Jags bounc­ing back with solid foun­da­tion

Chicago Sun-Times - - THE CHEAT SHEET - MARK POTASH

Af­ter a 3- 13 sea­son in 2016, the Jaguars didn’t seem like a team to watch in 2017. They lost 10 of their last 11 games. They fired Gus Bradley and pro­moted Doug Mar­rone with two games to go. And in the off­sea­son, they made the mys­ti­fy­ing de­ci­sion to pick up the fifth- year op­tion on quar­ter­back Blake Bor­tles’ rookie con­tract — for $ 19 mil­lion. In three sea­sons, Bor­tles looked like a clas­sic tease at best and a failed No. 3 over­all pick at worst.

Bor­tles is bet­ter than he has been but hardly hav­ing a Jared Goff or Car­son Wentz kind of break­out sea­son. Yet the Jaguars are 5- 3 — win­ning as many games in the first half of the sea­son as they have in a full sea­son since go­ing 8- 8 in 2010 — and tied with the Ti­tans for first place in the AFC South. De­spite los­ing lead- ing re­ceiver Allen Robin­son, who suf­fered a torn ACL in Week 1, the Jaguars are ninth in the NFL in to­tal of­fense and third in to­tal de­fense. The Steel­ers ( 10th/ fifth) are the only other team in the league in the top 10 on of­fense and de­fense.

That the Jaguars are do­ing it with a solid run­ning game be­hind rookie Leonard Four­nette ( 130 car­ries, 596 yards, 4.6 av­er­age, six TDs) and a de­fense that ranks No. 1 against the pass and has scored four touch­downs bodes well for sus­tain­ing their re­nais­sance. They’re not do­ing it with mir­rors.

It would be a long time com­ing. The Jaguars’ 22- 74 (. 229) record in the pre­vi­ous six sea­sons is the worst in the NFL. They’ve had 10 con­sec­u­tive top- 10 draft picks — the last six in the top five. And they whiffed twice on quar­ter­backs, though Bor­tles might be­come a hit yet. And if he does, the Jaguars might take an even big­ger step when Robin­son re­turns next year.

Pick: Jaguars 30, Charg­ers 17.

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