The Bengals are back in primetime, and they’ll face one of the NFL’s most exciting up-and-coming teams in the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday Night. The Jags are still a young team (the roster is young and the franchise is still very young), while most of the Bengals’ roster is hitting its prime. And though the two teams are fairly different, they share some similarities. Both teams feature exciting quarterbacks, killer one-two punches at running back, top-tier wide receivers and flashy personnel across the board. We spoke with Ryan Day of Big Cat Country, SB Nation’s Jaguars blog, to hear about this year’s Jacksonville squad and what to expect in Week 3 of the preseason.
Connor Howe: One of the Jaguars' offseason signings which surprised me the most was former Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum. The Jaguars invested the second overall pick of the 2013 Draft in left tackle Luke Joeckel, and they signed right tackle Jeremy Parnell to a five-year, $32 million deal last offseason. What do you think the team had in mind when it brought in Beachum, who do you think will win the starting gig at left tackle and do you think there's a chance the Jaguars can plug in all three aforementioned players into their starting lineup?
Ryan Day: The Jaguars signed Kelvin Beachum to get their left tackle of the future. Whether that's Beachum or Luke Joeckel being pushed by a free agent signing remains to be seen, but that's what the Jaguars were thinking. I believe Beachum still has the inside track based on practices and the coaching staff's insistence that Joeckel will play guard and Beachum will play tackle, despite Beachum's absence due to injury.
CH: The Jaguars signed another former AFC North player in former Browns safety Tashaun Gipson, locking him up to a five-year, $36 million deal. Just how good do you think Gipson currently is, and can you envision him becoming a top-tier safety?
RD: Well, Gipson is the best safety on our roster, so there's that. As far as how good he can be, I haven't seen too much of him (he's played just 17 snaps in the preseason so far) but coaches and players were raving about him in OTAs and training camp if that means anything.
CH: Jaguars fans, in my mind, have a lot to look forward to this year. Jacksonville has an exciting offense, highlighted by Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Julius Thomas and an improving run game. That being said, the team has struggled defensively for the past few seasons. With all of the offseason additions, do you think this is finally the year things click for the defense?
RD: No, I don't. We're at least one year away from the defense truly turning a corner. I think we'll see flashes this year with Myles Jack, Jalen Ramsey, Dante Fowler, and Telvin Smith, but this is a young, inexperienced defense. With the exception of the interior defensive line, I think we're in for more of the same as it pertains to our defense -- few sacks, busted coverages among our linebackers, and inconsistent play in our secondary.
CH: What are your expectations for 2016 draftees Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack, as well as for 2015 first-rounder Dante Fowler, who wasn't able to play last season?
RD: Low. That's not to say I don't think they're good (they are) but they're rookies. We got into trouble getting hyped about Dante Fowler during training camp and then when he went against offensive linemen not on the Jaguars he struggled. Ramsey, Jack, and Fowler will show some very exciting things this year, but they'll struggle with doing it consistently for at least another year. I'll save my expectations for those guys for 2017.
CH: How many games do the Jaguars need to win for Gus Bradley to keep his job? How many games do you personally think they'll win this year?
RD: I think Gus Bradley needs seven wins to keep his job and I think they'll get seven wins. I think the expectations should be higher for a coaching staff in Year 4 of a rebuild, but I don't sign the checks.
CH: How is Jacksonville looking on the injury front?
RD: Surprisingly, very good. The usual suspects (*cough Marqise Lee cough*) are participating fully in practice and exceeding expectations in the preseason. The only notable injury is Kelvin Beachum, but Luke Joeckel has filled in nicely in his stead.
CH: Are there any back-end roster guys who Jaguars fans are hoping will make an impact this week?
RD: I don't know about back-end guys because, frankly, some of the front-end guys are the most closely looked at. Left guard Mackenzy Bernadeau has struggled in camp and the preseason so far and Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue, who have done well in camp, are coming up empty in games.
CH: And finally, does the "Steal the Show" clip ever get old for Jags fans? I personally love it, and I laugh harder every time I re-watch it.
RD: I want that clip played at my funeral.
Local Jaguars fan speaks out about the Jaguars draft picks. Do you think the Jaguars will #StealTheShow this year? pic.twitter.com/dCtVdyJeww— News4JAX (@wjxt4) May 2, 2016