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NFL Team Previews: Jacksonville Jaguars

People have forgotten the 2017 team that should have won in Foxborough and played the Eagles in the Super Bowl.

2018 Season Review: 5-11 (4th in AFC South)

Coming off an AFC Championship loss to the New England Patriots, a game they should have won, the Jags had a lot of expectations coming into 2018. They resigned Bortles hoping he’d improve on a succesfull end to the 2017 season. They drafted for depth and brought Andrew Norwell from Carolina to bolster their offensive line.

The Jags jumped out to a 3-1 start, including a dominating 31-20 win over the New England Patriots. Things looked good. They were running the ball well, Bortles was playing good enough, and the defense was still great. Then came week 5 where they went into Kansas City and got beat convincingly against the #1 offense in the league 30-14. After that, the Jags wouldn’t win a game until December 2nd.

Bortles regressed, Fournette was in and out of the lineup, their offensive line couldn’t stay healthy, and the offense as a whole just collapsed. The Jaguars averaged just 15.3 PPG which was 31st in the league and absolutely pitiful. They only threw for 194.3 yards per game and only 107.7 yards rushing per game which was 19th in the league, and was supposed to be the staple of the Jags offense. However, that’s what happens when only one player on your offensive line plays all 16 games and your stud RB only plays in 8 games all year.

Even playing in 8 games, Fournette only managed 439 yards and that still led the team. Receiving wise, Dede Westbrook led the team by managing just 717 yards. This offensive had no explosiveness, and no players outside of Fournette who couldn’t even stay healthy.

The highlight for the Jags was their defense who held opponents to just 19.8 points per game that was tied for 4th in the league withe Houston Texans. Their defense didn’t create as many turnovers the probably wanted though, they only managed 11 INTS and only 6 fumbles. Their offense gave the ball away 29 times. Not a good turnover ratio at -18 which was second worst in the league. The Jags also lacked in the sack department, they only managed 37 on the year which was tied with teams like Cleveland, Atlanta, and San Francisco in the bottom half of the league.

The Jags defense was playing to their 2017 level but the offense was not and that led to some frustrations. It was reported that the Jags locker room got so bad that reporters weren’t allowed in at some points during the season and they could hear the bitching and arguing going on. The Jags in 2018 were a severe disappointment.

Key Off Season Acquisitions

QB Nick Foles (4 years, $88 Million)

The biggest QB move of the off season and also the most predictable free agent move in a long time? The Jags may have overpaid but they have the defense and RB to win now. Foles has had one good “full year” in the NFL, that was back in 2013 where he played in 13 total games and threw for 27 TDs and 2 INTs in Chip Kelly’s cute little offense. Since then, he’s been hurt, a starter for the Rams, backup in Kansas City, and the backup in Philly the past two years. Foles made his money by playing exceptionally well in the past two post seasons for the Eagles. So what will he bring to the Jags? Well the question should be what do the Jags hope he brings? They hope he brings stability, and consistent good QB play they can trust to put the ball in his hands and let him go. It was obvious the Jags staff didn’t trust Bortles the last two years and didn’t want him throwing the ball too much. Foles should change that. Although the Jags will be a run first team, there will be no kneeling the ball with timeouts left at the end of the 1st half. Foles has the weight of a whole franchise on his back, and the eyes of everybody in the NFL on him.

ILB Jake Ryan (2 years $7.5 Million)*

I put a star next to this one because this all depends on how Jake Ryan comes back from his ACL tear he suffered last year with the Packers. Ryan was a stud in college at Michigan and started along side Blake Martinez in a 3-4 defense with the Packers. The benefit of Ryan signing here helps him and the Jags. For Ryan, he’ll go back to playing a normal MLB position he played at Michigan. For the Jags, if Ryan can start at MLB for them then they can play Myles Jack at OLB which is his natural position.

Offensive Coordinator John DeFlippio

From jaguars.com

Worth noting here that with Bortles gone to LA, the Jags also got rid of Elnath Hackett who is now in Green Bay. DeFlippio was part of that Eagles staff who helped Nick Foles lead the Eagles over the Patriots in the Super Bowl so this seemed like a natural fit in that sense. In another way, DeFlippio got axed from Minnesota because he didn’t run the ball enough. Guess what the Jags want to do? Run the damn ball. DeFlippio is going to have to adjust his play calling but there no doubt he’s not only going to get pressure from HC Doug Marrone, but also Tom Coughlin. Smart move to get the QB Coach who was there for Foles best run as a starting QB in the NFL.

2019 NFL Draft

Round 1 Pick #7: DE/LB Josh Allen

Allen was regarded as the best pass rushing player in this draft, and of course he went to a defense that is absolutely loaded. Allen was a fucking stud for Kentucky, the dude racked up 17.0 sacks in 13 games for Kentucky while also adding 88 tackles and 21.5 tackles for loss. David Gettleman, what the fuck were you thinking. He’s a hybrid guy that can stand up in a 3-4 or put his hand in the ground in a 4-3. The Jags play a 4-3 so Allen should be down in the ground most of the time, but I would expect they’re going to move him all over.

Round 3 Pick #35: OT Jawaan Taylor

Gotta protect your two most important assets, Nick Foles and Leonard Fournette, so the Jags traded up and took Taylor in the second round as a guy who was expected to go in the first round. Taylor will play RT for the Jags a immediately upgrade that side of the line. The Jags have invested the past two years in their offensive line and if they stay healthy this year, it should be a great unit for them.

Key Off Season Departures

DT Malik Jackson (lost via free agency to the Philadelphia Eagles)

Pretty big loss here for the Jags because Jackson is a fucking beast. The Jags are now left with 2018 first round pick Taven Bryan, Abry Jones, and Marcell Dareus. They also have Calais Campbell who they could move inside but with the loss of Jackson, if there is one weak spot on this defense then it will be here, right up the middle.

QB Blake Bortles (lost via free agency to the Los Angeles Rams)

Not a huge loss for the Jags but its hard not to mention when you lose your starting QB. If anything, this might reinvigorate this team on both sides of the ball. I don’t think the Jags ever fully trusted Bortles and that showed in their play calling. Bortles will do good for his career in LA and learn from one of the best. Bortles will probably sign somewhere in the 2020 season and have a chance to start then.

WR Donte Moncrief (lost via free agency to the Pittsburgh Steelers)

Moncrief is a good, big WR that I expect will flourish in Pittsburgh as the WR2 behind JuJu. Moncrief was held down by the poor Bortles play. If was still here with Nick Foles, I think Moncrief would have had a career year. Since his time in Indy, Moncrief has been on the verge of breaking out. I think he finally does in Pittsburgh.

2019 Preview

The Jaguars are a team nobody is talking about because of their recent history as a team, and their more recently their putrid 2018 season. Somehow people have forgotten how dominate this defense can be, and how a dominate defense can carry a team to playoffs or into playoff contention. People have forgotten the 2017 team that should have won in Foxborough and played the Eagles in the Super Bowl. Now there have been teams recently who have a one great year and then go back to sucking, looking at you Oakland.

What differs the Jags from Oakland is core of that 2017 team, the defense is still in tact. In 2019 if Nick Foles and John DeFlippio can bring that scoring average to even something like like 22 or 22 PPG versus the 15 PPG they did last year, then this defense will win them games with scores like 17-10, or 21-20 and so on. This defense will be top 10, at least in 2019 and they should be even better in 2019 at what they were bad at last year: sacks and turnovers. The addition of Josh Allen is huge. Rookie pass rushers have been shown to have the ability to make immediate impact in the NFL and there is zero reason to think Allen can’t do that for Jacksonville. Combine that with a very good LB corps and a great secondary, you have a recipe for a defense nobody wants to see.

Having praised the defense and said they can carry this team, they can only carry them so far. The 2000 Baltimore Ravens were great on defense and carried a trash offense and poor QB play. Those days are over, a great defense needs a solid offense to bring a team to the Super Bowl. Nick Foles doesn’t have to be the postseason Philadelphia Eagles Nick Foles, but he also can’t be the St. Louis Rams Nick Foles. He won’t be asked to do as much in Jacksonville as he was in Philly. Although Philly loved to run the ball and did it in exotic ways, Jacksonville will want to pound and punish teams with Leonard Fournette. Foles just has to avoid the awful turnovers, and be able to make plays downfield when the running game isn’t working.

Can’t emphasize enough how much stretching the defense with Foles will make this Jacksonville offense open up so much more. When I say the Jags didn’t trust Bortles, I mean it. I can barley remember any plays where Bortles took a shot deeper than 40 yards downfield. Foles loved throwing the ball downfield during his time with the Eagles. Jacksonville needs to put that pressure on defenses to show this isn’t the Jags of the past few years. If Fournette can stay healthy, and Foles shows he can play near that Pro Bowl level, this team will be in the playoffs again with one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Schedule

The AFC South plays the NFC South and AFC West this year. The Jags got last in their division so they also draw the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals.

The Jags get a tough game right out of the gate against the #1 overall offense from last year in the Kansas City Chiefs. The Jags can make a statement here though, a win here tells the NFL this team is back with Nick Foles at QB.

The Jags only get one prime-time game this year, and it’s the annual Thursday Night game against the Tennessee Titans in Week 3. The jaguars also get to go to London like they do every year, this time its a divisional game against the Houston Texans in Week 9. The Jags like the Bucs and Raiders when going to London don’t play a true home game in over a month. They play the Jets on October 27th then go to London, have their bye week, then have back to back road games against the Colts and Titans, before playing the Bucs at home on December 1st. The NFL really likes to fuck over these teams going to London that are playing the “home” game there.

The Jags don’t have the easiest start to the year, but they do have the chance to get a leg up on their division early. They can get two quick wins against the Texans and Titans and a win over a so-so Broncos team in Week 4. It wouldn’t be surprising to see this team 4-0 or 3-1 after a quarter of the season. The question will be is can they keep it up with a new QB?

Fantasy Player You Want

I have to go with the obvious here in Leonard Fournette. He’s the only guy who I am confidence in that can be a #1 guy at his position. You have to weary of Fournette being injured but if you believe the reports that he’ll be more involved in the passing game, then that just adds to his value.

Fantasy Player to Avoid

Nick Foles as your QB1. The Jags have ALOT of WRs but they all have questions. The Jags don’t have a proven TE, and although they want to use Fournette more in the passing game its unclear how successful he’s going to be there. You may think of the Philadelphia Eagles Nick Foles but I don’t see a guy whose going to throw for 30+ TDs in Jacksonville to the weapons he has.

Ceiling

I really like this team and this defense. I fully believe this defense could be better than last year and that alone will keep them in games. Combine that with an upgrade at QB and a healthy OLine there’s no reason why this team can’t win the AFC South. I like their schedule, they get some of the worst teams in the league last year in the Jets, Bengals, Raiders, and Bucs. I can see this team winning 11 games and taking the division.

Floor

Foles won’t be as bad as Bortles, but that doesn’t mean he’s a fix all for this offense. Also this is a new offense that DeFlippio is bringing in so they’re will be some growing pains. I think the Jags will at least win six games this year and improve on 2018.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
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