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Jags’ Myers kicks Scobee out the door

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JACKSONVILLE — The Jacksonville Jaguars hope that the limb they put their kicking game on Monday is sturdy enough to hold up the entire 2015 season and longer.

Jacksonville let loose of its longest tenured player, Josh Scobee, when the team traded him to Pittsburgh in exchange for an undetermined draft pick.

In his place, the Jaguars have cast their fate with Jason Myers, a relatively unknown kicker whose only previous kicking on a professional level has been a brief time with Arizona and San Jose of the Arena Football League last year.

The Jaguars are banking their decision on what Myers has done in practice and preseason games thus far.

In three preseason games to date, Myers is 4-for-5 on field goals, hitting from 38, 49, 55 and 35 yards, and has converted his only extra point attempt.

Myers has also sent seven of eight kickoffs into the end zone, although several were returned. That might not be a fair assessment, however, as Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said earlier in the week that he sometimes had Myers kick short so the Jaguars could get a better feel for the job by some of the special team performers.

It’s certainly not that Scobee has performed at a mediocre or below-average clip during preseason. Scobee made both of his field goal attempts from 36 and 52 yards, converted all three extra points and sent all five kickoffs into the end zone, four of them touchbacks.

“This was easily the toughest decision we’ve had to make in our time here,” Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said. “Whatever you think of Josh as a kicker, which he was very good at, he was an even better person. He was a tremendous leader great to our young players, very active in the community. As much as he’ll be missed here with our team, he’ll be missed even more within the community.

“It was a difficult decision. The Pittsburgh offer was the best we had for either player and was the best deal for the organization. It wasn’t a bidding war, we just had some very casual conversations with teams.”

It appears to be a risky move on the part of the Jaguars, who are in a must-win-now situation after posting only seven total wins in the last two rebuilding years.

Scobee has been among the league’s most reliable kickers.

Twice in the last four years (2011 and 2013), he connected on 23-of-25 field goal attempts, a 92.0 percent. He’s never been below 76 percent in each of the last five years and has only been under that figure once during his 11 years with the team.

Scobee was the longest-tenured Jaguars player, about to enter his 12th season with the team since he was a fourth-round pick in 2004 out of Louisiana Tech. He was in the final year of a four-year, $13.8 million contract.

Had the Jaguars not traded Scobee now, they would have had to either sign him to a multi-year contract next year or release him, in which case they wouldn’t have gotten anything.

Scobee leaves the Jaguars as the franchise’s all-time scoring leader with 1,022 points and in total field goals with 235.

There was some concern about whether Scobee had lost some distance on his kickoffs, as he finished with only 11 touchbacks in 62 kickoffs a year ago. The two previous seasons he had 20 and 21.

The Jaguars hope Myers continues to kick like he has once the regular season begins.

Myers didn’t have impressive numbers coming out of college at Marist. He was 12-for-18 for his career from 30-39 yards, but only 3-of-9 from 40 to 49 yards. He led the Pioneer Football League in with 22 touchbacks on 49 kickoffs his senior season. But he only made half of his 10 field goals with a long of 40 yards that season.

“Jason has done a great job here,” Caldwell said. “The only thing he’s missing is the experience,” Caldwell said. “He can get that. He’s a young guy we can grow with as a team and as a franchise. He has a very strong leg and has been exceptionally accurate not only in games but during practice and scrimmages.

“At the end of the day, there was a resounding feeling that we did not want to lose Jason for the future. A year from now when we would have to address the kicking situation. We didn’t know we’d find someone as good as Jason. To get a sixth round pick for a kicker we felt was good value.”

Scobee has an 80.8 career field goal percentage (235-for-291), including 26 field goals from 50-plus yards (26-for-42, 61.9 pct.). Entering the 2015 regular season, Scobee has appeared in 119 consecutive games dating to 2007.

Scobee’s 59-yard field goal against Indianapolis on October 3, 2010, is the longest field goal in Jaguars history and the third-longest game-winning field goal in NFL History.

His 43-yard field goal against the Giants on November 30, 2014, was the eighth game-winning field goal of his career.

–Tight end Julius Thomas might need surgery on his broken hand, according to a doctor’s report, general manager Dave Caldwell said.

Thomas hurt the hand when he landed awkwardly after catching a pass on the Jaguars first series in their initial preseason game.

“He’ll be getting another opinion tomorrow,” Caldwell said on Monday. “If he does need it, it will only push him back a couple of weeks. It should be about four weeks from the date of the surgery that he would be back … if he needs the surgery.”

Thomas signed a five-year, $46 million free-agent contract with the Jaguars last March. He had a strong showing during the team’s offseason workouts and had developed a good rapport with quarterback Blake Bortles.

One reason that Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles has looked so good during the preseason games is that he has a healthier arm. A year ago, Bortles was in the midst of almost non-stop throwing from the start of his last year at Central Florida, right through to the Jags regular season opener.

It left him with a fatigued arm. The difference this year is that Bortles took some time off to rest his arm. It’s made a big difference he says.

“I felt it was kind of all year long (last season),” Bortles said. “It definitely started during camp and was the same throughout the season. And now I feel kind of night and day from last year. Physically the arm is way better.

“Last year it was kind of a year and a half of throwing. For me personally, I need a little time off to let my arm recover and I was able to do that and fine-tune some things. I went 3-3 1/2 weeks without throwing.”

Bortles isn’t likely to play in Thursday’s final preseason game against Washington, which should give him a live, fresh arm for the regular-season opener on the Sept. 13.

NOTES: Defensive end Cameron Beard is back with the Jaguars after the team cut him on Sunday. When the Jaguars traded Josh Scobee to Pittsburgh, it created an opening so the team rescinded the cut to Beard. … Defensive end Chris Smith saw time with the first team defense this week in lieu of the injury to Andre Branch last week. Smith was borderline as to his making the final 53-man roster but with the injury to Branch, his value is enhanced. … Linebacker Dan Skuta seems to be the answer that the Jaguars were looking for at the Otto linebacker spot. A year ago they tried various people there but none worked out. Skuta was signed as a free agent from San Francisco during the offseason and seems to have found a home. … Linebacker LaRoy Reynolds continues to nurse a minor knee injury and might miss another game this week. He’s likely the team’s fourth linebacker and could fill in at several spots. His best value is likely on special teams where he may be the Jaguars leader. … Free safety James Sample will likely see extended playing time on Thursday against Washington. He was held out of the Detroit game last week and would be making his NFL debut against the Redskins. After a strong showing in OTAs, Sample has a lot of catching up to do in his return to the field for the first time since June. … Running back T.J. Yeldon was bottled up in his rushing debut last week against Detroit. He did score on a 1-yard run that needed a review to confirm the score was good, as Yeldon fumbled on the play with the Lions recovering. His best play was a 12-yard pass reception in which he put a couple moves on defenders to pick up additional yardage. … Wide receiver Rashad Greene continues to impress and mighty have moved up to the No. 3 receiving spot with five receptions for 39 yards, including a 17-yard gain against Detroit. Greene was one of 11 receivers who had at least one catch for 12 yards or longer. … Tackle Sam Young and tackle Austin Pasztor will wage a one-game battle in the Washington contest for likely the ninth and final roster spot on the offensive line. With Josh Wells out on injured reserve, it left an opening for Young and Pasztor to contend for.


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