For some reason, you guys picked the Jacksonville Jaguars. That’s cool. They are an exciting young team with potential on both sides of the ball. I recognized the vision of head coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell a few years ago and have been proudly watching them rebuild this team from the ground up.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have picked in the top 10 of the NFL draft every year since 2008, including picking in top 5 of the last 5 NFL drafts. So obviously they haven’t shown much of anything on the field or else they wouldn’t be picking so highly every year. With the exception of the 2013 draft class, the Gus Bradley era has yielded some talented young players with star potential.
The questions about the Jaguars are less about the players on the field as they are about the coaching. Thanks to free agency, the Jaguars have brought in some extremely talented players including Chris Ivory, Malik Jackson, and Tashaun Gipson just to name a few. The talent is on the roster, but are the right coaches?
General Manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley took over in Jacksonville in 2013 and this is the make or break season. Personally, I think Caldwell should survive the firing if Jacksonville doesn’t break .500 this year. Bradley’s specialty is defense, but it’s hard to see results when you don’t have any talent. More than $125 million was spent in free agency on three defensive starters (Jackson, Gipson, Amukamara) and used first four drafts picks on that side of ball (including Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack). Malik Jackson and 2015 first round pick Dante Fowler Jr. are expected to carry the bulk of pass rushing production. Jacksonville totaled 36 sacks last season, with Jared Odrick leading the team with 5.5 sacks. If Sen’Derrick Marks can return to his 2014 form, this defensive line has the chance of being one of the best in the NFL. If linebacker Telvin Smith can play consistently, he’ll be a star. He’s a real boom or bust player at times, but he’s crazy talented. The earlier this front seven clicks, the better. Despite the new acquisitions in the secondary, it’s going to take some games for the players to mesh with each other.
The success of this team really hinges on the arm of Blake Bortles. When Bortles was drafted in 2014, the coaching staff knew he would be a raw prospect. After all, they wanted to redshirt him for the season but of course, it didn’t work out that way. Bortles was terrible in 2014, but every now and then he would make a play that would remind you of a potential. The script was pretty much the same in 2015. Bortle made great strides in his development, but he still wasn’t very good. If it wasn’t for the likes of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, this offense would’ve been a disaster.
The Allen brothers are arguably the best wide receiver duo in the NFL and they are just now entering their third season. Allen Robinson is a borderline top 5 receiver already and arguably the best deep threat in the NFL already. Robinson led the NFL in most yards on deep passes, pulling in 672 yards on 19 receptions of 20+ yards. Robinson had 14 touchdowns and Hurns had 10 himself last season. Hopefully in 2015, Julius Thomas will have more of an opportunity to return to his 2014 form. In free agency, Chris Ivory was added from the Jets and he’ll pair up with last year’s draft pick TJ Yeldon.
Despite added Kelvin Beachum in free agency, this offensive line is likely to be the weak point of the offense once again in 2016. Brandon Linder will return from injury after missing games in 2015 due to injury. Hopefully he will be able to return to his 2014 form. But damn. Luke Joeckel is still playing football for the Jaguars. Fortunately, Bortles is enough of an athlete to overcome the offensive line woes, but he’ll have to elevate his overall play if this team wants to contend for a playoff spot.
Bortles is physically talented, but his mechanics are sloppy and his decision making is awful. Bortles threw a league-high 18 interceptions and according to Football Outsiders adjusted interception metric (which accounts for passes either dropped by the defender or knocked out of the defender’s hands by the receiver as well as the already accounted for interceptions) he could’ve thrown 28.
It doesn’t matter that Andrew Luck is back. The Jaguars have the most talented roster in that division and it’s time to show up.
But unfortunately, I don’t have as much faith as I would like in this football team. Already, I believe the AFC South winner will probably be a 9-7 team. I look at Jacksonville at best an 8-8 team this year. That might not be enough to save Bradley’s job.