Trash-Talking Jaguars, Jalen Ramsey Prove They're Still a Work in Progress

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistOctober 15, 2018

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) scores a touchdown as Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) and safety Barry Church (42) defend in the first half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

This summer, Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey took the time to call out about a dozen NFL quarterbacks. On Sunday in Dallas, he faced one of those quarterbacks. If he and his defensive cohorts couldn't shut down Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense, Ramsey would have egg on his face. 

"Dak Prescott, he's good. He's all right. He's OK. I'll put it that way," Ramsey passive-aggressively told GQ's Clay Skipper in August, adding that running back Ezekiel Elliott "runs that team though. Everything runs around Zeke."

With a chance to put his money where his mouth is in their Week 6 matchup, Ramsey was on the field for practically every defensive snap against Prescott's Cowboys. He finished with four tackles, one pass defensed and zero impact plays. Prescott posted a 107.5 passer rating while also rushing for 82 yards and a touchdown. Elliott went over 100 yards on the ground as well. And the Cowboys put up 40 points for the first time in nearly a calendar year against a supposedly elite defense that hadn't surrendered more than 30 this season. 

In front of what was essentially a national audience against a high-profile opponent, Ramsey and his star peers failed to make a single game-changing play in a 40-7 loss. It was one of the most surprising blowouts of the 2018 NFL season and an indication that Ramsey and the Jags still aren't fully developed.

Since a Week 2 victory over the New England Patriots that was widely viewed as a statement performance, the oft-hyped Jaguars have...

  • Scored six points in a home loss to the Tennessee Titans
  • Beat the New York Jets at home
  • Lost by 16 points to a tired, banged-up Kansas City Chiefs team
  • Suffered their most lopsided loss in three years against a Cowboys team that ranked 30th in the NFL in scoring.

Jacksonville remains tied for the AFC South lead with a 3-3 record, but it's fair to be concerned about a green Jaguars team that has now surrendered more points than it has scored this season. 

Jacksonville's Week 1 roster was the fifth-youngest in the league, according to Jimmy Kempski of Philly Voice. And it isn't unusual for young teams to break out one year and then come back to earth the next year. 

This team doesn't look ready to dominate consistently, even if it has the talent to do so defensively. 

It's concerning that the talented Jaguars defense has just five takeaways this season and struggled for the second consecutive week against Dallas, but Ramsey and Co. weren't the entire problem Sunday at AT&T Stadium. 

One week after he threw four interceptions in Kansas City, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was ineffective regardless of whether he was under pressure from the Dallas pass rush. Despite trailing all day, he completed just three passes that traveled 10 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage from my own charting, finishing just 15-of-26 for 149 yards with one touchdown and an interception. 

"You can't score seven points," Bortles said after Sunday's game, per ESPN.com. "You gotta find a way to move the ball."

Recent defensive issues have become problematic, and a lack of consistency is a potential problem as well, but Bortles remains the problem in Jacksonville. It's almost impossible to win consistently without a strong quarterback in this league, and—outside of rare flashesBortles just isn't getting the job done.

The fifth-year No. 3 overall pick out of Central Florida has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes and posted a 114.8 passer rating in Jacksonville's two home victories this season. But in the team's other four outings—a road victory against the New York Giants, the home loss to the Titans and ugly road losses to Kansas City and Dallas—he's completed just 56.0 percent of his passes and posted a 64.0 passer rating. 

His overall rating has dropped from 84.7 in 2017 to 81.1 this season. 

Even with top back Leonard Fournette out and the offensive line dealing with injuries, the running game can't be blamed. The Jaguars entered Week 6 averaging a solid 4.5 yards per rush, and backup T.J. Yeldon did a fine job in Dallas despite a limited workload as a result of a big early deficit. 

Bortles just can't be relied on regularly. 

There will be games in which he reminds us why he has early-first-round talent, and there will be plenty of other games in which Ramsey, Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, Telvin Smith, Myles Jack, A.J. Bouye and the rest of that star-studded defense carry the team to victory. 

But the Jaguars aren't sneaking up on the competition this year, and nobody is taking them lightly anymore. Now that they're a team to beat, their flaws have been exposed under a particularly intense spotlight. 

They're realizing it's possible to shine on paper without doing so on game days—and that hubris and bold words will only get them so far.

The Jaguars are the promising but troubled teenager of the NFL. They're still growing up, and they think they're invincible. For their sake, they'd better be learning from these adolescent-like experiences. 

     

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.

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