Friday, October 22, 2021

Behind Enemy Lines: Jacksonville Jaguars

Welcome to the next instalment of Behind Enemy Lines: Jacksonville Jaguars Edition

Each week in Behind Enemy Lines I talk with fans from the teams lining up against the Dolphins that week and this week… IT’S LONDON BABY!!! While this may be the cause of annoyance for local fans who miss out on the chance to see their teams, selfish, for us in the UK this provides an opportunity, the likes of which are few and far between. We get to see our boys suit up and play football in front of our eyes, and speaking for myself, I am very greatful for that opportunity.

For the Miami Dolphins, I believe this couldn’t come at a better time. Our form is horrendous, our cohesion between the three forms of play is non-existent. Pressure and questions are being asked by fans and media on a daily, if not hourly basis. Right now we need this game.

This week we suit up against the winless Jaguars, out of the pressure cooker of US primetime or Redzone hours, a change of scenery, a chance to freshen things up with the freedom of playing away from the everyday cauldron. And of course, potentially the return of QB1, Tua Tagovailoa.

So Behind Enemy Lines this week comes on a week when Dolphins fans, along with Jaguars fans up and down the UK are hyping themselves up to get loud and proud. It presents a unique opportunity for both teams, who will likely see each other as an opportunity to correct their faltering seasons. In preview, I speak with Robert Ripley (@CoachRipley1) to get his take on the Jaguars and the match up between the two teams this weekend…

Afternoon Robert mate, thank you for taking the time to work on this with me. This is a special week for me, getting the chance to see our teams in action and in person. But what about you? Introduce yourself and let the world know about your relationship with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Hi all. So yeah, this week the enemy is: Robert Ripley. Born and Raised 5th generation Floridian. I remember Dan Marino before the Jaguars were born. But have lived in north FLORIDA and decided to make the Jaguars my team that summer of 1994 when we were awarded the franchise and have been a season ticket holder since 2003.

Oh wow, that’s a very different story to most of the fans Ive spoken to in this series. So interesting how your allegiance grew despite the fact you were already following football before that point. I find that very interesting personally. Must be a strange thing to have a franchise just appear and attract your attention, that is an extremely rare occurrence over here.

But between us, our teams are suffering and I am sure the fans are suffering too. For us it has come as a huge shock. We expected progression, we had hope and were so confident of a playoff charge, yet here we are. Has it been similar for you? Is there an end in sight for this doom and gloom?

The Jaguar fans are all over the map right now. Most are always coach crazy as Urban Meyer has made some poor choices to start his tenure as HC, both on and off the field. We have also hit a very much unwanted milestone, losing 20 in a row, by getting to 20 it is covered a lot more and talked about nationally, and as fans, it messes with your head. But at some point we are going to win one. Right now it’s hope. We only have hope.page1image193853136page1image193853424

Man do I understand that! From our perspective, blame is pushed in different directions depending on your perspective. Some towards the Head Coach, some towards the GM, the joint OCs which we really havent seen the benefit of yet, even at Tua for having the audacity to get injured and leave us with a back up QB.

But that hope, man, it’s both a joy and a curse. Right now, Tua is that hope for many. A majority of the fan base hope that his return will see an upturn in our fortunes because without him we have been worse than bad. Saying that, you have a worse record than us and I wonder if that is a fair reflection of the season, or if you have been close and got unlucky?

Honestly mate, we’ve had chances. Easily could have won week 2 against the Broncos but let it slip away from us, and then against the Bengals this past week, losing by only three points. We need our guys to step up and make plays to take control of games, we have to create turnovers and make our own luck or we will continue to lose.

Weve been similar, weve had chances to win that we let slip away and at times beaten ourselves with the inability to make plays. A lot has been said of our OLine but have also had a number of dropped passes, and wasted offensive drives. Until this last week when our Defense ran out of answers we were on a 20+ game turnover streak but offensively couldnt take advantage of those defensive plays.

Hopefully with Tua likely to return soon, maybe even this week, that can change. You guys also have a young, highly rated and much talked about young Quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, one of the most highly anticipated young QBs in recent years. How has he started? Are signs pointed towards him living up to expectations?

There is that hope again, he has brought that back to us for sure. He has made multiple throws in his first five games that we haven’t seen around here…ever. The talent is there no doubt, he is legit… to a point. But it takes weapons. Mark Duper and Mark Clayton are needed. Would settle for Keith Jackson to come through the door but it’s not happening. For now he just has to grow every week, get his learning curve under control and start winning games. Then hopefully weapons arrive in the offseason.

We thought it was that simple too mate, last year Tua showed some fantastic flashes, but his weapons were almost non-existent. But with the addition of Jaylon Waddle and Will Fuller, we felt like that could have solved the problem. But Waddle is yet to show us the big plays and Fuller is already back on IR. So Tua is coming back to a situation not too dissimilar to the one he had last season.

But Ill come back to him, what about the fanbase overall? As two teams from the same state there will always be a competitive edge, what is the Jaguar fans perspective of our poor start to the season?

With our franchise being one of the newer ones, there is a hangover of Jags fans who at some stage followed other Florida teams like Miami. Therefore, I think there are a lot of Jag/Fish fans. Meaning we only root against you guys on weeks like this. As for your team, your injuries are what we see and one area we want to capitalise on. The running backs haven’t performed, the QB play has been ‘blah’ and that’s what we see and talk about. But, saying all this, you’ve had a win and more chances to win others. At this stage, we still have to find a way to just win a game.

Dya know? I never thought of the franchise views like that. I just kind of assumed, state rivals, there would be some sort of rivalry behind the teams and fan bases. As for your thoughts on us,

hard to argue, our issues are well documented and analysed, we are laid bare for all to see and must respond, and fast.

Did you guys see this coming for us? Is it a surprise? Did we even crop up on the radar of Jaguars fans?

Looking at the overall building of your franchise, we actually speak of your stadium remodel often as we are in that process of how and what we can do to modernize “The Bank” and it’s the Dolphins model comes up the most. Others see your draft capital in recent years, and also years to come, and understand that you could be building a monster. If you’re healthy we expected to have our hands full. Most of us wanted this game to be in Jax but the London piece seems to find a way to snake a good game every year.

If were healthy! Christ, when are we ever. QB1 coming off broken ribs, Parker and Fuller out injured, were never healthy. And yeah, the Jaguars and London do seem to have this kind of relationship, with the Khans owning UK a London based Soccer team amongst other things, they seem to want to have an intrinsic link between UK fans and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Its as if they want as many Jags fans as possible, and for those that support someone else, for the Jags to be their soft spot” team.

So lets talk about that team. Obviously we have discussed Trevor Lawrence, but who else is rostered to you guys right now that we should be worried about? Who are we not talking about but that we should be.

This is an easy one, one guy above all others for this kind of question. Laviska Shenualt. He’s the Swiss Army knife of our roster and does it all to a level of ability. I’m hopeful to see him have a huge season, starting with this game against you. Aside from him, keep your eye on Askew in the return game, he has been impressive.
What about our roster too mate? Who are you guys most concerned about on the Dolphins roster? Who do you think poses the greatest threat on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball?
For me it’s Mike Gesicki and Jacoby Brissett. Those are the two, their skill sets match up, if Brissett can start slinging it, Gesicki is an idea target for him. We have to disrupt the timing of the passing game and get at the problematic OLine. Cause pressure, because right now that seems to cause chaos. Sack the QB or Mr. Gesicki will have a field day.

So much to unpick there, but surprisingly, Jacoby Brissett getting a mention. Everyone seems to think that this is Tuas return game after Brissett struggling to get rolling between weeks 2 and 5. If Tua cant go though, man do I hope you are right, I want the Dolphins to win, I want to witness it myself and I also drafted Gesicki in fantasy football haha. Plus I want to enjoy him while we can, I have a sneaky suspicion that this could be his last year in Miami.

But mate, we have mentioned him before, and I cant leave without asking about the most talked about and divisive QB in my lifetime. What are the thoughts on Tua Tagovailoa from the Jaguars fanbase?

The question we are asking, that everyone else seems to be asking too is… is he the guy…? Or a piece in the Watson sweepstakes, that rumour won’t go away and the worse your record gets, the louder the rumours will become? That was my thoughts going into the season. But after seeing him a little I think he’s improved and could be a good QB in this league… But can he stay healthy… that seems a legitimate concern.

For me… that is up to him to prove. I am a fan and I hope he quarterbacks us for the next decade. I believe he will be a very good footballer in this league as the seasons progress. But the one thing he hasnt been able to do is silence the doubters. We need big games and we need them during the remainder of this season. The rumours go away if Tua starts to ball, everyone wins if that happens.

So finally mate, the game, how do you see it going, whats your score prediction?

I hate to say it, but I think the Dolphins get this one. I think in this instance, you will have too much for us while our defense are not forcing the issue and forcing turnovers. Therefore, I have Miami winning this one, Fins 34 v Jags 21.

I absolutely hope you are right. I would love to see that score and be there for it to happen. I also believe we will turn it round this week. But I dont know if we will break that 30 point mark with how disjointed we have been on offense. Plus, a lot will come down to how well we can defend the run. In James Robinson you have someone who could cause us significant issues. The media focus will be on Trevor Lawrence, but I think it will be James Robinson who steals the limelight for the Jags, getting 1 maybe 2 touchdowns.

That said, I have faith that we win this, and I will take Fins to win, 24-17.

Thank you so much mate for taking part, a special one for me as I preview a game I will actually be in the stadium for, it’s been a great one and a lot of interesting points raised. Best of luck in getting that first win… but not this Sunday.

And that brings our Jacksonville edition to an end. Not quite as doom and gloom as the other weeks, and we seem to be coming up against a team who feel very similar about their start to the season too.

I believe this is an ideal position to be in when sat as 1-4. We get the chance to put everything right and in Tua’s return game too potentially. It all seems lined up for us to make a difference, score some points and earn a win. If we can do that, we head back to the states, with the Falcons next up and with a lot more positivity around the rest of our season.

Nothing breeds spirit, confidence and momentum like a WIN, so get off that plane and go get that WIN Miami Dolphins!

LET’S GO MIAMI, LET’S DO THIS! I SHALL SEE YOU THERE!!!
Fins Up!

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