While the Jacksonville Jaguars(1-1) lost on Sunday to the Titans(2-0) 33-30 in Nashville, there were many positives from this game, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
On Sunday, the Jaguars had 480 yards of total offense. Gardner Minshew threw for 339 yards with three touchdowns, but two costly interceptions. Rookie free agent RB James Robinson had his first 100-yard game(102 yards, 1 TD), and wide receiver D.J. Chark had four catches for 84 yards. Jacksonville started slow and battled hard in this game, and they were down 14-0 in the first quarter and 30-17 in the fourth quarter before tying the game at 30 midway through the final quarter.
The expectations are low for the Jaguars, but according to Chark, Jacksonville can compete with any team in the NFL.
“I think honestly we feel like we can go toe to toe with anybody. It doesn’t matter,” Chark said after the game. “Our offensive line is going to move people off the ball. James is going to run hard. Our receivers are all capable of making plays, and they understand that we expect plays to be made every time the ball is in the air. It’s our ball or nobody’s ball, and Gardner(Minshew) is out there making great decisions.
“I think it’s just the mentality that we have, whether it’s 30-17 or it’s a tie game. We understand that we only control what we can control when we’re out there on the field, and I think that helps the offensive line, but it also helps the defense to know that in years past, when we’d get down, it’s kind of like a snowball effect, but they know even if the team does score, we as an offense have the potential to go score, too. So you just go out there and keep playing like every drive is a new drive.”
Minshew added: “Yeah, I mean, you see their resilience when we’re in there. But we also learned that we’ve got to start faster. We don’t need to be getting down 13 in the first place. I think if we jump out and play every quarter like we played that fourth, we’re going to be a really, really good football team.”
It’s still early, but Jacksonville played two teams(Colts, Titans) that many believe could make the playoffs in 2020 and proved to everyone that they could compete. Obviously, there are no morals victories in the NFL, but Jacksonville has to be happy with how they performed after two games.
Jose Pedraza’s second appearance in the MGM Grand “Bubble” resulted in yet another victory, as the Puerto Rican former two-weight world champion bested fellow 2008 Olympian Javier Molina via unanimous decision (99-91 and 98-92 2x) in the junior welterweight main event.
Pedraza (28-3, 13 KOs), who won a decision over Mikkel LesPierre on July 2, returned to Las Vegas and authored his most significant junior welterweight victory. Molina (22-3, 9 KOs) entered the evening on a five-bout winning streak, a career-reviving run that included an upset over Amir Imam back in February.
Pedraza, who switched from orthodox to southpaw, hurt Molina in the seventh round and widened the gap as the bout reached its conclusion. He has won two bouts since dropping a decision to Jose Zepeda last September in his junior welterweight debut.
Pedraza said, “They do name me the ‘Sniper,’ and that means I have to be patient, and when my moment comes, I have to take advantage of it. That’s what I did tonight because I was able to wear him down, break him down and make him fight my fight. It was the experience that I’ve had at the top level that helped me finally put it together. I’ve had the experience, I’ve had the talent, and it’s just on a night like this that I’m happy I could put it all together.
“I do believe I’m ready for a world title opportunity. Whoever it happens to be between Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez, I want the winner of that fight. If for some reason I can’t get a world title shot against them, I do want to respectfully ask Jose Zepeda for the rematch.”
Ajagba Goes the Distance
The knockout didn’t come as expected, but Efe Ajagba’s Top Rank debut ended with his hand raised. Ajagba (14-0, 11 KOs) notched a 10-round unanimous decision over Jonnie Rice (13-6-1, 9 KOs) in the co-feature, controlling the distance with his jab as he cruised to victory by scores of 99-91 2x and 98-92.
Ajagba hurt his right hand in the fight, only the second time he’s gone the distance in his career.
In undercard bouts:
Featherweight: Robeisy Ramirez (5-1, 3 KOs) UD 8 Felix Caraballo (13-3-2, 9 KOs). Scores: 80-72 2x and 79-73. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Ramirez pitched a near-shutout over Caraballo, a native of Puerto Rico who lost via sixth-round stoppage to former featherweight world champion Shakur Stevenson in June. Ramirez has now won five straight since a shocking split decision defeat in his professional debut.
Junior Middleweight: Leo Ruiz (8-0, 5 KOs) UD 6 Rodrigo Solis (4-5-1, 2 KOs). Scores: 59-53 2x and 58-54. Ruiz laid a beating on Solis, a native of Cancun, Mexico, who accepted the fight on four days’ notice. Solis, however, lasted the distance against top prospect Ruiz, who has sparred the likes of unified junior welterweight world champion Jose Ramirez and top welterweight contender Vergil Ortiz.
Super Middleweight: Christian Montano (10-0, 7 KOs) UD 6 Ryan Adams (7-3-1, 6 KOs). Scores: 60-54 2x and 58-56. Montano, in his first fight in nearly 18 months, returned with a workmanlike decision victory.
Lightweight: Bryan Lua (6-0, 3 KOs) KO 2 Luis Norambuena (4-7-1). Lua had not fought in more than two years and made up for lost time, knocking out Norambuena with a left hook late in the second round.
Welterweight: Jahi Tucker (1-0, 1 KO) TKO 1 Deandre Anderson (1-2). Tucker needed only 2:56 to prevail in his pro debut, stopping Anderson on his feet following a flurry of punches. Anderson, also a pro MMA fighter, was coming off a split decision win against a previously unbeaten fighter.
Welterweight: Kasir Goldston (1-0) UD 4 Isaiah Varnell (3-3, 2 KOs). Scores: 40-36 and 39-37 2x. The 17-year-old Goldston, from Albany, N.Y., had to go the distance in his first pro outing and swept the fourth round on all three judges’ cards to secure the win.
Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Boxing
In 2017 and at age 22, 154-pound contender Erickson Lubin had an opportunity to gain his first title against WBC 154-pound champion Jermell Charlo, but Lubin was stopped in the first round by a vicious Charlo uppercut.
Almost three years since his loss to Charlo, Lubin has an opportunity to get another shot at that WBC title. On Saturday, Lubin will battle Terrell Gausha in a WBC Super Welterweight Title Eliminator live on SHOWTIME from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
After the loss to Charlo, Lubin(22-1, 16 KOs) switched trainers and is with Kevin Cunningham. Currently, Lubin is on a four-fight win streak, and he believes a win over Gausha will open up more doors for him.
“These are great fights to get me ready for another title shot,” Lubin said via Zoom call on Thursday. “Fighting for a title at such a young age did a lot for my game. It helped me get to that next level. This next go around for the title will definitely be different. I feel like I’m at my best right now.
“I’m fighting for that mandatory spot for the winner of Jermell Charlo vs. Jeison Rosario, and I’m looking forward to getting in the ring to fight one of those guys. “I’m excited to fight for not just one strap, but all three. I’m not just chasing Jermell Charlo. I’m chasing those titles. If he wins, so be it. I want those belts.”
Gausha(21-1-1, 10 KOs), a 2012 Olympian, only has one blemish on his record after losing to Erislandy Lara in 2017, and according to Lubin, he can handle anything Gausha has to offer.
“I had a tremendous training camp once again,” Lubin said. “Saturday night, I’m looking to go out there, look my best and come out with a dominant victory. I’m expecting Terrell to be solid too. But the way I train, I’m going to have an answer for everything that he comes with.
“I remember watching Terrell back in his Olympic days. Now we’re in the pro ranks, though, so it’s a totally different story. He’s a solid fighter, but I feel like I’m on a different level than him. I’m planning on proving that on Saturday night.”
The loss to Charlo was a learning experience for Lubin, which he believes will help him eventually take over the 154-pound division.
“The loss was definitely something to learn from. It was also disappointing because I dared to be great. I learned that experience is a great teacher. I took that from the Charlo fight, brought it with me, and bounced back. I’m still bouncing back in a great way, and I’ll soon take over this division.”
The SHOWTIME BOXING: SPECIAL EDITION begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and features Mongolia’s Tugstsogt “King Tug” Nyambayar stepping in to face unbeaten Cobia “Soldier” Breedy in the 10-round featherweight co-main event bout. The telecast opener will see one of the top prospects in boxing, unbeaten welterweight Jaron “Boots” Ennis,squaring off against the Dominican Republic’s Juan Carlos Abreu in a 10-round matchup.
Unbeaten former champion Luis Nery shared updates from his training camp as he prepares to take on undefeated Aaron Alameda for the vacant WBC Super Bantamweight World Championship in the co-main event of part two of a SHOWTIME PPV doubleheader Saturday, September 26 in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions.
For this fight, Nery is training for the first time under the guidance of Eddy Reynoso at his gym in San Diego, alongside Canelo Alvarez and former heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr., amongst others. Although Nery enters this fight on an 11-fight knockout streak, he has been able to hone other facets of his arsenal under Reynoso.
“Coach Reynoso has been helping me a lot with my defense,” said Nery. “We’re working on boxing with my hands up and on my accuracy. He’s helping me do everything possible to maximize my power and speed. I feel very strong and I’ve been sparring 12 rounds for a while now. I’m extremely ready for September 26 and focused on nothing but that.”
Nery and Alameda were set to square off in a bantamweight battle on SHOWTIME® in March, before the pandemic delayed that showdown. With Rey Vargas vacating his 122-pound title due to an injury, the rescheduled fight came with the addition of that title being on the line. While he knows Alameda will bring his best, Nery is confident in continuing his winning streak.
“I know that Alameda is a tough, undefeated fighter who’s going to leave it all in the ring,” said Nery. “I know he wants to win, just like me, and I know he’s working every day so that he can perform to his maximum potential. I believe that my speed and my overall talent will make me the winner. The postponement has given me even more time to train and prepare for this matchup. I’m 100% ready.”
Nery has long established himself as a force in the bantamweight division, winning his title in 2017 by traveling to Japan and handing Shinsuke Yamanaka his first loss via fourth-round stoppage. While September 26 is his first championship fight at 122-pounds, he has his sights set on dominating the super bantamweight division and beyond.
“At this moment, I want to fight at both 118 and 122-pounds,” said Nery. “There are a lot of great fights to be made in those weight classes. Sometime next year, I want to move up to 126-pounds so that I can dominate all three divisions.”
The stacked September 26 PPV undercards feature a wealth of champions and top talent at both the 118 and 122 weight classes. If he’s victorious next Saturday night, Nery has his eyes on a fight against WBA Super Bantamweight Champion Brandon Figueroa, who defends his title against Damien Vazquez in the co-main event of part one of the doubleheader.
“After I win this belt on September 26, I want Brandon Figueroa next,” said Nery. “I’m not overlooking Alameda at all, but if I had my choice, me and Figueroa would give the fans a great show my next time in the ring.”
Saquon Barkley and his offensive coordinator today delivered figurative stiff arms in response to what has become the media’s issue of the week regarding the Giants: the third-year running back’s pass protection skills.
The tempest was ignited when Tiki Barber – the Giants’ career rushing leader- criticized Barkley for his pass protection.
Barkley, who rushed for six yards and caught six passes in the Giants’ 26-16 season-opening loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday night, has received criticism for his blocking in the past and he’s not losing sleep after hearing it again.
“Obviously, Tiki is a legend,” Barkley said. “He has done a lot of great things for this franchise. I’m not going to look at it as disrespect; I’m going to look at it as a challenge. Same thing with him, like everyone else, I really don’t care about outside opinions. I’m really focused about the opinions in this building. Try to come to work every single day and get better.”
Barkley said pass protection is just one point of emphasis in practice, because he continually works to elevate all facets of his game.
“I come to work every single day with the mindset, try to improve in everything,” he said. “Focus on the little things. Whatever the drill is, focus on that. If it’s the pass game, focus on catching the ball, if it’s pass pro, if it’s run game, focus on making the run cuts and the right reads. When I’m in the open field work on my moves and work on finishing scoring touchdowns.
“I know this is going to be the question or the kind of the theme of this media session about my pass pro. I understand that I probably made some mistakes in pass pro and I put it on film. I know it’s going to keep coming, people are going to keep challenging me. It’s a good way to keep me in and stop me from getting to open space and making plays there too also. I just have to keep working at it, keep getting better and that’s going to be my same answer for the rest of the pass pro questions.”
Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett conceded Barkley’s blocking wasn’t perfect against Pittsburgh, but he fully supports the third-year back.
“Great respect for Tiki, first of all,” Garrett said. “He was a teammate of mine (from 2000-03). I’ve known him for a long time and I really respect him as a person and as a player in this league. Having said that, we really try to focus on what we need to do with our guys and do internal evaluations of how they play.
“One of the things we love about Saquon is his desire to be a complete back. That’s running the football, both inside and outside, as a pass receiver and also as a pass protector. Having said that, he can improve in all areas. That’s something that we like so much about him, is his desire to come in and get better and strive to be a complete back. There were some examples of him blocking well in the passing game the other night. There were some examples of him not blocking as well as he needs to. He knows that. We’re working on that, we’re trying to get him better in that area. But we love his approach, we love his desire to be a complete back, and that’s going to help him and our team going forward.”
Head coach Joe Judge yesterday was the first member of the organization to field a question about Barber’s remarks. And as he most often does, he aimed his response at the team instead of one player.
“Look, we’re all working hard every day to get better at everything we do,” Judge said. “We’re coming out of training camp, we have one game under our belt. There’s not a player or a coach on our team that doesn’t have to improve going into Week 2, and then consistently throughout the season. We have to go ahead and make up some ground quickly. But we have confidence in all of our players. We’re going to work on every technique we have to in all aspects of the game.
“People pay a price to watch us play. Everyone’s opinion is valid if they’re a fan. We have to make sure on the inside we understand what we’re doing and that we prioritize on what we have to work on. But I respect Tiki. Obviously, he’s a guy that knows the game. He’s been a great player for this organization. But we’re going to go ahead and make sure we get everybody rising.”
Though this is not unchartered territory for Barkley, it’s a place he has visited infrequently since his arrival two years ago. The 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year is more accustomed to receiving acclaim than negative analysis. He’ll deal with this as he does all games that don’t meet his lofty standards.
“It happened. The game happened,” Barkley said. “I had 15 carries for six yards. I think I tied for the second-lowest (yardage) of all time with 15 carries or more. Guess what? I came to work this week with a smile on my face, ready to work and ready to get better. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you praise me or you say negative things about me. I’m not going to use that motivation because my motivation is to be great myself. I don’t need you guys to push me that way. I need to focus on myself and try building up myself. This week, there’s no extra motivation. There’s no this or that or the third. It’s just try to come in and get the W for the Giants.”