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Behind Enemy Lines

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Behind Enemy Lines: An Inside Look at the Jaguars


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans return to Nissan Stadium on Thursday night to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Titans (3-4) had a two-game winning streak snapped on Sunday with a 34-26 loss to the Colts. The Jaguars (2-4) lost to the Raiders 33-16 on Sunday.

Both teams trail the Texans (4-3) in the AFC South.

This week I caught up with Ryan O'Halloran, who covers the Jaguars for the Florida Times-Union. Ryan is in his fifth year covering the Jaguars.

You can follow him on Twitter @ryanohalloran.

Wyatt: Hey Ryan. I appreciate you taking the time. Let's get right to it. There was a lot of preseason hype surrounding the Jaguars, but after six games the team is just 2-4 and in last place in the AFC South. The team has lost all three games at home. So what's the current buzz around the team, and the city?

O'Halloran: The buzz is that it's the same old Jaguars. And for the fourth year of this administration, that's not good news. Going into this season, there was a lot of buzz about the Jaguars, but I think it was more nationally, about the free agents and the draft picks. But if you watched this team during preseason and in training camp, you still saw that they had some holes, and those have presented themselves a little bit on the offensive line and pass rush. But the biggest reason the team has struggled so far is their offense has been shockingly bad. That was the one thing going into the year that they thought they could hang their hat on. They thought they would be able to score consistently, and they haven't been able to do that. Their run game is ranked 31st in the league, the Chris Ivory signing hasn't worked out, and this offseason they wanted to be a run-game, play-action, take shots downfield team and none of that has happened so far this year.


Wyatt:** Of course when the offense isn't going well, a lot of folks look at the quarterback position. How has Blake Bortles performed? He's thrown 9 touchdowns vs 9 interceptions this year. He was a first-round draft pick in 2014. Is the clock already ticking on him?

O'Halloran: It is Blake's third year, and the clock is ticking. He has gone from 35 touchdowns last year, which was tied for second in the league, to a guy who right now who is fighting it a little bit and is making the same kind of mistakes he made as a rookie. He is 28th in passer rating, and tied for third-most with nine interceptions, he is 27th in yards per attempt. They are not getting chunk plays. On Sunday, I had him for six bad throws, plus the two interceptions, and then Allen Robinson had three drops. So you are looking at Thursday night's game for Blake Bortles as one of the biggest of his career. He is not in danger of getting benched, but if he doesn't pick it up a little bit and play more consistent, anything is on the table after this season.

Wyatt: The Jaguars, like the Titans, are still in it in the AFC South. They need a spark. What have been some of the bright spots for the Jaguars, and why should there be hope they can put things together and be a contender in a division that's wide open?

O'Halloran: You're right about the division. If the Jaguars win on Thursday night, they are right back in it at 3-4. The reasons they feel like they can turn it around quickly is because of the belief the offense will snap out of it eventually. Will it happen? I'm not sure. The defense right now is ninth best in yards, 18th against the run, 6th against the pass. But they haven't created a turnover in the last two games, and they have two sacks in the last two games. So if they can create some takeaways, this defense is playing well enough that they can win games, or keep the offense in games.

Wyatt: Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the team's first-round draft pick, is from the Nashville area. How has he played so far during his rookie season?


O'Halloran:* *He is their best player on defense right now. He is confident, borderline arrogant, but he shut down (Raiders WR) Amari Cooper. He took care of (Colts WR) T.Y. Hilton. He did well against (Bears WR) Alshon Jeffery. They are having him follow the other team's best receiver all over the field, and he is their best player. I think he has exceeded their expectations. He fell into their lap at No.5 when San Diego went Joey Bosa and Dallas went Ezekiel Elliott. He came back from the knee injury that cost him the offseason program and he has been as advertised. He has no interceptions, and I think he has only one or two pass breakups, but it's because teams aren't throwing at him. The only thing he has to get under control is his temper. He got into it with Steve Smith and had offsetting penalties. And he got into a fight Sunday against Oakland and got kicked out of the game. The Jaguars are a better team when he is available.

Wyatt: OK, last one here. You have a good pulse on the Jaguars, having covered them the past five years. What do you expect from the Jaguars on Thursday night in Nashville, and the rest of the season?

O'Halloran: Well, I am not going to pick them to win again this year. I have gotten every game prediction right about the Jaguars right this year, I am 6-0. You've covered the NFL for a long time, and I have covered this league for 13 years. I just don't like the feel. You walk into a locker room and you can get a feel, and psychologically I think the Oakland loss took a lot out of them. It was a chance to get to 3-3 going into a division road game on a short week, and they lost. I just don't think they are going to be able to respond that quickly and turn it around. But this is a turning point game. We are going to know in the first 10 minutes of the game on Thursday night which Jaguars team shows up. I think Tennessee is going to win because they are going to be able to establish the run because the Jaguars ... won't have Roy Miller at nose tackle (placed on IR), and he has been their best run defender. So if you are the Titans, you see that as an opening and I think the Titans will win the game. looks back at the all-time series against the Jacksonville Jaguars.