After yet another disappointing and underwhelming season, the Jaguars hit the reset button.
Tom Coughlin was handed the keys to the franchise, the former coach is now the VP of Football Operations and has final say on personnel. Gus Bradley is out and Doug Marrone is in at head coach. And uninspiring signal caller Blake Bortles will be replaced by… Blake Bortles? Oh well, nothings perfect. So with changes in mind, what has to happen for the Jaguars to turn things around? Have the changes that have already happened hurt or helped? Lets dive in…
Offseason So Far
Tom Coughlin was the Jaguars head coach from their inception in 1995 through the 2002 season. In those eight seasons he went 68-60, and made it to the playoffs four times and reached two AFC title games. He was fired after the 2002 season. After a year out of football, he was hired as the head coach of the New York Giants. He stayed in that job until 2015, winning 2 Super Bowls along the way. Now he’s back, and he brings his “Bill Parcells Culture” with him. Hopefully his disciplinarian style is a positive and doesn’t cause friction with the players.
Gus Bradley was obviously in over his head as head coach. Hopefully Doug Marrone can at least bring some sense of competence to the job. It’s not like he can do much worse; the Jaguars have suffered through 6 straight losing seasons and have gone a stellar 22-74 over that stretch. In retrospect, the New England Patriots have won 26 games over the last 2 season. Hey, nowhere to go but up, right?
On The Right Track?
So far in free agency, the Jaguars have made some very nice moves. Early on in the process the team scooped up cornerback AJ Bouye from arch rival Houston, as well as D-lineman Calais Campbell from Arizona on big money deals. They then also boosted their secondary with Safety Barry Church and traded for Lineman Brandon Albert of the Dolphins.
Overall the teams roster looks much improved. The defense is strong and talented. The line includes young pass rushers Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler as well as stout veterans in Campbell and former Bronco Malik Jackson. The secondary has Bouye and Church to go along with second-year stud Jalen Ramsey. And the linebacker corps is solid and could get better if Myles Jack ever reaches his potential.
The teams offense has some talent as well. Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson, and Marquise Lee complete a formidable receiving core. The backfield is manned by the underused and underrated TJ Yeldon, as well as dreadlocked fumble-master Chris Ivory. Yeldon is a far better receiver and protects the ball much better than Ivory. Yeldon has only fumbled the ball twice on 398 career NFL touches. Last season, Ivory had 5 fumbles on just 137 touches. Ivory as fared much more poorly than I’m sure the team expected when they handed him a 5 year $35 million dollar contract last offseason.
Work To Do?
The Bortles situation is by far the most important decision that lays ahead for the organization. According to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times Union, Jacksonville is unlikely to exercise the former Central Florida signal caller’s fifth year option. If the Jaguars give up on Bortles, they will likely draft a QB this year. If they don’t, it will become obvious that the team isn’t ready to give up on their 2014 pick and that they still see him as a good athlete with a strong arm who can do an adequate job running the teams offense.
Sadly, Bortles’ last two seasons have been much of the same. The main difference between last season and 2015 was that his receivers helped him out less, and he didn’t accrue more garbage time stats. In 2015’s “breakout” season, 1789 of Bortles’ 4,428 yards and 16 of his 35 TDs came when his team was trailing by at least 2 scores. It’s easy to put up stats when the other team is playing prevent. This past season 11 of his 23 touchdown passes occurred with the team trailing by more than 2 scores as well. I’m not saying numbers lie, but they don’t always tell the whole truth. Bortles need to improve his footwork and accuracy and cut down on turnovers if he has any hope of remaining an NFL starter. He’s had 69 turnovers so far in his 3 year career, and even for a rookie thrown to the wolves, that’s just plain unacceptable.
What Should They Do In The Draft?
The team needs help on the o-line and at tight end. Also, if the front office isn’t sold on Bortles as the answer (and unless the question is who’s not a good NFL QB?) then they should take a QB early if it fits their board. I could also see them taking a look at the elite running backs as well. Keep an eye on Leonard Fournette at pick #4 in the first round.
The Jags have had a good offseason so far. I love the moves to upgrade the roster, and a strong draft can only help. If they can figure out the quarterback position, this team will really become a threat in the AFC South.