2015 NFL Season Preview- Jacksonville Jaguars
Despite winning one less game than 2013, the Jaguars look to have built a foundation for a potential playoff contender in the future.
Despite throwing more interceptions than touchdowns and needing improvement in his fundamentals and footwork, Blake Bortles looks to be the quarterback of the future and has the intangibles to be the leader of the franchise. The running backs were plagued by injuries as Toby Gerhart got hurt in the season opener an Denard Robinson was placed on injured reserve with a foot sprain. The team struck gold with three rookie wide receivers in Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, and Allen Hurns, who have the potential to be the next great receiving corps.
The defense took a big step in becoming the unit head coach Gus Bradley envisioned. The defensive line was solid and used rotations to keep players fresh. Defensive tackle Sen' Derrick Marks was playing at a pro bowl level before injuring his knee in the season finale. After middle linebacker Paul Posluszny injured his biceps, the run defense went down hill.
The rookie class was as good as Jacksonville has had in years. Blake Bortles started 13 games and looks the part of franchise quarterback despite going through growing pains. Wide receiver Marqise Lee struggled early but showed the speed to be a dangerous deep threat. Allen Robinson was a reliable target and caught 48 passes before going on injured reserve 10 games into the season. Linebacker Telvin Smith showed great potential for his size at the seaside backer. Running back Storm Johnson came on late and could develop into a nice change of pace. Undrafted receiver Allen Hurns was a surprise becoming the go to receiver early in the year.
Jaguars 2014 Rankings
Opponent Passing Yards
Opponent Rushing Yards
NFL Rank- 31st
NFL Rank- 21st
NFL Rank- 22nd
NFL Rank- 27th
NFL Rank- 31st
NFL Rank- 26th
After finishing 31st in passing yards and total offense, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch was fired. He was replaced by former Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson who helped Derek Carr become the top rookie quarterback in the league.
The big question of the offseason is, What will the team do with Justin Blackmon? The former first round pick has played in just four game over the past two years because of his drug problems.
Notable Additions- TE Julius Thomas, OT Jeremy Parnell, C Stefen Wisniewski, DT Jared Odrick
Notable Departures- WR Cecil Shorts, DT Red Bryant, CB Alan Ball, CB Will Blackmon
Blake Bortles Rookie Highlights
2015 NFL Draft
For the second straight year, Jacksonville held the third overall pick in the draft. The teams needs to address issues primarily at offensive lineman, defensive end, and safety.
The offensive line lacks experience and last season was proof of that as the unit struggled to protect Blake Bortles. The line needs a player who can play physically and stay healthy.
The defensive end were solid for the most part but the team doesn't have a franchise type pass rusher who can constantly disrupt the quarterback or require a double team.
Safeties Jonathan Cyprien and Josh Evans weren't the playmakers the team hoped they would be. Jacksonville needs to add a game changer who can create turnovers.
The team ended up selecting Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. with the third overall pick. Fowler was seen as the top run defending outside linebacker in the draft but has to get stronger if he hope to rush the passer in Jacksonville's 4-3 defense. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, Fowler tore his ACL on the first day of OTA's and will be lost for the season.
The team also stockpiled a bundle of talent in later rounds of the draft including Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon in the second round, South Carolina guard A.J. Cann in the third, Florida State wide receiver Rashid Greene in the fifth, Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Bennett in the sixth, and Notre Dame tight end Ben Koyack in the seventh. Yeldon was praised for his deceptive speed but criticized for his ball security. Cann was seen as the top guard in the draft and has the best pass blocking ability but he doesn't have the agility for a zone blocking scheme. Greene was the go to target for Jameis Winston last season and left Florida State with several school records but his lean frame could get him in trouble with more physical corners. Bennett was viewed as the top pass rushing defensive tackle in the draft but has to improve strength to shed blocks. Koyack runs the best routes of any tight end in this draft but needs a year to build up muscle and develop further.
The team also signed cornerback Nick Marshall from Auburn as an undrafted free agent. Marshall was a dynamic athlete in college but he was a quarterback and has little experience as a defensive back.
Dante Fowler Jr. Highlights
What to Expect
Expect a lot of improvement on both sides of the ball. Bortles has already shown he has the tools to be the quarterback of the future. Adding depth to the running backs and receiving corps will give the Jags many options by which to attack a defense. With a bounty of tight ends, it will be interesting to see if the team will try to trade Mercedes Lewis who is entering the final year of his contract.
The front seven now has enough depth at both levels to run the rotation that Gus Bradley established in Seattle. If Sen'Derrick Marks isn't at 100% by the start of the season, Michael Bennett is more than capable of being a starting defensive tackle. The big concern is the secondary. If Dwayne Gratz and Jonathan Cyprien can get back to their consistent forms, this defense can really be special.
That being said, I feel this team is a year or two away from being true contenders. It will take time and effort to knock Indianapolis and Houston off the top tier of the AFC South. Given time to build, the talent on this team can be something special.
Best record they can hope for: 6-10