Today we continue our 32 Team Preview and will be breaking down the Jacksonville Jaguars. It’s been pretty rough for the Jags; they have only won 27 out of 80 games since 2008. They’ll be coming into the 2013 season with a new Head Coach, former Buccaneers Linebacker Coach and Seattle Seahawks Defensive Coordinator, Gus Bradley. Coach Bradley has his hands full with a team that finished 29th in Total Offense and 30th in Total Defense. I believe Bradley will bring a Greg Schiano type of attitude to his team though, and get them back on track to success.
Offense: 3rd year starter, Quarterback Blaine Gabbert, will lead the Offense. Gabbert will be looking to improve from an injury-filled 2012 season where he only started 10 games. If the Jaguars are going to be good on Offense this upcoming year, Gabbert is going to have to stay healthy and show major improvement in his mental game. Also coming off injury is, Running Back, Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jags Offense really struggled without Maurice last season. Jones-Drew is one of the best backs in the league, when healthy, and will help take pressure off Gabbert if he can return to his previous form. An un-drafted free agent, who could make this team at Running Back or Fullback, is Lonnie Pryor. Pryor was key to the Florida State Seminole Offense at both positions. He was always a strong blocker and had 124 carries for 718 yards and 18 touchdowns in his college career. The Wide Receivers for Jacksonville are a decent set of talent. Due to the league’s substance abuse policy, Wide Receiver Justin Blackmon, 1st round pick from the 2012 NFL Draft, will be out the first 4 games of the season. The Jaguars will definitely miss his presence for the first quarter of the year and will be looking to Cecil Shorts, (breakout year in 2012 with 55 catches, 979 yards, 7 touchdowns and 17 plays over 20 yards), newly acquired Mohamed Massaquoi, and draft pick Ace Sanders (Rookie out of South Carolina posted 90 career catches for 1,138 yards with 11 touchdown and can light the field on fire with his speed), to pick up the slack. The Tight End position isn’t really deep for the Jaguars, with Marcedes Lewis being really all they have. Lewis hasn’t had a good season since 2010, when he had 58 catches for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns. Jacksonville is going to need him to really step his game up in 2013. First time NFL Offensive Coordinator Jedd Fisch’s biggest task will be getting him involved again with this struggling Offense. Their Offensive Line already had a Pro Bowl caliber Tackle in Eugene Monroe. Then Jacksonville drafted Luke Joeckel with their 2nd overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, which could possibly make them the best LT/RT tandem in the league, if Joeckel turns out to be what a lot of experts projected. The wild card in this offense will be Denard Robinson who was the 135th overall pick in 2013. The Jags have plans to use him in many different ways, whether it is Running Back, Receiver, or Quarterback, and you will see him used on many trick plays. If Jacksonville is going to succeed in 2013, they’ll have to improve on their rankings of 21st Passing and 30th Rushing from 2012.
Defense: Paul Posluszny rejuvenated his career in 2012 with a career high 106 solo tackles, 3 interceptions, and 2 sacks. With both he and fellow Linebacker Russell Allen, who made his presence known with 107 solo tackles (9 tackles for loss), the Jaguars Defense has something to build off this season. Geno Hayes, formally with the Bears and Buccaneers, and Greg Jones, who played with the Giants last year, have been brought in for depth and to compete for a starting spot. If all players stay healthy next season, the Jaguars will have a pretty solid Linebacker group. The team added stud Safety Johnathan Cyprien with the 33rd pick in the draft to bolster the Secondary, and should see immediate results with him added in the lineup. Cyprien tallied 365 tackles, 6 interceptions and 6 forced fumbles in his 4 years at Florida International. He should learn the game well being placed beside a quality veteran like Dwight Lowery. The Jaguars Secondary is in a rebuilding mode. They allowed Aaron Ross, Dawan Landry, and a good young prospect in Derek Cox, to go in free agency. The team also decided to cut ties with long time Cornerback Rashean Mathis. Former Cowboy Alan Ball and 10-year vet Marcus Trufant were brought in to try and fill some holes, but the Jaguars might still be vulnerable in the Defensive backfield this season. The Defensive Line will see former 1st Round pick Tyson Alualu moving to End in 2013. Jacksonville thinks he’ll be a better fit at that position than he has been at Tackle. On the other side of Alualu is, Defensive End, Jason Babin whom they claimed off waivers from Philadelphia in late November 2012. If Babin can have a Posluszny-type of rejuvenation in Jacksonville, it might spark him getting enough pressure on the Quarterback to put some ease on the weak Secondary. The whole key to this Defense succeeding this upcoming season will be getting pressure on the Quarterback. If they can’t do that, Quarterbacks will tear them apart on Sundays.
End Result: I see Jacksonville finishing 2nd from the bottom in the division and having a Top 10 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft as they go 5-11.