Saying the Jacksonville Jaguars have struggled is an understatement. The Jags have only had one winning season in the last decade-the 2017 “Sacksonville” team that went to the AFC Championship Game. But outside of that year, the Jags haven’t sniffed the playoffs. Now with a new coach, QB, and front office, there looks to be a new era in Duval County.
The 2020 Season and Offseason
The 2020 Jaguars were the worst team in the league, with a 1-15 record. After opening the season with an upset win over the Indianapolis Colts, the Jags went on to lose 15 STRAIGHT. The quarterback position was a mess through the year. Gardner Minshew opened the season as starter before an injury sidelined him. Rookie Jake Luton only lasted three games before he was shafted in favor of journeyman Mike Glennon. Luton also had a 2-6 TD/INT ratio in those three games. Glennon was a step up from Luton but he was also winless in five starts.
The defense, long gone from the Sacksonville days, was flat out bad in 2020. 27th ranked passing defense bad. 30th in rushing defense bad. The 31st ranked scoring defense bad. The defense allowed over 30 points in nine different contests alone.
Head coach Doug Marrone was given the pink slip at season’s end. Following behind general manager Dave Caldwell, fired last November. This gave the Jags a reset from an era that started with promise. However, it was also one mired in controversy.
As a result, the Jags entered the 2021 offseason with two vacancies to fill. At the GM spot, interim GM Trent Baalke now fills the role. This is the first GM job for Baalke since 2016 with the San Francisco 49ers. At head coach, they went hired three-time college national champion Urban Meyer. This will be Meyer’s first stint in the NFL after 20 years at the NCAA level.
There has been a QB carousel in Duval County for years now. From David Garrard to Blaine Gabbert to Blake Bortles to Nick Foles and Garner Minshew. It’s an understatement that the Jacksonville Jaguars need some stability at QB.
As a result of the 1-15 season, they were awarded the No.1 overall pick. Effectively winning the sweepstakes for Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence is one of the most hyped prospects coming to the league in years. Scouts hailed praise for his combination of accuracy, arm strength, and athleticism throughout his time at Clemson. Additionally, he won championships at both high school and college with a combined 86-4 record. While he may lose more at the NFL, Lawrence has a winning pedigree that goes along with his skill. With Minshew now in Philadelphia, Lawrence looks to take the reigns as starter.
The Jacksonville Jaguars Offense
As far as Lawrence’s supporting cast, at running back is James Robinson. An undrafted rookie in 2020, Robinson broke out for a 1,000 yard, 7 TD season, adding another 344 yards and 3 TDs from the passing game. The Jags also used the 25th overall pick in 2021 on Lawrence’s Clemson teammate, Travis Etienne. However, we will not see Etienne this year due to a foot injury he suffered in the preseason. As a result, Carlos Hyde will serve as backup in his second stint with the team.
At receiver, one notable addition in the offseason was Marvin Jones Jr. from Detroit. Jones comes to the Jaguars on a 2-year deal after totaling over 4,000 yards and 36 TDs over his five seasons with the Lions. Opposite of Jones is fourth year veteran D.J. Chark, who looks to bounce back after his production took a dip in 2020. After a 73/1,008/7 line in 2019, Chark’s stats fell to a 53/706/5 statline. Lastly is Laviska Shenault Jr., their second-round pick from 2020. Shenault serves as a versatile weapon used on the outside, slot, and backfield all in his rookie season, racking 691 total yards and 5 TDs. James O’Shaugnessy and Chris Manhertz round out the group at tight end.
The offensive line may be the big challenge for Lawrence in his rookie campaign. They retain the unit of Cam Robinson-Andrew Norwell-Brandon Linder-A.J. Cann-Jawaan Taylor. They will get Linder back after missing seven games in 2020. While Linder and Norwell are known as great pass protectors, the tackles are the noted weakness on the line. This may be the last chance for Robinson. After giving him the franchise tag in March, the Jags used a second round pick on another tackle in Walker Little, who’s Robinson current backup.
Rebuilding the Jaguars Defense
Throughout the offseason, Baalke gave a lot of attention to the defense. Whether it was through free agency or the draft, there are a lot of new faces on this D in 2021.
The defensive line features two of them in Malcom Brown and Roy Robertson-Harris. Brown comes to Jacksonville after being traded from New Orleans, where he started for the last two years. Robertson-Harris signed with the team after spending his first five seasons with the Chicago Bears as a rotational piece. Second-year nose tackle DaVon Hamilton rounds out the line.
On the edge, Josh Allen will look to rebound after a knee injury ended his season early. Opposite of him is 2020 first rounder K’Lavon Chaisson, who had a disappointing year in his own right, with only one sack and 19 tackles in 2020. Myles Jack returns as the lone starter from the 2017 defense coming off a career-high 118 tackles. Damien Wilson joins the linebacking group after two years in Kansas City, including being a starter on the 2020 team that won the Super Bowl.
The secondary has received the most focus from Baalke, namely in the form of Shaquill Griffin. Griffin was the Jags’ marquee signing in the offseason, inking him to a three-year, $44.5 million deal to lure him from Seattle. He pairs up with C.J. Henderson, the former 9th overall pick from a year ago. Henderson, similar to Allen, had his season cut short due to injury. The team also spent a second-round pick on another corner in Tyson Campbell from Georgia who could see the field early as well.
Another big signing was Rayshawn Jenkins, who was signed away from the Chargers on a four-year deal. Jenkins is coming off a career year with 84 tackles, 2 picks, 4 pass breakups and a sack. Alongside him is Rudy Ford, who gets his first chance to start after being a special teams guy with Arizona and Philadelphia. Rookie safety Andre Cisco, just like Campbell, could see playing time early.
Jacksonville Jaguars Outlook
The Jacksonville Jaguars are not a finished product yet, but they are on the right track. With Trevor Lawrence and the weapons surrounding him, they will be an exciting offense to watch. The defense will have its growing pains with the young players and first time starters in the lineup, which will likely hold them back in 2021. Look for the Jaguars to be very competitive this year, and hopefully continue to build around their investment at QB.
The Jaguars will open the season on September 12th traveling to face the Houston Texans at 1 p.m.
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