely praised for his toughness, football IQ and leadership. A coach with the Trojans told me Darnold only cares about football and not the benefits of being a star quarterback. He did turn the ball over 22 times in 2017, which should at a minimum send scouts back to the tape to find the context of each turnover. But Darnold’s tangible and intangible traits are tops in the class.

Scout’s Quote: “Crystal clean off the field. Smart, poised, tough, accurate. He might be the only one that could work in Cleveland because he won’t let the pressure go to his head.”

Coach’s Quote: “The release and turnovers bother me, but he has the makeup to be good. He’s better than [Mitch] Trubisky was last year but he’s not on the level of [Carson] Wentz or Jared [Goff].”

Scout’s Comparison: Tony Romo, retired

Darnold impressed at his Pro Day, throwing in the rain back on March 21st

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