Senior writer John Oehser examines the game that was in the Jaguars’ 17-6 victory over the Atlanta Falcons at TIAA Bank Field Saturday …
TOUGH TO SEE
This was tough. Really tough.
If any theme ran through the Jaguars’ locker room late Saturday night, that was it after wide receiver Marqise Lee sustained what appeared to be a serious knee injury in the first quarter.
“It sucks,” cornerback Jalen Ramsey said.
Agreed wide receiver Dede Westbrook, “It sucks.”
Lee, a fifth-year veteran, sustained the injury to his left knee after 20-yard reception on a pass from quarterback Blake Bortles in the first play of the Jaguars’ second possession. Lee was hit low by Falcons safety Damontae Kazee. He left the field on a cart several minutes later.
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said immediately after the game that doctors told him they wouldn’t know the extent of Lee’s injury until Sunday, adding that it “looked bad.”
“I’m just saying, did anyone think it didn’t look bad?” Marrone said. “I’m just like you in that … you know what I’m saying? I’m waiting for the doctor to tell me so I can tell you guys, but I know what I see. I’m not going to sit there and say it didn’t look bad. It looked bad.”
Lee, a second-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, is the most-tenured member of the Jaguars’ receiving corps. It’s a group that also includes fifth-year veteran Donte Moncrief, second-year veterans Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole and rookie D.J. Chark Jr. as well as fourth-year veteran Rashad Greene Sr. and second-year veteran Jaydon Mickens,
“For me, I see them every day,” Marrone said. “I mean we throw so much and do so much stuff. There’s a great level of competition at that position, so you know, I feel fine. … I mean, we’ve got some players at that position.”
Moncrief, who signed as an unrestricted free agent in March from the Indianapolis Colts, leads the Jaguars with eight receptions for 103 yards through three preseason games. Westbrook has caught five passes for 49 yards and Chark has caught three passes for 25 yards. Cole has one reception for four yards.
“We have to rally together as a unit, and stick beside each other,” Westbrook said.
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey on Saturday played for the first time since the preseason opener, having missed the Jaguars’ Preseason Week 2 victory over Minnesota while serving a one-week suspension for violating team rules and for conduct unbecoming a Jaguars player. “It felt really good,” he said of his return. “At the end of the day, it’s still the preseason. We have to prepare ourselves for week one.”
Ramsey also spoke to the media after the game for the first time since his suspension, which meant he was speaking for the first time since the release of a high-profile GQ article in which he criticized multiple NFL quarterbacks. “I don’t live my life with regrets,” he said. “Things happen, and I said what I said. God knows I love everything about the game of football. I love the competitiveness, I love the trash talking and I love the challenges. I love literally everything about the game. I have no regrets. I wasn’t in control of them releasing the timing of that, but I will follow up with the best because it’s all on me.”
Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., like Ramsey, returned Saturday after being suspended for the Minnesota game last week. Unlike Ramsey, Fowler was making his preseason debut – having also missed the preseason opener while rehabilitating a shoulder injury. Fowler didn’t play in the first half Saturday but played the second and had a quarterback hurry. “That was the plan,” Fowler, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, said. “We had already talked about it throughout the week, so I was actually prepared for it and ready. Whether I am out there in the first half or second half, I am playing the game I love. Whenever I am able to get the opportunity to go out on that grass and showcase what I can show you guys, then I am going to do it.”
Ramsey after the game discussed the injury to Lee within the context of the league’s new lower-the-helmet rule. Many players long have expressed concern that league rules encourage low hits as opposed to hits to the head, with many players concerned that the side effect of the league trying to decrease concussions would be an increase in knee injuries. The hut on Lee appeared to some players to be an example of this. “You can’t be mad at 27,” Ramsey said of Kazee. “You have to be mad at the NFL; not mad at them but that is how the rule is. People are scared to tackle normal because I guess they don’t want to do helmet-to-helmet and get flagged. Game-changing stuff could happen. You don’t really want to blame anyone, but you feel bad for him. I don’t know, man, that’s just tough to see it happen to one of my teammates, period. But you can’t really blame 27.”
Jaguars WR Keelan Cole: “I’ve just got to step up. I know he (Lee) is going to be there physically and spiritually, so we’re just going to listen to him and keep learning and keep on moving forward.”
Quarterback Blake Bortles on a two-interception game Saturday with one being a tipped pass in the first half and the other coming at the Falcons 3 on the first drive of the second half: “The first thing [Offensive Coordinator] Nathaniel [Hackett] talks about in every offensive meeting is us taking care of the ball. That gives us the best chance to win the game, keeping our defense out of difficult situations, taking care of the ball as much as possible. Stuff’s going to happen. There’s going to be tipped picks and stuff like that. The one down in the red zone, you can’t do that. You’ve got to get at least get three points out of there. It’s tough to throw an interception there on the 2 or the 3 or wherever he caught that ball. So, we’ve just got to make better decisions as far as taking care of it.”