After shocking the league with a 10-6 record and making an AFC Conference Championship appearance in 2017, the Jacksonville Jaguars had a ton of promise heading into 2018 and even had some experts picking them to make it to the Super Bowl. Sadly, the team took a big step down, finishing with a 5-11 record. They had a promising 3-1 […]
After shocking the league with a 10-6 record and making an AFC Conference Championship appearance in 2017, the Jacksonville Jaguars had a ton of promise heading into 2018 and even had some experts picking them to make it to the Super Bowl. Sadly, the team took a big step down, finishing with a 5-11 record. They had a promising 3-1 start but a seven-game losing streak ruined their chance to have a playoff run.
The main problem was the offense failing to score in the end zone, particularly on starting QB Blake Bortles. Bortles had an up-and-down tenure with Jacksonville and he had more of a down year in 2018. Leonard Fournette, who had a solid rookie season in 2017, failed to repeat any success he had in 2018 due to injuries. On top of that, the receiving core was poor and failed to help Bortles have any sort of success.
That being said, the defense was still great in 2019. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye were great starting corners while defensive line, led by Yannick Ngakoue, Marcell Dareus, and Calais Campbell provided a solid pass rush. Still, what is the purpose of having a great defense if your offense can’t any points on the board?
The first thing Jacksonville did was find a new QB to go under center and they did just that. They released Bortles and in return signed Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles. Foles may not be a top QB in the league but he has shown throughout his career that he is a consistent quarterback. Outside of Foles, the team drafted Jawaan Taylor in the second round to protect Foles while also drafting Josh Oliver in the third round to provide a passing option to the former MVP.
As far as the defense, they did not make any huge changes, outside of releasing Mailk Johnson. They drafted Josh Allen in the first round to provide another pass rusher while also drafting Quincy Williams in the third round to boost the linebacking core. Another notable move was that starting linebacker Telvin Smith announced that he will retire for the 2019 season, in which he said in an Instagram post that he “needed to get his world in order.” Smith was a great young linebacker and the team hopes that he is just gone for this season alone and will come back in 2020 better than ever.
Before I get to my season prediction, here is the position breakdown for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Along with my thoughts, I have my predictions for the starting lineup, key backups, and who might on the outs once the finals 53-man roster is set.
- Starter: Nick Foles
- Backups: Gardner Minshew II
- Preseason Cuts: Alex McGough
Foles signed a four-year $88 million contract, making him the franchise QB and a huge upgrade over Bortles. Like stated earlier, he may not be one of the top QB’s in the league but he is very consistent, which is all you need when you have a fantastic defense.
Minshew was drafted in the sixth-round in this past draft and is likely the backup to Foles. McGough has impressed so far in the preseason and could be a practice squad candidate if they only want to keep two QBs on the roster.
- Starter: Leonard Fournette
- Backups: Alfred Blue, Ryquell Armstead, Thomas Rawls
- Preseason Cuts: Elijah Hood, Devante Mays
- Out for the Year: Taj McGowan, Roc Thomas
Fournette will look to bounce back after a sophomore slump. Injuries were part of it but he is a tough running back that’ll get the majority of the carries. Blue was signed from division rival Houston Texans and is a quality backup that can catch passes out of the backfield. Armstead was drafted in the fifth-round that provides an extra option as a speed back. Rawls is a veteran that is a good power back that’ll get some looks as well.
- Starters: Marquise Lee, Dede Westbrook
- Backups: DJ Chark, Chris Conley, Keelan Cole, Terrelle Pryor
- Preseason Cuts: C.J. Board, Tyre Brady, Quadree Henderson, Raqhael Leonard, Tre McBride, Michael Walker
- Out for the Year: Marcus Simms
This is a young group of wide receivers that have a lot to prove this season. Lee missed the entire 2018 season after tearing his ACL and looks to play in Week 1 after being moved to the active roster. Westbrook has the chance to be the lead receiver in the group after posting a 707 yard, five-touchdown season. Chark is in his second season but has the size and vertical speed to get a lot of looks in the offense.
Conley, Cole, and Pryor complete the group as speed receivers while the latter two will compete for Special Teams snaps.
- Starter: Josh Oliver, James O’Shaughnessy
- Backups: Geoff Swaim, Ben Koyack
- Preseason Cuts: Donnie Ernsberger, Charles Jones, Carson Meier, James O’Shaughnessy, Ethan Wolf
Oliver was drafted in the third round and will immediately start as he is the best receiving tight end in the group, something the team has missed out on for quite some time.
Swaim, Koyack, and O’Shaughnessy are all decent receivers but better blockers that will get playing time.
- Starters: Cam Robinson, Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, A.J. Cann, Jawaan Taylor
- Backups: Cedric Ogbuehi, Will Richardson, Brandon Thomas, Tyler Shatley
- Preseason Cuts: Ka’John Armstrong, Donnell Greene, Ben Ijalana, KC McDermott, Bunchy Stallings, Jawaan Taylor, Josh Wells, Leonard Wester
Robinson and Norwell start on the left side to create a nice run blocking duo on the left as well as protecting Foles’ blindside. Linder and Cann start at the center and right guard spot respectively. The right tackle seems to be a competition between Taylor and Ogbuehi. I have the rookie Taylor starting here as he looks to be a better, younger option.
Ogbuehi, as well as Richardson, Thomas, and Shatley provide nice depth on the line if any of the starters go down in case of injury.
- Starters: Yannick Ngakoue, Arby Jones, Marcell Dareus, Calais Campbell
- Backups: Josh Allen, Taven Bryan, Dawuane Smoot, Datone Jones
- Preseason Cuts: Dontavius Russell, Eli Ankou, Michael Hughes, Lyndon Johnson, Lerentee McCray, Kalani Vakameilalo, Andrew Williams
The defensive line is one of the best in the league. Ngakoue has become one of the best young pass rushers in the NFL while Campbell is a veteran that’ll look to continue his dominance on the opposite side. Jones and Dareus is a great starting duo that can stop the run as well as get after the quarterback.
Allen was drafted in the first round, which to me was questionable, given how great the starters are. Still, he’ll get on the field as he is a solid pass rusher. Bryan, Smoot, and Jones will provide depth on an already impressive defensive line.
- Starters: Quincy Williams, Myles Jack, Leon Jacobs
- Backups: Ramik Wilson, D.J. Alexander, Jake Ryan, Najee Goode
- Preseason Cuts: Joe Giles-Harris, Connor Strachan, Davis Tull
- Out for the Year: James Onwualu
- Retired for the Season: Telvin Smith
Smith taking 2019 off will hurt the linebacking core. Nonetheless, they still have some talent in the group. Jack is fast linebacker that can run around on the field while Jacobs is a 2018 seventh-round draft pick that has a lot of potential to replace Smith as the starter. Williams was drafted in the third round and is an athletic linebacker that’ll likely start to complete the trio.
Wilson, Ryan, and Goode are tackling machines that’ll provide good depth. Alexander gives the team more depth and is one of the better Special Teams aces in the league.
- Starters: Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye
- Backups: D.J. Hayden, Tre Herndon, Saivion Smith
- Preseason Cuts: Quenton Meeks, Breon Borders, Trae Hayes, Picasso Nelson Jr., Brandon Watson
Ramsey is in the conversation as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He is a lockdown corner while Bouye, a Pro Bowl player in his own right, is another solid corner opposite of him, having one of the best tandems at corner in the league.
Hayden, a former first-round pick, never developed into the star corner Oakland hoped for back in 2013 but is a solid nickel corner here. Herndon and Smith are young corners that’ll likely get on the field in the Special Teams department.
- Starters: Ronnie Harrison, Jarrod Wilson
- Backups: Cody Davis, C.J. Reavis, Andrew Wingard
- Preseason Cuts: Joshua Moon, Josh Robinson
- Out for the Year: Cody Brown
Harrison was drafted in the third round in 2018 and was a backup at the beginning of the 2018 season. Then starter Barry Church ended up being released by the team in the middle of the season, allowing Harrison to be the starter. He had his moments and showed he is a rising star in the safety position and should look to improve in year two. Wilson re-signed with the Jaguars in the offseason after an impressive run as a former undrafted player and will start next to Harrison.
Davis and Reavis both provide solid depth and could play in certain formations. Wingard is an undrafted rookie and has been playing a lot in the preseason so far and I have him making the team and will likely be playing on Special Teams early in his career.
- Kicker: Josh Lambo
- Punter: Logan Cooke
- Long Snapper: Matt Overton
- Preseason Cuts: None
No competition here in the trio of the Special Teams area as all three guys do not have any preseason battles. Lambo has been one of the more consistent kickers in the league while Cooke had a solid season as a rookie in 2018. Overton is a solid and consistent long snapper.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have a solid roster from top to bottom heading into 2019. The big thing here was that the team needed to upgrade the quarterback position and they did just that. Foles is no doubt an upgrade over Bortles and look for him to have a consistent season for Jacksonville. Fournette is still a solid back in the NFL after a down 2018 but he is a hard-nosed running back and he’ll bounce back nicely. The receiving core is young and has a lot to prove with guys like Lee, Westbrook, and Oliver will be solid targets for Foles to pass to.
The defense is still intact from last year outside of a few differences. The defensive line is incredible with Campbell and Ngakoue likely being in the top two when it comes to sacks on the team. Despite not having Smith, the linebacking core is solid with Jack leading the way. Bouye and Ramsey is an excellent corner tandem that’ll lock down the opposing receivers with ease while Harrison and Wilson is a young starting safety duo you should keep an eye on.
The AFC South, in my opinion, is a tough division as all the teams previously mentioned in my team previews (Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts). While I think the Texans are the favorites to win the division, it is a slight edge due to them having the better QB in Deshaun Watson. I have them in a better spot over the Colts due to the question of Andrew Luck’s health and Jacksonville having the better defense.
The defense will still be one of the best in the league and if Foles shows that he can be consistent and better than Bortles, I think the Jaguars could compete for a Wild Card spot and even win the division if they win the important games, especially against the divison favorite Texans.