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Being that the Bucs play the AFC South this season, we’re back with Troy Odegaard for his analysis of the upcoming game with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

LH:How has Quarterback Blake Bortles progressed?

TO:Right now he’s rated 11th on the passing list of all NFL quarterbacks after four games.  That’s  a quarter of the season.  He’s got a 55% completion rate with six touchdowns and three interceptions.  His progression, like any quarterback, is tied to the offensive line.  If they can keep Bortles upright so he can move through his progressions I think he’s going to be hot.  He’s got a year under his belt.  I still don’t think the O-line is where it needs to be.  He’s got T.J Yeldon at running back and he’s got Allen Hurns at wide reciever.  He has a couple of weapons there.  Being rated 11th speaks volumes of what he’s done and where he’s going.

LH:A quarterback’s best friend is a good running game and a good tight end.  Jacksonville may finally have TE Julius Thomas, who they signed from Denver, available to play.  How important is that piece of the puzzle for the Jags?

TO:Huge.  They’ve been leaning on Yeldon so far.  He’s got 17 attempts a game and has rushed for 259 yards.  That’s 3.7 yards
per carry.  Are they outstanding numbers?  No.  Are they numbers that means you have to respect that Yelden can run the football?  Yes.  He comes from the University of Alabama so you know he knows how to run the football.  As Jacksonville gets better on the offensive line, through maturation and the draft, their offense will improve.  Believe me, the Jaguars have a plan.  Head Coach Gus Bradley isn’t dumb.  They’re doing things the right way and, when Thomas becomes available, there’s no question he will help.  That gives the Jags offense a franchise quarterback, a good running back, a pass-catching threat at tight end and a pretty good wide out.  They just need one more good wide receiver that can stay healthy.

LH:Most people thought the Jacksonville defense was going to be their weak link but they put up a real good effort last week against the Colts.  Are they better than people think?

TO:Yes.  Right now, the Jaguars are ranked 18th in total team defense in the NFL. That;s just below half.  They’re forcing turnovers especially with interceptions and they’re getting after the quarterback.  The bottom line is they realize that if you put pressure on the quarterback that’s going to help everybody out on the defense.  What they’re starting to do is create a lot of third-and-long situations for the opposing offense.  If you get third-and-long, you have a great chance of getting off the field.

LH:How important is it for a defense to get pressure on the quarterback with four guys?

TO:It’s very important to get pressure.  It’s more important if you play assignment defense.  If you deviate from your assignment, all you’re doing is creating a hole for the quarterback to throw through or the running back to run through.  You have to do your job.  The numbers will take care of themselves.  You’re interception numbers and overall defensive ranking will take care of itself if everybody does their job.  If you can get pressure on the quarterback without deviating from your defensive scheme that’s designed to stop their offense you have a chance.  The good quarterbacks, the Brady’s and Manning’s and the rest of the good ones, make a living off assignment breakdown mistakes by the defense.  If I’m a defensive tackle and my assignment is A gap and I end up in B or C gap, there’s a run for 10 years or a splash-play pass over the middle through that open window. You get NFL defenses jumping around and they’re going to be off-balance and that’s when you are really capable of making mistakes.

LH:Does Bortles have a leg-up on Winston right now?

TO:Bortles is 20 games into his NFL career and Winston is four.  I have to apologize to the Tampa Bay fans but your offensive line right now isn’t very good.  I’m sorry but just look at the numbers.  The two big things are the sacks and how fast he has to get rid of the football.  Both are signs that your offensive line isn’t very good.  The Jaguars offensive line isn’t great but, right now, they’re better than the Bucs.  This game isn’t about the coaches or the quarterbacks.  It’s about the offensive lines.  Which one can run the ball to keep the pressure off their quarterback and, when they throw, who can protect.  Right now, Blake’s group is better than Winston’s group.  It’s just going to take the Bucs longer to get the offensive line hitting on all cylinders.

LH:Who wins this battle of 1-3 teams and why?

TO:I’m taking Jacksonville for two reasons.  Their offensive line and their defense.  Even though they’re on the road, I think the Jaguars are better in all three phases than Tampa Bay.  If Winston can stay upright and not turn the ball over then the Buccaneers have a chance but I’m going to hang my hat on the Jaguars.