QB Chad Henne, WR Laurent Robinson, WR Lee Evans, CB Aaron Ross.
Early Draft Picks:
WR Justin Blackmon, DE Andre Branch, P Bryan Anger, OLB Brandon Marshall.
DE Matt Roth, DE Aaron Kampman, DT Leger Douzable, CB Drew Coleman.
2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Offense:
Meet the league's worst offense. The best player in the unit is holding out and consequently will probably endure a down year. The top receiver is merely a rookie. And even worse, the quarterback doesn't have the backing or confidence of most of the personnel in the front office and coaching staff.
There are many Jacksonville decision-makers and coaches who think Blaine Gabbert is a lemon. This was widely reported more than a month ago. Gene Smith is one of the few who still believes in Gabbert; mostly everyone else thinks he will fail. There's no question that Gabbert has the physical tools, but he lacks something that no one can teach, which is courage. He would frequently close his eyes when throwing the ball because he was scared to take a hit. There's no way he's going to still be the starter by mid-October. Unfortunately, Chad Henne has no pocket presence or football IQ, so he won't be much more successful.
It almost doesn't matter who the receivers are, but Gene Smith cannot be criticized for failing to address the position this offseason. The big move was leaping the Rams to land Justin Blackmon in the 2012 NFL Draft. Blackmon is a skilled, physical, wideout, but he'll undoubtedly battle through rookie struggles, as most first-year players do. It doesn't help that he was arrested for an aggravated DUI in early June. The other new receiver is Laurent Robinson, signed over from Dallas. Robinson had a breakout 2011 campaign, but the Jaguars have made the crucial mistake of buying high; Robinson was seen as a slightly above-average, injury-prone wideout prior to last year. There's a big possibility that he'll regress. After all, the Jaguars don't have the greatest track record signing receivers on the market (Jerry Porter, Troy Williamson, etc.)
While Robinson figures to disappoint in 2012, tight end Marcedes Lewis let everyone down last season. Lewis, like Robinson, never lived up to expectations until he was set to receive a new contract. He signed a 5-year, $35 million guaranteed last August and then saw his numbers drop from 58-700-10 to 39-460-0. He still blocked well, but he was a non-factor in the aerial attack. Some of it is Gabbert's fault, but it didn't seem like Lewis was giving his full effort.
Someone who gave 100 percent was Maurice Jones-Drew. He was simply amazing. Despite the alarming lack of talent surrounding him, Jones-Drew gave 100 percent each week, compiling 1,606 rushing yards on a 4.7 yards-per-carry average. Unfortunately, as mentioned, he's holding out. Chris Johnson did the same thing last season, and it cost him. Another dubious indication is that Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing attempts, which is usually bad news. All but a few players who have paced the league in carries the past 25 years underperformed the following season.
The good news for Jones-Drew is that his entire offensive line returns intact. The bad news is that they aren't very good. The major liability up front is left guard Will Rackley. The second-year player was responsible for eight penalties and six sacks in 2011. He'll be better in his sophomore campaign, but it's unclear if he'll ever turn into a quality blocker. At least he'll be surrounded by a pair of talented linemen. Left tackle Eugene Monroe did a good job of keeping pass-rushers out of the backfield last year. Sure, he surrendered nine sacks, but most of those were on Gabbert. Center Brad Meester is a decent player, but there is some concern because he turned 35 this offseason.
The right side of the front has some issues. Guard Uche Nwaneri, a known Tim Tebow hater, is a decent pass blocker, but tends to struggle a bit when it comes to opening up running lanes. Right tackle Eben Britton is expected to be ready for the opener, but there's a chance he'll be on the PUP list coming off back surgery. If so, the dreadful Guy Whimper (14 sacks allowed) will have to start again, which will make things even more difficult for the worst starting quarterback in football.
2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense:
If it weren't for Maurice Jones-Drew and the defense, the Jaguars wouldn't have won a single game last year. Unfortunately, Jones-Drew will probably have a down year, as specified earlier, so Mel Tucker's stop unit will have to do everything by itself.
The Jaguars were fifth in both run defense (3.9 YPC) and pass defense (6.7 YPA), but they struggled to generate pressure on the quarterback, accumulating only 31 sacks in 2011. Leading pass-rusher Jeremy Mincey (8 sacks) was a free agent this offseason, so even though he was a one-year wonder, Gene Smith almost had to re-sign him to a 4-year, $27.2 million deal in March.
Smith also had to find some help across from Mincey, but the best he could come up with was second-round rookie Andre Branch. The Clemson product will battle Austen Lane for the starting job across from Mincey. Lane has looked very good at OTAs. It should be noted that Smith really wanted South Carolina's Melvin Ingram, and would have chosen him at No. 7 overall if he wasn't able to move up for Justin Blackmon.
Branch and Lane aren't the only Jaguars who will need to play well to improve the pass rush. Third-year defensive tackle Tyson Alualu is coming off a very disappointing 2011 campaign that was marred by knee problems. Alualu had knee surgery this offseason, but there's some fear that his issues could be chronic. He'll once again start next to Terrance Knighton, a monstrous run-stuffer who doesn't get to the quarterback.
Jacksonville's back seven - particularly the linebacking corps - is the reason why the team excelled in nearly every defensive category. Newly signed Paul Posluszny and perennially underrated Daryl Smith formed a dynamic duo. Both were terrific in pass coverage and run support, and even combined to tally 5.5 sacks. The third linebacker was Clint Session, who played OK in the first half of the year before going down for the year because of three concussions. Session participated in only five games in 2010 because of an elbow injury, so chances are that he'll be hurt again in 2012.
The secondary had its own injury issues late in the year. Starting cornerback Rashean Mathis tore his ACL in November. He could be ready for the start of the season, but given his age (32 in August), he could experience a decline in performance. Derek Cox, the starter across from Mathis, was in and out of the lineup last year because of groin and knee injuries. Unlike Mathis, Cox is still young (26 in September) and should have a decent 2012 campaign if he can stay healthy. If not, the Jaguars signed Aaron Ross as insurance. Ross, along with William Middleton, who played well last December, will provide great corner depth.
Jacksonville's safeties aren't a liability, but they aren't very good either. Dawan Landry had a mildly disappointing 2011 season after signing a 5-year, $27.5 million contract last season. Meanwhile, free safety Dwight Lowery struggled a bit in run support, which is not surprising because he's only 6-1, 185.
2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule and Intangibles:
Jacksonville's hot and humid climate contributed to its outstanding 81-47 home record since 1995, excluding a fluke 2008 campaign in which the team went 2-6 as hosts. The Jaguars were 4-4 at home last year, which isn't bad considering they were 5-11 overall.
Josh Scobee was near-perfect in 2011. He drilled 23-of-25 attempts, including 7-of-8 from 40-49 and 5-of-6 from 50-plus.
Nick Harris was one of the worst punters in the NFL last year, so the Jaguars opted to spend a third-round pick on a replacement. Cal's Bryan Anger projects to be a great punter, but no team should ever spend a third-round selection on one unless he can blast the ball 70 yards every time with the help of a bionic leg.
Jacksonville neither scored nor allowed a special-teams touchdown, but it was outgained in both punt and kickoff returns. The lethargic Mike Thomas, in particular, was atrocious taking back punts. This is not surprising because he put forth very little effort on offense.
The Jaguars have some winnable games that will prevent them from going winless. Those include the Vikings (road), Colts (both), Bengals (home), Raiders (road), Jets (home) and Dolphins (road).
2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Analysis: Things are quickly falling apart in Jacksonville. One year ago, Gene Smith made the curious decision of spending an early pick on Blaine Gabbert when it was a make-or-break season for a veteran coach who needed to win immediately. Jack Del Rio was consequently fired, and while defensive coordinator Mel Tucker did a great job replacing him, Smith strangely opted to hire Mike Mularkey, who flopped as the head coach in Buffalo and was despised as Atlanta's offensive coordinator.
Smith's greatest gaffe is his handling of the Gabbert situation. Members of his front office and coaching staff don't believe in the quarterback, so why should the players and fan base? Rather than heteroclitically admitting that he was wrong about Gabbert and trading up for Robert Griffin, Smith stubbornly has decided to stick with the craven quarterback, opting only to bring in Chad Henne as insurance.
Given Jacksonville's other problems - Maurice Jones-Drew's holdout, some aging players, possible lingering injuries for Eben Britton and Tyson Alualu - there's a very good chance this franchise will finish with the league's worst record in 2012. Fortunately, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, and that will Matt Barkley in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Goals Entering the 2012 NFL Draft: Jacksonville has a playoff-caliber defense and running game. It's just too bad that its quarterback situation is so miserable. If Blaine Gabbert continues to struggle, Gene Smith will be fired because he traded up for him last April. The smart move would have been to admit the mistake and attempt to move up for Robert Griffin, but that ship has sailed. Thus, Smith's only move is to give Gabbert the best supporting cast possible.
2012 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Jaguars were, as Emmitt would say, stuck between a rock and another rock. There were six blue-chip prospects in this class, yet they were drafting seventh. Thus, they'd have to either reach for a prospect or find someone desperate enough to trade up.
Fortunately, Gene Smith was somehow able to move into the fifth slot to select Justin Blackmon. This was huge for the Jaguars; not only did they obtain a legitimate No. 1 receiver; they also surrendered only a fourth-round pick to do so. I still can't believe Smith was able to pull it off. The move should have cost Jacksonville a third at the very least.
So, Gabbert has his wideout. And Smith was also able to obtain a much-needed pass-rusher in Andre Branch (we learned that Jacksonville would have selected Melvin Ingram if it wasn't able to jump over the Rams). Unfortunately, that's where the positives conclude. The Jaguars made the ridiculous decision of drafting a punter in the third round. Bryan Anger projects to be a great punter, but it was still two rounds too early for him. There were also wasted picks in Brandon Marshall and someone named Jeris Pendleton from a make-believe school named Ashland. Those choices should have been used to build around Gabbert, who needs all the help he can get.
2012 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
5. Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State: A+ Grade
The Jaguars have loved Justin Blackmon throughout this entire process. Charlie Campbell had that information, so I made a note of it in my 2012 NFL Mock Draft. Jacksonville had to leapfrog the Rams to obtain him, and the team had such a dire need at receiver, so this is a great move.
38. Andre Branch, DE, Clemson: B+ Grade
Andre Branch fits the range and definitely fills a need for the Jaguars. They needed pass-rushing help across from Jeremy Mincey. They were going to select Melvin Ingram at No. 7 on Thursday if they couldn't get Justin Blackmon, but Branch isn't a bad consolation prize.
70. Bryan Anger, P, California: Matt Millen Presidential Assassination Attempt Via Kielbasa Grade
Wow. A punter in Round 3? I suppose a punter is useful because the Jaguars will be punting a lot, but under no circumstances should you ever select a punter before Round 5.
142. Brandon Marshall, OLB, Nevada: D Grade
The Jaguars landed Brandon Marshall! Oh, not that one? Poor Blaine Gabbert. This particular Brandon Marshall wasn't ranked higher than No. 225 on any major big board, so this is yet another reach. Marshall also doesn't really fill a need.
176. Mike Harris, CB, Florida State: B+ Grade
Finally, a cornerback! The Jaguars were never planning on selecting Stephon Gilmore at No. 7 (major smokescreen), but they had to address the position earlier than this. This is the right range for Mike Harris.
228. Jeris Pendleton, DT, Ashland: C- Grade
Who the hell is Jeris Pendleton, and what the hell is Ashland? Sounds made up. Eric Matthews' Boris University was more convincing.
The future is bleak in Jacksonville. The Jaguars haven't made the playoffs since 2007. Their quarterback has shown little promise. The new head coach was going to be fired as Atlanta's offensive coordinator. And the new owner may not be hesitant to move the franchise to Los Angeles if the attendance figures don't improve. But why would anyone come see a team that can't score or win?
Jaguars cut DE Aaron Kampman
Jaguars cut CB Drew Coleman
Jaguars sign RB Jalen Parmele
Jaguars waive RB Deji Karim
Jaguars sign WR Lee Evans
Jaguars re-sign CB William Middleton
Titans sign DT Leger Douzable
Jaguars re-sign SS Courtney Greene
Jaguars sign CB Aaron Ross
Jaguars sign QB Chad Henne
Jaguars sign WR Laurent Robinson
Jaguars re-sign DT C.J. Mosley
Jaguars re-sign DE Jeremy Mincey
Jaguars re-sign S Dwight Lowery
Jaguars re-sign OLB Russell Allen
Jaguars cut WR Kassim Osgood
Jaguars re-sign OT Guy Whimper
Jaguars franchise K Josh Scobee
Quarterback: It's not often that you can dismiss a first-round quarterback after watching him for a handful of starts, but that's sadly the case with Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert is scared of the pass rush. He wilts under pressure, has no football I.Q., and suffers with accuracy and decision issues. The fear is the most damning problem. I've never seen any quarterback as frightened of oncoming defenders as Gabbert. It's bad.
Unfortunately, the Jaguars won't be able to address this need in the offseason. Robert Griffin won't be on the board at No. 7 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, and general manager Gene Smith won't trade up for a quarterback a second-consecutive year. Smith can at least bring in a veteran like Jason Campbell to challenge Gabbert. Signed Chad Henne
Wide Receiver: Gabbert will be Jacksonville's starting quarterback in 2012, so Gene Smith needs to do everything in his power to find a No. 1 receiver. Mike Thomas and Cecil Shorts are nice, complementary targets, but neither is anything close to being a top wideout. Drafted Justin Blackmon; signed Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans
Two Cornerbacks: Rashean Mathis and William Middleton are free agents, so the Jaguars will need replacements if they don't retain them. Re-signed Rashean Mathis and William Middleton; signed Aaron Ross
Defensive End: Jeremy Mincey established himself as a dominant pass-rusher this season (so make it two defensive ends if he isn't re-signed). Jacksonville doesn't really have anything across from him, however, as Aaron Kampman can't stay healthy and mediocre Matt Roth is a free agent. If the Jaguars can't land Justin Blackmon somehow this April, they may opt to pursue Quinton Coples. Re-signed Jeremy Mincey; drafted Andre Branch
Free Safety: Dwight Lowery will be hitting the market in March. He played well at first last year, but struggled down the stretch because of a shoulder injury. Re-signed Dwight Lowery
Right Tackle: I don't know how any team can think it can get away with Guy Whimper as its starting right tackle. Undrafted rookie Cameron Bradfield showed some promise in this area late in the year though. Re-signed Guy Whimper
Punter: Jacksonville missed Adam Podlesh last year. Replacement Nick Harris did not do a good job. Drafted Bryan Anger
Center: Unless the Jaguars think Will Rackley can play center after 2012, they'll need to bring in someone to replace Brad Meester in a year. Meester will be a free agent next March.
Linebacker Depth: Jacksonville is pretty thin in this area. Drafted Brandon Marshall
2012 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Laurent Robinson, WR, Cowboys. Age: 27. Signed with Jaguars (5 years, $32.5 million)
Laurent Robinson was finally able to stay healthy, and he consequently had the best year of his career, catching 54 balls for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was a key contributor when Miles Austin-Jones went down, so Jerry Jones will make a strong effort to re-sign him. Robinson is injury-prone though, so Jerry better not go crazy.
Aaron Ross, CB, Giants. Age: 29. Signed with Jaguars (3 years, $15.3 million)
When Terrell Thomas suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason, Giant fans groaned because that would mean Aaron Ross would have to play more. Ross lived down to those expectations, allowing a 65.9 completion percentage and six touchdowns.
Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins. Age: 27. Signed with Jaguars (2 years)
Chad Henne has some solid physical tools, but it appears as if he'll never have the mental aspect of football down. Still, I'd like to see what he could do with some really good coaching.
Lee Evans, WR, Ravens. Age: 31. -- Re-signed with Jaguars (1 year)
Jacksonville Jaguars Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Josh Scobee, K, Jaguars. Age: 30. Franchised by Jaguars
Josh Scobee was 23-of-25 last year, including 5-of-6 from 50-plus. He rebounded nicely after hitting just 64.3 and 78.6 percent of his field goals in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
Jeremy Mincey, DE, Jaguars. Age: 28. Re-signed with Jaguars (4 years)
Jeremy Mincey came out of nowhere to register eight sacks in 2011 - an impressive feat, considering that Jacksonville was often trailing. The Jaguars have struggled to rush the passer for years, so it's important that they keep Mincey around.
William Middleton (RFA), CB, Jaguars. Age: 26. Re-signed with Jaguars (1 year, $1.26 million)
William Middleton doesn't have much NFL experience, but he handled himself really well in relief of Derek Cox and Rashean Mathis in 2011. He's a young corner with loads of potential.
Rashean Mathis played well last year, but there are two issues. First, he turns 32 in August. Second, and more importantly, he tore his ACL in November, so it's not clear if he'll be 100 percent next season.
Dwight Lowery was solid in taking over for Courtney Greene at first, but was slowed down late by a shoulder injury. He's not a proven commodity though.
Matt Roth, DE/OLB, Jaguars. Age: 29.
Matt Roth didn't fare poorly in Jacksonville's 4-3, but struggled with concussion symptoms to close out the 2011 campaign. He's a decent, but unspectacular player.
Russell Allen (RFA), OLB, Jaguars. Age: 26. Re-signed with Jaguars (3 years, $6 million)
Russell Allen stepped in for an injured Clint Session at weakside linebacker toward the end of last season, and did a solid job.
Leger Douzable, DT, Jaguars. Age: 26. -- Signed with Titans (1 year)
C.J. Mosley, DT, Jaguars. Age: 29. -- Re-signed with Jaguars (3 years, $7.5 million)
Drew Coleman, CB, Jaguars. Age: 29.
Guy Whimper, OT, Jaguars. Age: 29. -- Re-signed with Jaguars (2 years, $5 million)
Courtney Greene, S, Jaguars. Age: 25. -- Re-signed with Jaguars (1 year, $1.26 million)
Aaron Kampman, DE, Packers. Age: 32.
Zach Potter, TE, Jaguars. Age: 26.
Brock Bolen (RFA), FB, Jaguars. Age: 27.
Nate Collins, DT, Jaguars. Age: 24. -- Signed with Bears
Luke McCown, QB, Jaguars. Age: 31. -- Signed with Saints
Kassim Osgood, WR, Jaguars. Age: 32.
Divisional Rival History: Houston Texans: The Texans have won the past three meetings. Indianapolis Colts: Most of these games are close; 16 of the past 20 meetings have been decided by eight points or fewer. Tennessee Titans: If you watched old and improved NFL Primetime you might remember that Chris Berman always said, "The Titans know all and tell all at Alltel Stadium." That's definitely true; Tennessee has won seven of the previous 11 in this heated rivalry.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2012 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)