Blake Bortles was drafted No. 3 overall in order to be the Jaguars’ QB of the future. But the future is not now, and Jaguars have very little to convince fans that they will be a contender in 2014.
Coming in at No. 31 on the fanatix NFL Power Ranking is yet another AFC South team, the Jacksonville Jaguars:
Recap of 2013
In 2013 the Jaguars were the AFC’s worst team in almost every category: points scored, total yards, rushing yards, third down conversion percentage, punt returns, yards allowed, and sacks. The team started the season 0-8 but went 4-4 the rest of the way. However, the team’s total margin of victory in its four wins was only 20 points.
The Jaguars had only three games where they scored 21 points or more compared to six games where they could not score more than 10 points – needless to say, the offense was an issue.
Defensively things were just as abysmal – the Jaguars were outscored by 14 or more points eight times and allowed at least 30 points on six different occasions.
Recap of 2014 Offseason
Wide receiver Justin Blackmon was suspended for the entire 2014 season and former starter Blaine Gabbert was jettisoned to the 49ers. Long-time RB Maurice Jones-Drew also left for Oakland while 14-year starting Center Brad Meester retired.
The team signed free agent RB Toby Gerhart to replace Jones-Drew – Gerhart played several years of spot duty behind Adrian Peterson in Minnesota but was a rushing legend back in college.
With huge needs on the entire offense, the Jaguars drafted Blake Bortles with the No. 3 overall pick, then drafted a pair of highly touted receivers in the 2nd round to help prepare for life without Justin Blackmon.
Position of Strength: Wide receiver
While the Jaguars lack experience in the receiving corps, the potential is through the roof. Between 2013 leading receiver Cecil Shorts, explosive rookie Marquise Lee and the overpowering size of rookie Allen Robinson, the Jaguars have a group of receivers that would make many NFL QBs drool.
The teams does not have a single wideout with more than three years’ experience and the team’s current QB situation lacks promise (at best) so there will probably be significant growing pains for the group. However, it is most likely that most of the success the Jaguars experience in 2014 will be the result of breakout performances by the WRs.
Position of Weakness: Secondary
The Jaguars secondary looks terrible. The team made no efforts to bring in veteran talent for a unit that was 25th in passing yards allowed and 26th in interceptions, while allowing 27 or more points in 11 games in 2013.
The only thing to be optimistic about this unit is that the several rookies who had extensive playing time in 2013 are a year older and should have their feet under them in 2014 – namely Johnathan Cyprien, a top rated safety out of FIU when he was drafted in 2013.
Best Case Scenario
The Jaguars have only five games against teams that had a winning record in 2013. Of those teams, only the Cincinnati Bengals ranked in the top 10 on both offense and defense.
The month of October, where the Jaguars play 3 games out of 4 at home, looks like the best candidate for the Jaguars to string together a few wins.
A December where they face the rebuilding Texans twice as well as the Titans and the Ravens should give the Jaguars a chance to finish the year with a few extra wins.
Ultimately this team seems destined for a playoff miss, but some strong play on offense against the more vulnerable defenses like the Cowboys, Eagles, and Redskins could propel them to a 7-9, maybe even an 8-8 record.
Worst Case Scenario
With an offense that is both young and somewhat injury prone, the Jaguars could easily stumble out the gate and get blown out in September – three of four games against a top 5 offense.
With a defense that has no proven pass rusher or playmaker in the defensive backfield, the team could take a very long time to establish an identity. The team could easily end the first month winless and trudge through the rest of the season barely competing and ending the season very similarly to 2013.
While the team seems unlikely to fire head coach Gus Bradley after two seasons with a bad roster, the front office may experience serious changes.
Prediction: 3rd place in AFC South, no playoffs