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Sexton-Oehser quick thoughts: Falcons week

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles throws a pass during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton with three quick thoughts each as the Jaguars prepare to play the Atlanta Falcons in a Preseason Week 3 game at TIAA Bank Field Saturday …

Oehser …

1.Blake Bortles angst often borders on silly, but the quick-trigger reaction to the Jaguars’ fifth-year quarterback’s performance against the Minnesota Vikings last Saturday went beyond the border. Bortles in the game threw one interception and nearly threw another. And although he was pressured on the interception, and while wide receiver Dede Westbrook slipped on the near-interception, they indeed were bad plays by Bortles. But judging by the reaction among observers and fans you would have thought Bortles had turned in a miserable performance for the ages. It wasn’t. Not only did he respond to the interception with a 70-yard touchdown drive, he threw three or four very good passes in that game that showed why he has looked like a more accurate, poised quarterback throughout the offseason. This isn’t to say Bortles is Hall of Fame-bound. But to suggest the Jaguars need to trade for his replacement? To suggest – as many did – that they trade for former Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater? Silliness. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, after all, threw for 12 yards on three-of-eight passing in the same game. Should the Vikings trade for their former quarterback, too?

2.Yannick Ngakoue appears poised for greatness – greater greatness, perhaps, than many believed. This may seem an obvious thought. The Jaguars’ pass-rushing defensive end, after all, has played at a high level since being selected in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. And Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell has told anyone who will listen for more than a year he believes Ngakoue is capable of being the NFL’s best pass rusher. But even as Campbell said that last season, I admit I wondered if Ngakoue could be that good. Consider this observer convinced. Ngakoue, whose storyline in two NFL seasons has centered on how he plays with a chip on his shoulder because he wasn’t selected earlier in ’16, is more than a player driven by a perceived oversight. He’s one of the NFL’s most-dangerous defensive weapons, a player with a gift not only for sacking quarterbacks but for forcing turnovers as he does. It became evident during a 12-sack season last season he was special. To see his effort level and the consistency with which he makes plays is to see a player who may have to change what motivates him. Because he’s not going to be overlooked by anyone much longer.

3.It may be time to pump the brakes on the Cam Robinson criticism. While the Jaguars’ left tackle struggled against the Vikings Saturday, allowing constant pressure by Pro Bowl end Danielle Hunter, the thought here is that likely doesn’t reflect how Robinson will play during the regular season. Remember, the Jaguars last week in Minnesota were at the end of the most difficult part of training camp. It’s very possible what we saw in Minnesota was a fatigued player more than an incapable one. Also, remember: Robinson showed great potential last season as a rookie with nothing close to a performance as rough as the one Saturday. That’s not to say Saturday was OK. The way Robinson played is not good enough if the Jaguars’ left side of the line is to be as strong as expected this season. But it is to say there’s a good chance what we saw Saturday was an outlier and not a sign of a problem at the position.

Sexton …

1.All the talk about trading defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. is ridiculous. He might not be here in 2019, but he is here in 2018 and the Jaguars are a better defense with him. Fowler is the most athletic cat on the field – and his combination of size, athleticism and explosiveness is unequaled in the locker room. Fowler posted eight sacks in the 2017 regular season and two in the AFC Championship Game; he also all-but ended the AFC Wild Card Game with his tackle of Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, which might have been his biggest play of the season. Yes, Fowler is a liability off the field with the incident in the elevator and in St. Petersburg last summer, but on the field he is a lion – and you never trade a lion, even if he’s leaving after the season. This Jaguars defense was incredibly healthy last season; 99.4 percent of the starts were made by the starters. That won’t be the case again this season. They’re going to need reinforcements; if those reinforcements are game-changing players, the Jaguars stand a much greater chance at chasing their goal of a championship. Sure, they get nothing in return if they let him walk next offseason. That’s a risk worth taking for a player who can pose a big threat to the quarterback.

2.Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins needs to be on the field for this offense to find its rhythm. You only had to watch as Bortles targeted tight ends James O’Shaughnessy and Niles Paul in Minnesota to see how often offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett wants the ball in the tight end’s hands. But neither of those players – nor Ben Koyack – are Seferian-Jenkins’ equal, which is why he was a high pick and why he is highly-paid. Bortles and ASJ worked at building a rapport this summer, so much so that Seferian-Jenkins makes his way to the quarterbacks meeting daily to understand the offense on a deeper level. The two also worked on the field and it was clear that Seferian-Jenkins is a player who can do things the other guys can’t. The running game is going to be good and the receivers look like a much more talented group than we assumed when training camp began. If the tight ends can be as productive, that defense is going to be on the sidelines watching the game more than on the field playing it. That, by the way, was a great formula for the 1985 Chicago Bears and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens defenses to reach historical heights. No pressure, ASJ….

3.I would really love to watch Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey line up against Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones Saturday night. Actually, I would rather watch it on a Sunday afternoon in the fall when it would last more than a few plays. Ramsey is clearly the league’s most intriguing young defender – and I’ve thought Jones was the NFL’s most demanding physical matchup since watching him here a few seasons ago. We all think we know how good Ramsey is, and we’ll get a look at him across the line from New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in Week 1, but there is something about Jones that makes me think it would be a lot more work for Ramsey than anyone else in the league – and honestly, he makes it look easy nearly every Sunday. I hope we get to see it when the Jaguars play the Falcons in 2019 when the AFC South gets it shot at the NFC South.

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