Category Archives: Jacksonville Jaguars News

Welcome to Branden Albert is hypocritical about the Jaguar

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars are unlikely to allow recently retired offensive tackle Branden Albert to return to the team, which is the correct way to handle what has become a bizarre — and somewhat confusing — situation.

Albert doesn’t help the Jaguars much, if at all, on the field. During the only three training camp practices in which he participated, he looked nothing like a two-time Pro Bowl left tackle. He didn’t move well, had trouble in one-on-one pass-rush drills and seemed to be really bothered by the heat and humidity despite spending the past three seasons in Miami.

Cam Robinson, the Jaguars’ second-round pick (34th overall) appeared to be the better player and almost certainly would have won the starting job anyway. Albert would have been relegated to a backup swing tackle or maybe even moved inside to guard.

But the bigger reason for not allowing Albert to return goes to the culture and atmosphere that executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin and head coach Doug Marrone are trying to establish. They are trying to inject more discipline and accountability into a franchise that has won only 17 games over the past five seasons. Allowing Albert to return wouldn’t fit that.
Albert skipped the Jaguars’ entire offseason conditioning program and organized team activities, which was his right under the collective bargaining agreement because they are voluntary workouts. As a nine-year veteran he certainly knows how to get his body in shape and prepare for a season, and he did participate in the mandatory three-day minicamp in mid-June and reported for training camp with the rest of the veterans.

Branden Albert's decision to retire should be the end of his association with the Jaguars.

Branden Albert’s decision to retire should be the end of his association with the Jaguars.

But after only three practices in four days Albert abruptly decided to retire. That was just before the hardest stretch of what Marrone promised to be the most physical training camp the franchise has seen since Coughlin’s first tenure here ended in 2002. The Jaguars went five consecutive days in full pads last week (six out of seven days because the first day in full pads came before the players’ first day off), which is rare in today’s NFL.

That was designed to hopefully begin to instill some of the toughness that Coughlin and Marrone said was missing from the team the past several seasons. It might not have been as grueling as Marrone would have liked because temperatures rarely topped 90 degrees — a rarity for August — but it was still a brutal week, and the team had its most physical practice of camp last Thursday.

Albert missed it all after walking into Marrone’s office last Monday morning to announce his retirement. He was gone from the facility before lunch, which meant he spent a total of seven days with his teammates: three days of minicamp and four days of camp, including an off day.

Letting Albert return now, when the grind of camp becomes more manageable now that preseason games are beginning, certainly wouldn’t fit the Jaguars’ mantra of accountability and discipline. Can’t imagine his teammates, who slogged through the past week while he was off, would be very welcoming, either.
Not to mention that it’s also bad optics for a franchise that, quite frankly, has been one of the league’s worst over the past decade. They’ve had a top-five draft pick for an NFL-record six consecutive years, they’ve lost 11 or more games in each of the past six seasons, and they haven’t had a winning record since 2007.

A player near the end of his career with declining skills and a recent battle with injuries at one of the most critical positions on offense retires for a week then re-joins a team that can’t get out of its own way? It’s the Jaguars? OK, that fits.

The Jaguars should tell Albert no thanks and move forward. They’ve already gotten back the seventh-round draft pick they sent to Miami for Albert in March. Don’t further compound the mistake of trading for him in the first place.

Blake Bortles has worked on quicker release, other tweaks

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Blake Bortles has spent the past two months working on his mechanics with his throwing coaches at 3DQB in California, not worrying about whether the Jacksonville Jaguars want him around in 2018.

That doesn’t mean Bortles is ignoring the fact that the 2017 season is make-or-break for him in Jacksonville. He said he’s just not worrying about it.

“It’s huge,” Bortles said Sunday before his second annual Blake Bortles Foundation Celebrity Golf Tournament at The King & Bear at the World Golf Village. “It’s as big as however you want it to be, but regardless we’ve got to be here on April 10th [for offseason conditioning] and we’ve got to show up for camp in August and eventually they’re going to start playing football games, so I think all that’s stuff’s irrelevant.

“I’m confident with what I’ve done this offseason and that I’ll be able to come help this team be as good as we possibly can be. Everything involving the contract, that’s up to them. I look forward to playing football.”

The Jaguars have until May 3 to decide if they will pick up Bortles’ fifth-year option. If they do, his 2018 salary would be the average of the top 10 highest-paid quarterbacks: approximately $20.7 million. It is guaranteed for injury only until the first day of the 2018 league year, when it becomes fully guaranteed.

General manager Dave Caldwell said the team still has work to do in evaluating Bortles before making that kind of commitment.

“Well I think just like with everything we’ve done from the end of the season until now, we get a lot of input from our coaches, we’ve got OTAs, we’ve got minicamps, we’ve got a lot of things between now and then to see where he is at, but I don’t think any decision will be made until closer to May,” Caldwell said.

The problem for the Jaguars is that deadline hits before they can know if Bortles is any better than he was in 2016, when he completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 3,905 yards and 23 touchdowns with 16 interceptions. He threw 15 interceptions — including three returned for touchdowns to give him 11 pick-sixes in his career — in the first 12 games but threw only one in the last four. Bortles also suffered a Grade 1 sprained right AC joint, aggravated that five weeks later, and also dealt with painful tendinitis in his right wrist.

His mechanics were a mess, too. His footwork got sloppy and his delivery was out of whack. He brought the ball below his waist and way behind his body during his windup, which increased the amount of time between his decision to throw and his release. Bortles looked nothing like he did in 2015, when he set single-season franchise records for passing yards (4,428) and passing touchdowns (35).

That’s why he headed to California as soon as the 2016 season ended to work with Adam Dedeaux.

“The first thing we focused on was probably what everybody would guess, just trying to tighten up the release, make that as quick as possible,” Bortles said. “So never letting really the wrist get below the elbow, trying to keep that parallel and not dropping down. So that was probably the main focus and then just a couple tweaks here and there in different things.

“It didn’t take a long time to fix it, but the first week it wasn’t pretty. It didn’t look good and that’s a part of it. When you’re trying to change things it’s not going to be great but we were able to kind of hash that out and now it’s going well.”

3DQB tweeted out a quick video of Bortles throwing a pass, and his delivery looks significantly more compact. He’s holding the ball just below his chin during his dropback, and it doesn’t get any lower than his elbow on his windup.

Bortles said his delivery is “more efficient, quicker,” but will that stick during practices and especially games?

“That’s the true test of, ‘Did it stick?’” Bortles said. “There’s only one way to figure that out and that’s go and play.”

He’s taking a quick break to raise funds for the Arc Village of Jacksonville — an independent-living neighborhood for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities — and first responders of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department. According to Bonnie Upright, the foundation’s executive director, the golf tournament, charity auction, and concert have raised approximately $100,000 this year.

After that, though, he’s headed to Arizona next week to throw with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns (he’s been throwing with Marqise Lee in California). This is a different plan from last offseason, when he spent only six days in California and spent most of his time in Jacksonville throwing with Jaguars receivers.

“I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent out there [in California],” Bortles said. “I think it’s really been beneficial. I feel really good as far as where I’m at mechanically and how the ball’s coming out and how it’s spinning.”

Jaguars fire coach Gus Bradley after 3-plus seasons, 14 wins

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars have fired Gus Bradley, ending his tenure with the second-worst winning percentage of any NFL head coach who has coached at least 50 games.

Owner Shad Khan made the move on Sunday, just hours after the Jaguars’ 21-20 loss at the Houston Texans dropped them to 2-12. Sunday’s loss was the Jaguars’ ninth in a row, which is the most in franchise history in a single season.

The team said Khan will have a statement shortly, and GM Dave Caldwell will have a news conference on Monday afternoon to announce an interim coach for the season’s final two games.

Bradley was 14-48 (.226) in three-plus seasons with the Jaguars. The only coach with a worse winning percentage is Bert Bell (.190), who also was the Philadelphia Eagles’ owner.

This was supposed to be the season that the Jaguars had a legitimate chance to win the AFC South, which is the worst division in the NFL. Khan said after the 2015 season that a winning record in 2016 was “everybody’s reasonable expectation.”

That didn’t happen, and Sunday’s loss to the Texans was apparently Khan’s breaking point. The Jaguars intercepted Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler twice, and Jags return man Marqise Lee returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, but the Jaguars managed just 150 yards of offense and blew a 20-8 third-quarter lead. They lost their sixth in a row to the Texans.

The Jaguars haven’t won a game since Oct. 16, when they rallied to beat Chicago 17-16. Since then, the Jaguars have lost to Oakland, Tennessee, Kansas City, Houston, Detroit and Buffalo for the third six-game losing streak in Bradley’s tenure. The Jaguars’ 33-16 loss to Oakland at EverBank Field on Oct. 23 prompted Khan to attend a team meeting the following day to ask the players why the Jaguars weren’t winning more games. Three days later, the Jaguars were embarrassed again on national television in a 36-22 loss at the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans rolled up 354 yards and 20 first downs and led 27-0 at halftime. The Jaguars scored two garbage touchdowns to make the score seem less outrageous.

Two days later, Bradley fired offensive coordinator Greg Olson and promoted quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett. The Jaguars’ offense has been marginally better in the four games since but still hasn’t scored more than 21 points in any of those games.

Before the season, everything appeared to be in place for the Jaguars to be competitive in the AFC South, especially after GM Dave Caldwell rebuilt the defense in the offseason. The unit ranked 26th or worse in scoring defense and 24th or worse in total defense from 2013-15 under Bradley. They gave up a franchise-record 449 points in 2013 and 448 points in 2015. From 2013-15 the Jaguars’ defense recorded the fewest interceptions in the NFL (26) and ranked 31st in scoring defense (27.3 points per game), 31st in third-down defense (43.8 percent) and 29th in total defense (375.0 yards per game).

Thanks to several key offseason additions — defensive tackle Malik Jackson, cornerback Prince Amukamara and free safety Tashaun Gipson in free agency, and cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Myles Jack in the first two rounds of the draft — the defense has been better under first-time coordinator Todd Wash, whom Bradley promoted from defensive line coach after he fired longtime friend and defensive coordinator Bob Babich after last season.

However, the offense, which carried the team a year ago, has been the problem. Quarterback Blake Bortles has not played well in 2016. After setting franchise records in passing yards (4,428) and passing TDs (35) in 2015, Bortles has struggled with turnovers (20) and hasn’t made big plays in the passing game. He has regressed mechanically, and in October he brought in a personal throwing coach for two days to help him try to fix issues with his footwork and delivery.

Bradley was Seattle’s defensive coordinator when Caldwell hired him to be the Jaguars’ fifth head coach in January 2013. Together they set out to rebuild a franchise that was coming off a 2-14 season and had one of the worst rosters in the NFL.

Bradley went 4-12 in his first season and 3-13 in his second, with 19 of those 25 losses coming by double digits. After the 2014 season, Bradley fired offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch over what he said were philosophical differences relating to how much Fisch was asking Bortles to do within the offense. Bradley replaced Fisch with Olson, and Bortles and the offense flourished in 2015.

The Jaguars were 5-11 last season and Khan announced in late December that Bradley would return in 2016, and after the season the owner gave Bradley a one-year extension through 2017.