JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thursday night’s game offers a chance for the Jaguars to change the narrative around the team.
When the season began, the Jaguars were widely considered to be the team that would finish the year with the worst record in the league and have the first pick of the draft. Instead, they opened the year with a win over the Colts and narrowly lost in Nashville on Sunday.
Now, with the 0-2 Dolphins coming to town, the Jaguars are actually favored to win, being installed by oddsmakers as three-point favorites.
“The confidence and the swagger is coming,” linebacker Myles Jack said. “I just think we had to overcome the initial, ‘Oh the Jags are tanking.’ But we knew we had a good team all along, we just had to go out there and do it. And now we’ve kind of got that swagger, like, ‘Okay, we’re ready to go and we’re ready to play.’ So, I’m just uber-excited for this season and the games and even tomorrow.
"It’s going to be fun, it’s just good to show people that we’re not tanking, we’re not turning the other cheek laying down, we’re here to fight and we’re trying to go to the playoffs. So, 1-1 in the division is a great spot to be.”
The game will also feature more teal than we have seen before. For the first time, the Jaguars will wear teal pants and teal jerseys together, a uniform combination only seen when the team unveiled the new look before the 2018 season. It’s never been worn in a game. And the end zones have also been painted teal to add to the theme of the evening.
The Jaguars have done well in primetime games, winning the last four meetings under the lights. All of those wins came against divisional rivals.
All eyes will be on Gardner Minshew, who has started the season with back-to-back three-touchdown games. He was one of five quarterbacks age 25 or younger to start the season with a quarterback rating of over 100.
“He’s done a lot of work in the offseason,” said Doug Marrone. “Whether it be film study, whether it be throwing with a mask on out there, I think he’s done a lot of things to keep himself going. I think you’re still probably challenged with the third downs in the red zone, the disguising of coverage, the protection aspect of it — if you haven’t done that in college I think you can have some issues unless you have a veteran center — but you always want to make sure the quarterback can do that. But Gardner, he’s really improved in all those areas.”
While the Jaguars' defense hasn’t been stellar so far, one of the early standouts has been linebacker Myles Jack. This offseason, the Jaguars signed Joe Schobert as a free agent, who supplanted Jack at the middle linebacker spot. His move back to the outside, at weakside linebacker, has paid dividends, with a pair of 11-tackle games in the first two weeks of the season. So far, Jack has looked more like the playmaking linebacker he was in 2017.
Jack also credited training in Australia with Piero Sacchetta at Advanced Athletes Performance to his fitness level coming into the season.
“I kind of really went back to the basics, got my body right,” Jack said. “I feel like that’s why I’m moving so quick and I’m able to hit linemen the way I can, or make tackles, or just fly around and just move fast. Really just getting — I just really had to refocus myself and re-center myself and that’s really what I focused on once I did my surgery and got right.”
Jack is one of two players remaining from the 2017 Sacksonville defense, along with defensive tackle Abry Jones. With so many new faces, Jack says the approach taken by Marrone is paying dividends for the team.
“I think that’s the main thing that I’ve seen in this group; we all just want to win,” Jack said. “Nobody is taking anything personal. The aura around us was [that] we’re a bad team. But I think younger guys are starting to see we’re not a bad team and even us as older guys, we’re like, we knew we weren’t a bad team, but once we got in those situations where we had to battle and we saw how we fought, we realized that we’re a really good team. And the younger guys are starting to see it.”