Jaguars escape vs. Giants with big game on horizon

The Sports Xchange

September 10, 2018 at 10:51 pm.

It’s not that the Jacksonville Jaguars were looking past the New York Giants or taking them lightly. The Jaguars needed a fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Myles Jack to cement a 20-15 win over the Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.

That means the Jaguars can openly declare they are now 100 percent focused on Game No. 2 of the 2018 season. Not only is it the home opener for what will be a sellout crowd in TIAA Stadium, but it’s against AFC Conference rival, the New England Patriots, the same team that ended the Jaguars Cinderella-run to the Super Bowl a year ago with a 24-20 win in the AFC Championship game.

That game was held at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., where the Patriots rarely lose.

The Jaguars still harbor some bitter feelings about that game, especially the inadvertent whistle that ruled Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack down after he recovered a fumble and was headed to the end zone for a score that likely would have sealed a Jaguars win.

Some Jaguars players will harp that that is last year’s news, that it’s 2018 and a new season with new aspirations is here. But the Jaguars fan base isn’t so ready to put that call, that game, behind them just yet. After Sunday’s rematch between the two teams, then yes, it will be old news.

The Jaguars are just hopeful they’ll be at full strength for the game like they were last Sunday in New York. But two areas of concern emerged from that game and were evident the day after. Running back Leonard Fournette went out midway in the second quarter with a hamstring issue after gaining 55 total yards on four running plays and three pass receptions. Fournette was in the locker room on Monday but declined to stop and talk about the previous day’s game or his injury. Jaguars coach Doug Marrone offered what sounded like positive news when asked about his top running back’s status.

“I talked to (the doctors) and they said it was a minor hamstring injury,” the Jaguars coach at his press conference Monday afternoon. “We are going to treat it during the week. We have a lot of time and we will see where it is. You guys saw him in the locker room walking around.”

As for how he will be used this week in practice, Marrone said: “A lot depends on how he is. If he’s ready to go, we’ll leave him back in there and see how he feels. A lot of it depends on that, really.”

There’s no question the Jaguars have confidence in their backup backs in T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant. While both have certain skill sets, neither is in the same category of a healthy Fournette. If the Jaguars want to fulfill their hope of beating the Patriots and gain a possible playoff tiebreaker for home field advantage, they’ll need to have their second-year standout running back as close to 100 percent as possible.

A sore hamstring is the type of injury that can linger with a player for the entire season if it’s not allowed to properly heal. There is mid-week conditioning that can be done, but nothing will help alleviate the pain from a hamstring injury like rest. And for the Jaguars, that’s something they won’t want to accept, especially for this week. But if you look at the big picture, they would be better off resting Fournette now to make sure that the injury is fully recovered so that he’ll be available for the majority of the 2018 season.

The other injury of note for the Jaguars was to starting strong side linebacker Leon Jacobs. He suffered an ankle injury in the Giants game and on Monday, was walking through the locker room with a boot on his left ankle. Marrone downplayed that injury as well.

“We are being protective with that,” Marrone said. “We expect him to be out there Wednesday practicing.” The Jaguars head man added that the injury did not limit Jacobs’ reps on Sunday.

The Jaguars defense will get a boast on Sunday when defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. returns to the active roster after serving a one-game suspension for violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Fowler is not a starter but sees plenty of action in the rotation of the team’s defensive ends. Fowler said it was difficult to sit out last week and tough to just watch his teammates play on Sunday against the Giants.

“It was hard for me to watch the game yesterday,” he said. “I’m very passionate about the game. The Giants have a lot of great players so to see how we ended up holding them the way we did, and to see how fast we were, I’m just like, ‘man if I’m out there, it could add a little extra fire-power to what we got, it just makes me want to be on board and just ready to go at all times.

“It made me appreciate the game even more being out there on Sundays. I don’t know when the last time was that I watched a game on Sunday. Being in that situation was very dull but it was very cool to see my teammates go out there and make plays. We were like the team we all thought we were going to be. I can’t wait to go out there this Sunday and be another piece of that.”

The Jaguars will have to release a current member of the 53-man roster by 4 p.m. on Tuesday when Fowler is re-instated. He did not count against the 53-man roster originally due to the one-game suspension.

–RB Leonard Fournette walked briskly through the locker room on Monday without stopping to talk to reporters about his injured hamstring that caused him to miss the last 35 minutes of Sunday’s game. Coach Doug Marrone said that Fournette’s injury is a “minor hamstring injury.”

–LB Leon Jacobs was seen in the locker room on Monday wearing a walking boot on his left ankle.

–P Logan Cooke averaged just 37.7 yards on seven punts against the Giants, but four of the kicks were downed inside the 20 and the Giants had only 4 return yards on three punt returns.

–WR Donte Moncrief was targeted five times but came up with just one catch in his Jaguars debut on Sunday in New York against the Jets. His lone reception was for 14 yards. On one of his targeted throws, Giants defender Janoris Jenkins jumped in front of Moncrief and came away an interception.

–DE Lerentee McCray drew praise from Marrone for his play as a backup DE in Sunday’s game. McCray had one of the team’s two sacks on Giants QB Eli Manning.

–LB Donald Payne continued his strong play on special teams, recovering a fumbled punt by the Giants’ Kaelin Clay in the final minute to deprive New York of a possible game-winning scoring march.

–WR Dede Westbrook led the Jaguars in receptions, hauling in five of the six balls sent in his direction, good for 51 yards.

–DE Calais Campbell recorded the Jaguars first sack and had two tackles for loss and a pair of QB hits on Manning. Campbell was also the main defender in stopping Saquon Barkley’s run on a two-point conversion attempt late in the game.

–LB Myles Jack finished with a game-high 10 tackles and deflected a pass in addition to his interception return for a touchdown.