Jacksonville So Far
During a miserable season like the 1-10 Jaguars are enduring, it is hard for many fans to find positives, but that's why I'm here. A lot of questions surfaced prior to the season's start and, while they haven't all been answered, fans can be optimistic about the answers. Many were wondering about the run game, the offensive line, the quarterback situation, the defense, the presence of offensive weapons, and the level of talent on the team. Despite what many people believe, if you analyze the Jacksonville Jaguars and watch them closely, you'll see a very talented team.
Defensively, I raved about the Jaguars coming into the season, they've suffered some key injuries, but now they are becoming more consistent with all of the young talent progressing. The Jags' front is the most impressive, it seems like the pass rush is back in Jax as they are currently 3rd in sacks with a deep rotation of pass rushers. Sen'Derrick Marks is easily a top five interior lineman, he leads the Jags in sacks with five and is 5th amongst defensive tackles. Chris Clemons, the free agent pickup from Seattle has been good, he's got seven sacks; behind him, Ryan Davis, the 2nd year defensive end out of Bethune Cookman, has 5.5 coming off the bench; also off the bench, Andre Branch has 3. 12 Jaguars have been in on sacks, that's more players than Dolphins[who are second in sacks] have.
Rookie Telvin Smith is an athletic playmaker at outside linebacker, he's already picked up an AFC defensive player of the week honor; Paul Posluszny is a MACHINE, he's out for the season, but after he went down, he was in the top five in the league in tackles for two more weeks; Alan Ball has the potential to be a top tier cornerback with his length(6'2) and athleticism, he's been out all season; Johnathan Cyprien is very good in run support and he's not afraid to get physical with receivers stepping into his zone. I love his aggression and passion for the game. He and the other starting safety, Josh Evans, are both hard hitters, both in their second year, and both under the tutelage of former Jags great, Donovin Darius.
The Jags haven't been slacking in the turnover game either, they rank 3rd in forced fumbles and 5th in fumble recoveries. Don't be alarmed by the Jaguars allowing the most points in the league because that is more of an offensive issue. The offense is simply giving the opponents the ball too much. Opponents time of possession is 5th highest in the league against the Jaguars, that's just too much time, especially if your offense isn't finishing drives. The defense can be very good, I see them being in the top seven next year provided the offense improves.
Offensively, it's been rough, but there have been some bright spots so let's start there. Toby Gerhart is no longer the starting runningback(that was a terrible pickup) because Denard Robinson, the former Michigan star, has emerged as the feature back. He's averaging 82.8 yards a game in games with 10+ carries. Had he started all season, he'd be 4th in the league with those numbers. You probably hear that the Jags do not have receivers, but I am here to tell you, that's not the case. Though they've battled injuries and suspension all year(leading to only having five receivers on the active roster), this unit is filled with talent and has not been bad. Cecil Shorts is very capable. If he could manage to have a healthy season, he'd easily be a thousand yard receiver and hopefully that will be the case with the new rookie talent. Headlining the three rookies is Allen Robinson, a 6'3, 220 lb receiver with a 39 in. vertical who was an all-American last year and led the Big Ten in receiving the last two years. His season is over after 10 games because of a broken foot. Robinson was on pace to have the most catches of any Jaguars receiver since Jimmy Smith in 2002 and more yards than any Jacksonville receiver last year. Robinson showed to be a reliable target. Allen Hurns, the 6'1 200 pounder out of Miami set the Hurricanes single season receiving yards record last year and, if he can keep it up, will catch the most touchdowns of any Jags player since Mercedes Lewis in 2010, when Lewis was a pro bowler. Hurns has made his share of mistakes, but he has shown that he can make some terrific plays adjusting to the ball and running after the catch. Marqise Lee has been battling several injuries this season, but he seems healthy now. One hopes he can be the same guy we saw at USC. As a Freshman, Lee had over a thousand yards and 11 touchdowns; the next year, he had even more yards and over a hundred catches, winning top receiver in the nation honors; but, the season leading up to the draft, he missed three games because of injuries. Weapons? They got em.
Despite the interception total, which now stands at 15, Bortles has still impressed. Bortles' completion percentage is better than that of Andy Dalton, Matthew Stafford, Colin Kaepernick, and Cam Newton, all have been to the playoffs and have a chance at the playoffs this season. Right now, Bortles is averaging more passing yards than any Jags quarterback in this millennium. The only person to average more was Mark Brunell in '97(5th) and '96(led the league), two playoff seasons. Bortles is a rookie with a very young group of guys around him. He is standing in the pocket, trusting his arm, and using his mobility, he really looks like a natural out there. Keep chucking it, Blake.
The one glaring issue is the offensive line. They have allowed more sacks than anyone in the league and the run blocking hasn't been great either. Something definitely has to change here. This another very young unit with two rookie starters in Linder and Bowonko, and a second year starter in Luke Joeckel. Joeckel hasn't missed a game and now that he's healthy, hopefully he can live up to his number two pick potential. The Jags have been looking for a right tackle all season and he is not there. I would draft a good tackle early and search for a steal at guard. The rookies have shown potential, but they need to progress fast for this offense to reach it's full potential.
There's definitely potential on this team and in this coaching staff. A few more good personnel moves and this team can contend for the division. I can see this team being a defensive powerhouse like the Jaguars of old, but with more scoring threats. I know it can be frustrating to watch for fans and agonizing for football lovers, but if you keep an open mind and really look at his team, you'll see that they are one of the most talented teams in the league and that may be hard to see when you're the second youngest team in the NFL with the average age of 25 years old. Some pieces are needed, but this team is not devoid of good players.
Draft Needs: Tackle, Guard, Outside Linebacker, Runningback, Tight end, Receiver
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