Jaguars Mailbag: Was the Week 1 performance a fluke? Could Henne eventually start this season?

Following a Week 2 letdown, this edition of the Jaguars Mailbag features questions about the running game, production sustainability and the starting quarterback spot.

Matt Thompson asks: What areas of the Jaguars game are sustainable? Was the offense in Week 1 a fluke? Was the defense a fluke?

MK: This is a three-part question, but it encompasses a lot of the questions I received while compiling this week's mailbag.

Let's break it down into three sections:

1) Sustainability: The Jaguars are consistent with penalties, which is a serious problem. They committed 10 penalties in each of their first two games.

Along with the penalties, running back Leonard Fournette continues to pick up yardage when it's not available. The coverage in the secondary has also been relatively consistent.

2) Offensive Fluke: The Jaguars actually produced more yards and first downs on Sunday than in Week 1. Obviously, the issue isn't total yardage, it's a matter situational production.

The Jaguars actually didn't perform all that well in the passing game in either matchup. They were competent in Week 1 because of the defensive output.

Bortles is a sub-60 percent passer. That's what he's been his entire career (that's sustainability).

The wide receivers have come up short without Allen Robinson, which has also hurt Bortles' production on the stat sheet. 

The running game may be where the fluke exists and not because of Fournette. The offensive line played a nearly perfect game in Week 1. In Week 2, they regressed to the point where it impacted the team negatively.

Week 2's performance was on par with what we've seen over the last few years. It was hard to run the ball and Bortles was consistently pressured out of the pocket. 

The line will determine the offense's success probably as much as Bortles will this season. It's too early to call the Week 1 performance a fluke, but it could be the team's peak performance of the year.

3) Defensive Fluke: I think the Jaguars' defensive line played a very bad Texans offensive line in Week 1. In Week 2, the group played a great protection unit. That was really the difference in this game for the pass rush. 

The Jaguars went from producing 10 sacks to registering just one quarterback takedown on Sunday.

The defensive line was able to force some pressure, as Calais Campbell caused Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota to throw an ill-advised pass that was picked off by linebacker Telvin Smith. However, the pass rush wasn't anywhere near as consistent as the week before.

I think the defense's outlook moving forward will fall somewhere in the middle of the first two performances.

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Dylan Goldman asks: Any chance Chad Henne starts if Blake Bortles play continues to worsen?

MK: The Jaguars left that door open in the preseason and promptly shut it after one exhibition game. Still, the question lingers and rightfully so.

Bortles did what he needed to do in Week 1. In Week 2, he turned the ball over three times and completed just 11-of-25 passes entering the fourth quarter.

The stark contrast has fans looking back to his prior years. That's completely understandable. 

Still, it's only Week 3 and the organization clearly doesn't want to look at external options. Context clues also indicate that the coaching staff believes Bortles is more talented than Henne.

However, Bortles' $19 million salary in 2018 is worth noting. It's only guaranteed for injury, so it's fair to question when it would be acceptable to bench him if the team struggles moving forward.

Bortles was only sacked twice on Sunday, but he did run the ball a few times and took on quite a bit of contact in the process. 

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has said that consistent turnovers would lead to a quarterback change. With the heightened risk of injury and turnovers beginning to pop up, it's probably safe to expect Henne at some point. 

It really comes down to the team's standing in the division because once you bench Bortles (for real this time), it will be very hard (if not impossible) to go back to him.

 

Terrance Hayes asks: Will Leonard Fournette last 16 games in this offense?

Mike Kaye: The Jaguars have actually handled Fournette's touches relatively well in the early going. While he was unable to really establish a rhythm in Week 2 due to Chris Ivory's involvement early on, he did come out of the game with a healthy 16 touches.

In two games, Fournette has carried the ball 40 times and caught five passes. If he continues at that pace through 16 games, he would have 320 carries and 40 catches for the season.

Those 360 touches would actually be more than Ezekiel Elliott's 354 touches last season. It should be noted that Elliot only played in 15 games as a rookie.

Fournette's workload will ebb and flow as the season moves along and I think it makes sense to monitor the rookie's touches moving forward. The team needs him in the home stretch and they will want him to be fresh or as close to fresh as possible.

Fournette has bounced off tackles with consistency in the first two games and while that may look cool, it probably adds a lot of wear and tear to the body. Fournette already dealt with a minor foot injury during the preseason and has a history of ankle issues, so it's not like he has rock solid durability.

The offensive line does need to give him more room before contact. Constantly taking a beating at or behind the line of scrimmage can wear heavily on a rookie mentally and physically. Remember, Fournette is used to playing 10-12 games per season. He has to be conditioned for an additional four games this year.

If the Jaguars monitor his carries and the offensive line looks like its Week 1 form, Fournette will be positioned to last. If he continues at this current pace and the line plays like it did in Week 2, Fournette may hit a physical wall down the road.

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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