Behind Enemy Lines

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Behind Enemy Lines: An Inside Look at the Jaguars

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans travel to Jacksonville on Christmas Eve to face the Jaguars.

The Titans are coming off a dramatic 19-17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Titans are 8-6, with two games left.

The Jaguars lost 21-20 to the Texans, and they made a coaching change after the game, replacing Gus Bradley with interim coach Doug Marrone. The Jaguars are 2-12.

These two teams met on a Thursday night in Nashville back on October 27, a game won 36-22 by the Titans.

This morning, I caught up with my buddy Ryan O'Halloran, who covers the Jaguars for the Florida Times-Union. It's been a hectic few days for him. You can follow him on Twitter at @ryanohalloran.

Here's how our conversation went…

Wyatt: Hey Ryan. I appreciate you taking the time during a busy week. So, why the move now with Gus?

O'Halloran: Well, I was surprised by the timing. Every indication we had received since that Thursday night game in Nashville was that Gus would make it through the end of the season regardless of the record. But I think the Rams making their move with Jeff Fisher last week, it forced the Jaguars hand. I think they felt they needed to get a head start as well, and while they can't talk to a lot of people they (can do homework) on a lot of people and this clearly frees them up to start talking to Tom Coughlin. I think that is why they did this early, to see if Tom is a fit.


Wyatt: Doug Marrone is a former head coach with the Bills, and at Syracuse. He interviewed for the Titans job this past offseason before it went to Mike Mularkey. Tell me what you know about him, and can he provide a spark down the stretch?

O'Halloran: Well, in our exposure to Doug, he is sort of the opposite of Gus. His sense of humor is a little dry. When I talk to him he is very humorous. He'll probably have a different tone with the team. The history of teams getting a one-game jolt with an interim coach is well-documented, and if they changed some personnel, non-quarterback, maybe that would help. But I think they are running into the wrong team at the wrong time in the Titans.


Wyatt: It's been a tough year for the Jaguars, there's no denying that. What has gone well? What can they hang their hat on during a difficult season?

O'Halloran:* Well, I do think they have found some foundation-type players on defense that will be important players for them regardless of who the coach is, regardless of who the defensive coordinator is. Malik Jackson, they spent $90 million on him, he's been a very good defensive tackle. Yannick Ngakoue, a third-round pick, leads the team in sacks (6). They still believe in Dante Fowler at defensive end. At linebacker, Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith have both had good seasons, and on the back end Jalen Ramsey has had a good season as well.  He finally had an interception last week. So that's a number of guys who have the respect of people around the league. They just have to force more turnovers and create more pressure and that's where free agency and the draft comes in.  *


Wyatt: I know there were some pretty high expectations there heading into the season. So what's been the biggest problem this season?

O'Halloran: At this point you just have to chalk it up to fool's gold. I think a lot of people thought they would continue to get better, but things didn't work. The running game was broken early, and that impacted the play-action. The offensive line protected better but they didn't really run block (well). The open end this season as far as what went wrong is that all the young players on offense that showed promise last year didn't take the next step this year.


Wyatt: This is Year 3 for quarterback Blake Bortles. He's thrown for 3,279 yards and 21 touchdowns, with 16 interceptions. But the offense is ranked 28th overall, and 26th in passing offense. What does his future look like in Jacksonville?

O'Halloran: Well, he had to be the happiest guy in the organization when it was announced the general manager Dave Caldwell would return, because they are tied together. Dave believes in Blake, but he is 29th in passing rating and is tied for 2nd in most interceptions and he has not been able to reach a 100 passer rating in any game this year, and he has not had a great year. My guess is that they'll pick up the fifth-year option because it is guaranteed only for injury, but depending on the coach they'll bring in a semi-veteran who doesn't have a lot of starting experience but maybe to challenge Bortles. But with Caldwell back, I would be surprised of Bortles isn't their Week One starter next year.


Wyatt: OK Ryan, last one here. This Titans-Jaguars series dates back a while. How much would the Jaguars love to play spoiler, and put a damper on Tennessee's season with an upset win?

O'Halloran: I'm sure the fan base looks at it, and the spoiler role is prominent. But from a player standpoint, this team has lost nine straight games, and they haven't won a game in Jacksonville in over a year – they are 0-6 in games at Everbank Stadium this year. I think that is the motivation of the players. They don't want to have to go into the offseason knowing they lost their last 11 games. It is not about playing for Doug Marrone, and making sure he gets a shot at the head job – that's probably not going to happen. For the players, it's about trying to end the season on some kind of a positive note after the last two months have been a total debacle.

TitansOnline.com looks back at the all-time series against the Jacksonville Jaguars.