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Browns vs. Jaguars: Getting to Know the Enemy With Big Cat Country

Ryan Day from Big Cat Country exchanged five questions with us, discussing where QB Blake Bortles has run into problems this season, how the defense generates their pressure, the offer Jacksonville once made to C Alex Mack, and more.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Ryan Day from Big Cat Country and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!


Chris: "When I look at the size of Blake Bortles, I immediately begin to cringe because it reminds me of Ben Roethlisberger, who is 18-2 in his career against the Browns. Bortles has thrown 7 interceptions and taken 11 sacks in four games, with his team going 0-4 during that stretch. Have Bortles' interceptions been "rookie mistakes," or has it just been a case of him trying to force the ball once Jacksonville gets behind by a couple of possessions?"

Ryan: "I think, above all else, Bortles has been unafraid to take chances. For a rookie, I'll take that. You can't expect a guy to be perfect in his first few starts, so the next best thing is for him to take his lumps and learn from them.

Now, what are those rookie mistakes? Simple things like checking out of a running play and switching to a hot route that was easily exploited by the coverage. Locking onto a receiver and not seeing a cornerback sitting on the coverage. Holding onto the ball a little too long and forcing a sack. But if you look at guys like Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, those guys did some of the same exact things, but while Roethlisberger had an amazing team around him and was able to cover up some poor decisions with wins, Manning didn't and Bortles doesn't.

By the end of the season, I think you'll see a polished player. I mean, through six weeks he has the highest completion percentage on third down. He's a gifted player and that's very evident in only his first few starts."

Chris: "Many Browns fans were interested in the team selecting WR Marqise Lee this past May, including myself. How did Lee looked this season? Now that he's hopefully recovered from a hamstring injury, where is he expected to be on the depth chart moving forward?"

Ryan: "Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch wants three-receiver formations to be his norm, so I think by the end of the season you'll see Lee be a regular starter and more frequent contributor. But you're right -- injuries have slowed him, and the emergence of undrafted free agent Allen Hurns has been a welcomed surprise.

Lee is the consummate possession receiver. We've seen him run deep routes up the seam, but his place in this offense is creating space and letting him work. And, frankly, we don't have a good enough offense to show why we made him a second-round pick. Without a running game, opposing defenses don't have to play balanced or fear as much, so Lee doesn't have the kind of space he was drafted for."

Chris: "The Jaguars are tied for 3rd in the NFL with 19 sacks. Looking at the stats, those sacks are spread around 12 different players. Do the sacks come at any given time for Jacksonville, or has there been a certain down/situation where the Jaguars are getting their sacks?"

Ryan: "In my opinion, the Jaguars are doing a great job with their lineman-by-committee approach and a lot of that credit goes to defensive lineman coach Todd Wash. He's helping guys like Sen'Derrick Marks and Red Bryant maximize their ability.

As far when the sacks are happening, we have so many combinations of linemen and rush schemes, it's hard to pin a specific one down. One thing I will say is watch out for No. 59 Ryan Davis. He was a pure pass rusher last season and they wanted him to become an inside rusher this season, so he bulked up to gain the strength he needed to move past the interior. Of all the linemen, he's getting the least amount of snaps per game, but he's caused a lot of disruption in the pocket and assisted on a number of others' sacks."

Chris: "The Jaguars' secondary doesn't seem to have a very good reputation in terms of playing well. Which player(s) has/have been most picked on?"

Ryan: "While the secondary was porous in the first few games, I think they've actually gotten themselves into something of a good place. With the exception of Alan Ball, our secondary is very, very young. Dwayne Gratz is in his second year, as is strong safety Johnathan Cyprien, and cornerback Demetrius McCray is in his third year. And in the last two weeks, they've only allowed one passing touchdown combined. That's not bad.

I'd say if anyone is going to get picked on, it's Dwayne Gratz. Excuses of youth aside, he's not doing as well as his replacement Demetrius McCray. But with Alan Ball missing practice this week, Gratz will be forced into action.

Another problem with our pass defense is our linebackers. Paul Posluszny can't cover worth a damn, Geno Hayes gets beat, and Telvin Smith, while flashing, is a rookie. Look for tight end Jordan Cameron to do well."

Chris: "This offseason, the Jaguars made an attempt to sign center Alex Mack, who has the transition tag slapped on him by the Browns. Cleveland matched the offer to retain Mack (who unfortunately suffered a broken leg this past Sunday). How did Jacksonville address the center position after not securing Mack, and were Jaguars fans confident they would get Mack when the original offer was made?"

Ryan: "At first, not well. We originally plugged in Mike Brewster in at preseason, but he lost the job quickly. Then we had Jacques McClendon and that went a little better, but it was still bad. Then rookie Luke Bowanko (who looked like the best center all preseason but wasn't named the starter because who knows?) was given a shot and he's done a more than adequate job. Bowanko should be the guy going forward, and that's very encouraging news from a sixth-round draft pick.

I think looking back, we knew it was a coin flip getting Mack. We were certainly less confident when we heard the offer that was made. I don't know why general manager David Caldwell even took a chance with a less-than-max offer, especially when you have as much cap room as we do, and when you have as much of a question mark along the interior of the offensive line as we do. Maybe he made a mistake in evaluating Brewster? That's probably it."


Thanks again to Ryan for taking the time to answer my questions.