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Scouting Report: Jaguars, Divisional Week

Posted Jan 12, 2018

The Jaguars are 4-1 against the Steelers at Heinz Field since 2004.

A look at what the Steelers will be up against on Sunday afternoon against the Jacksonville Jaguars:

BLAKE’S BEST: Quarterback Blake Bortles rushed for more yards (88) than he threw for (87) in Jacksonville’s 10-3 postseason victory over Buffalo last Sunday. Bortles had been much more productive through the air during a three-game stretch from Dec. 3 through Dec. 1, when he completed a combined 71.4 percent of his passes (65-for-91) for 903 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. The Jaguars scored at least 30 points in consecutive victories over Indianapolis, Seattle and Houston, all at home. Bortles’ passer ratings in the three games were 119.8, 123.7 and 143.8.

Bortles finished the regular season having completed a career-high 60.2 percent of his passes and having thrown a career-low 13 INTs. His passer rating of 84.7 was No. 20 among the quarterbacks listed in the NFL’s weekly statistics release, ahead of, among others, Carson Palmer (84.4), Cam Newton (80.7), Joe Flacco (80.4), Eli Manning (80.4) and Marcus Mariota (79.3).

MAKING THEM COUNT: Bortles is 30-for-53 for 220 yards with 18 touchdowns, zero interceptions and a passer rating of 106.1 in his regular-season career in the red zone. He was 1-for-1 for a 1-yard TD in the red zone against Buffalo.

RUN-GAME CAPABLE: Bortles’ career regular-season average of 6.32 yards per carry is the fourth-highest in NFL history among quarterbacks with at least 200 rushing attempts (Michael Vick, 7.00, Bobby Douglass 6.47, Randall Cunningham 6.36).

RUSH TO JUDGEMENT: The Jaguars led the NFL in rushing offense (141.4 yards per game) but slowed down on the ground as the season progressed. Jacksonville had at least 135 yards rushing per game in eight straight games from Sept. 24 through Nov. 9, including a season-high 231 in a 30-9 victory over the Steelers on Oct. 8 at Heinz Field. But the Jaguars failed to rush for 100 yards in four of their final six regular-season games. 

Rookie running back Leonard Fournette piled up 1,040 rushing yards and had five 100-yard games, including 181 on 28 carries against the Steelers, but his last 100-yard effort was on Dec. 10 against Seattle. Jacksonville is 4-1 when Fournette surpasses 100 yards rushing. He had 57 yards on 21 carries (2.7 per attempt) against Buffalo.

Fournette was one of eight NFL players to surpass 1,000 yards from scrimmage (1,342) and score 10 touchdowns in 2017. Nine of Fournette’s 10 touchdowns were rushing touchdowns.

SECONDARY TO NONE: Jacksonville was the only team in the NFL that had four players who produced at least four interceptions this season. The starting secondary of cornerbacks A.J. Bouye (six) and Jalen Ramsey (four), and safeties Tashaun Gipson (four) and Barry Church (four) accounted for a combined 18 of Jacksonville’s 21 INTs on the season. The Jaguars were No. 2 in the NFL interceptions (behind Baltimore’s 22) and No. 2 in takeaways (with 33, trailing the Ravens’ 34). Jacksonville had two interceptions against Buffalo.

SPECIAL EDITION: The Jaguars are 3-for-3 on fake punts (two runs by running back Corey Grant and a 29-yard pass from punter Brad Nortman to tight end James O’Shaughnessy). Kicker Josh Lambo, acquired on Oct. 17, made 95 percent of his field goal attempts (19-for-20) and 91.7 percent of his extra points (22-for-24). Grant was fifth in the NFL in kickoff return average (24.9 yards per) and wide receiver Jaydon Mickens was fourth in punt return average (10.3), including a 63-yard touchdown against Cincinnati. The Jaguars allowed one kickoff return for a touchdown (103 yards).

SACKSONVILLE: Jacksonville finished second to the Steelers in sacks (56-55) and was the only team in the NFL this season and the first since the 2006 Ravens to have four players with at least eight sacks (defensive lineman Calais Campbell 14.5, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue 12.0, defensive end Dante Fowler Jr, 8.5 and defensive tackle Malik Jackson 8.0). Linebacker Myles Jack and Jackson had sacks against Buffalo.

The Jaguars allowed a franchise-record 24 sacks, which tied the Steelers and Falcons for the third-fewest in the NFL behind the Chargers (18) and the Saints (20).

THE DAREUS FACTOR: The Jaguars allowed 138.6 rushing yards per game and ranked 30th in the NFL in run defense through the first seven games. In nine games after the arrival of defensive tackle Marcel Dareus from Buffalo, Jacksonville allowed 98.9 yards per game on the ground and ended up No. 21 in run defense.

The Bills rushed for 130 yards on 32 carries and averaged 4.1 yards per attempt against the Jaguars.

ON-THE-JOB TRAINING: Jacksonville’s wide receiving corps consists of three rookies (Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole and Montay Crockett), a first-year pro (Mickens), and two fourth-year vets (Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns).

Westbrook was a fourth-round selection, while Cole and Crockett weren’t drafted in 2017.

Lee was a second-round pick and Hurns was an undrafted rookie in 2014.

Mickens went undrafted in 2016.

TRANSITION GAME: The Jaguars have seven defensive touchdowns this season, two on interception returns (both against the Steelers) and five on fumble returns. Linebacker Telvin Smith led the way with two TDs.

STAT THAT MATTERS: The Jaguars are one of two teams that has a winning record against the Steelers at Heinz Field since 2004 (4-1). New England is the other at 2-3. 

HE SAID IT: “He’s a heck of a player. He can make all the plays. We understand what we’re going against and we understand the challenge in it.” _ Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.