JACKSONVILLE – So much for the “distractions theory.”
And the idea that the Jaguars couldn’t emotionally, physically or realistically overcome the weirdness that is the Jalen Ramsey Saga? False.
They instead turned in one of their most memorable performances in recent memory Thursday night, with rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew and a dominant defense producing a 20-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans in a nationally televised game played in one of the strangest weeks in franchise history.
“It was a big statement game for us,” cornerback A.J. Bouye said after the Jaguars’ defense shut out the Titans for the first three quarters while sacking quarterback Marcus Mariota nine times. “It shows we have grit. We’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep fighting, so that’s what we did.”
Ramsey, the Jaguars’ two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, as expected started and played the entire game Thursday after requesting a trade early in the week. But players in the aftermath focused – as was expected – on the on-field goings-on.
And for the first time this season, those goings-on ended up going good.
“It says we’re still focused on the goal,” veteran wide receiver Chris Conley said. “It says we’re still working to get better. And it says this isn’t a dead team. I’m not going to say we’re world beaters, but these are focused on getting better and doing what it takes to win games.”
We’ll get to what may be a final thought on the week’s Ramsey saga shortly, but first a few more thoughts on what Thursday means to the Jaguars:
*They’re again a dominant defense. This was the Jaguars’ second big-time defensive performance in as many weeks. They held Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson to a career-low 13 points last week. On Thursday, they had their highest sacks total since 2017 and the third highest in franchise history. Sacksonville may indeed be back.
*Minshew may be for real. The rookie was dazzling early and poised late. He threw touchdown passes on the game’s first two drives and completed big passes later to keep the offense off the field in big situations. Nothing seems too big for him. That’s a good sign.
*This team is gritty. There were concerns among observers this week about what Ramsey’s situation would do to the locker room. This was a motivated team Thursday. There are no issues on this front – certainly not yet.
Now, on to Ramsey …
It’s necessary to focus on Ramsey at least for a few paragraphs here because rarely in franchise history has a player and a story so dominated a game week. Ramsey, after requesting a trade Monday, said during his weekly media availability Tuesday that he cared only about winning, that he didn’t want to be a distraction and that he loved his teammates.
He said little-to-nothing during that availability about specifically why he wanted a trade, but he spoke in more detail on NFL Network’s Nate Burleson’s podcast. He said his desire had little to do with a sideline incident with Head Coach Doug Marrone last week and more to do with “disrespectful” things said by the “front office” in a post-game meeting. He also said he wants to be in a “a place where they know I am the best corner in the game and let me play and help the team get wins.”
Ramsey said he phoned his agent shortly after the meeting and requested a trade, adding that “I still stand by my decision to ask for the trade.”
So, those are the details – Ramsey’s version, anyway.
What will this mean? That much remains anyone’s guess.
Ramsey offered no further insight after Thursday game. He spoke to the media – as he is required by NFL rules to do after the game. He made clear before taking questions he wasn’t going to talk about the trade, and none of the media gathered around his locker went there.
There have been reports this week that a trade is imminent, and many teams surely have inquired. The thought here remains that Ramsey likely will be traded soon, and that Thursday’s game likely will be his last with the team.
But until a trade is final then a trade hasn’t happened. And that means there is hope – hope for the Jaguars fans who would love to see Ramsey stay and hope for teammates and coaches who know that a motivated Ramsey is the NFL’s best corner, and that if Ramsey wants to be here and is “all in” the Jaguars surely are better with him than without.
As of this writing, we don’t know what the weekend will bring on that front.
We do know that a trade would be a disappointing end to the Jaguars career of a generational talent. What we also know as of late Thursday night is this:
This team is still very much alive in what appears a winnable division.
And that’s about the best possible scenario imaginable after a few of the weirdest days in franchise history.