2016 NFL Offseason: Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Year: 5-11)

2016 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Chris Ivory, OT Kelvin Beachum, OT Jeff Linkenbach, G Mackenzy Bernadeau, DE/DT Malik Jackson, CB Prince Amukamara, S Tashaun Gipson, P Brad Nortman.
Early Draft Picks:
CB Jalen Ramsey, LB Myles Jack, DE/OLB Yannick Ngakoue, DT Sheldon Day. Jaguars Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Toby Gerhart, G Zane Beadles, C Stefen Wisniewski, DE Chris Clemons, S Sergio Brown, P Bryan Anger.

2016 Jacksonville Jaguars Offense:
The Jaguars won just five games in 2015, but it was definitely a positive year because Blake Bortles took a huge step toward becoming a franchise quarterback. Bortles isn’t quite there yet, but he’ll definitely emerge as one if he continues to progress under offensive coordinator Greg Olson. It was no surprise that Bortles threw for 4,428 yards, 35 touchdowns and 18 interceptions (also, 310 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns), given that Olson has gotten the most out of each quarterback he has coached, save for Blaine Gabbert, who was a lost cause. Bortles’ completion percentage must improve (58.6), but that can happen if his defense allows him to maintain more leads, which will prevent the need for him to constantly force the issue in second halves.

The talent around Bortles is definitely not an issue. He has two dynamic receivers to throw to in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Robinson is one of the best wideouts in the NFL. He caught 80 passes for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns this past season. The thing is, he was only in his sophomore campaign, so it’s scary to think that he can only get better. Meanwhile, tight end Julius Thomas will look to rebound off a disappointing year. Thomas missed the first four games with a hand injury, but that didn’t excuse his mediocre production (46 catches, 455 yards) in his final 12 contests. Those who were skeptical that Thomas simply took the money and ran to an inferior franchise appear as though they were correct right now, but Thomas can silence his critics with a bounce-back 2016 campaign. He has reportedly looked great at OTAs.

Speaking of big-money free agents, the Jaguars signed Chris Ivory to a ridiculous contract worth $32.5 million. Ivory had a strong start to his 2015 season, but wore down at the end and was ultimately benched in the final couple of weeks. Ivory’s power running style means that like Marion Barber before him, he doesn’t have much of a shelf life in the NFL. Thus, that is one of the reasons why paying him so much money was completely foolish. The other reason is that Jacksonville already had a talented starting running back in T.J. Yeldon, who will undoubtedly be seeking a contract larger than Ivory’s when he becomes a free agent. Yeldon gained 740 yards and caught 36 passes in 12 games as a rookie. He averaged 4.1 yards per carry, which doesn’t sound great until his horrific blocking is factored in.

Bortles also had to deal with this pedestrian front, but the Jaguars made an upgrade to their offensive line in free agency, signing Kelvin Beachum away from the Steelers. Beachum has blocked very well for Ben Roethlisberger over the past couple of years, but he was too expensive for Pittsburgh to keep. Beachum will finally push mega-bust Luke Joeckel out of the left tackle spot. Joeckel has resembled a human turnstile, so Beachum will offer a huge upgrade. He’ll start across from right tackle Jermey Parnell, who didn’t play well last year, but wasn’t as bad as Joeckel either.

Another new blocker is Mackenzy Bernadeau, formerly of the Cowboys. He’s not nearly as good as Beachum, but he’s currently the favorite to start at left guard. Joeckel may have something to say about that if he’s still on the roster, however. Bernadeau will be joined by A.J. Cann and Brandon Linder in the interior. Cann, a 2015 third-rounder, struggled as a rookie, but the coaching staff has faith in him. Linder was the team’s top blocker last year when he wasn’t hurt, but he’ll have to move from guard to center to compensate for the loss of Stefen Wisniewski.

2016 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense:
As mentioned earlier, Bortles won’t have to force the issue in second halves of games if his defense improves and allows him to actually function with a lead consistently. Based on the moves the front office made this offseason, Jacksonville’s stop unit will be much better than it was in 2015.

The big acquisition was No. 5 overall pick Jalen Ramsey. Thanks to the Cowboys’ incompetence in terms of thinking that non-elite running backs are still worth top-five selections, Ramsey, arguably the top prospect in the 2016 class, fell right into Jacksonville’s lap. Dallas even acknowledged that Ramsey would erase half the field – the team inexplicably deemed that unimportant because teams would just throw away from Ramsey – so the Jaguars’ secondary improved markedly because of just one horrible decision. This was crucial, as Jacksonville’s defensive backfield was an abomination last year.

Even without Ramsey, Jacksonville’s secondary would’ve been better. The team made two upgrades in free agency. The first was Prince Amukamara, formerly of the Giants. Amukamara hasn’t been able to stay healthy – he has missed 13 games the past two years – but he’s been an effective player when on the field. He’s projected to start in the slot, with Ramsey and Davon House getting the nod for the outside jobs. The mediocre House isn’t a huge liability, but Jacksonville could do much better at the position.

The other upgrade was Tashaun Gipson, who was signed away from the Browns. Gipson is one of the better safeties in the NFL, and he’s the sort of ball-hawking play-maker Jacksonville’s secondary needed. Gipson will start next to John Cyprien, who has been a major weakness. However, perhaps the former second-round prospect will improve with much better talent around him.

The Jaguars made upgrades via free agency on their defensive line as well, giving former Bronco Malik Jackson a $90 million contract. Jackson isn’t worth that sort of money, but he’s a talented defensive end who will upgrade both the run defense and the pass rush. He’ll start across from Dante Fowler, the team’s first-round selection in 2015. Fowler didn’t play at all as a rookie because of a torn ACL, but he’ll also bolster the team’s ability to put heavy heat on opposing quarterbacks.

No interior players were added, but that wasn’t necessary. Roy Miller, Sen’Derrick Marks and Jared Odrick form a great trio. Marks is the best pass-rusher of the bunch, but played in just four games this past season because of torn triceps. Miller is a fierce run-stuffer, while Odrick is a jack-of-all-trades skilled player.

Moving on to the linebackers, much like the first round, a talented player dropped into Jacksonville’s lap in the second frame. Myles Jack, projected to be a top-15 selection, dropped a whole round because teams were scared that he would need microfracture surgery. He was cleared of that going into the second day of the draft, so Jacksonville clearly obtained a steal. Had Jack not been dealing with an injured knee, he might have been the third-overall pick in the entire draft, and he certainly wouldn’t have fallen out of the top five. It’s unclear when he’ll be able to play, but he’ll be a high-impact play-maker when he takes the field. The Jaguars will need him to do so soon because Paul Posluszny has become a big liability. Posluszny is currently slated to start next to Telvin Smith and Dan Skuta, both of whom were just average last year.

2016 Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule and Intangibles:
Jacksonville’s hot and humid climate contributed to its outstanding 83-53 home record from 1995 to 2011. However, they’ve been just 8-23 as hosts in the past four seasons because they’ve been so awful. The new swimming pool hasn’t helped.

Josh Scobee was a great kicker for a long time, but he was replaced by Jason Myers last year. Myers was 26-of-30, including 3-of-4 from 50-plus, but he whiffed on a whopping seven extra points.

Gene Smith solidified his standing as one of the worst general managers in NFL history by drafting a punter in the third round. Bryan Anger finished a mere 22nd in net punting and wasn’t even very good at placing attempts inside the 20. He was replaced this offseason by former Panther Brad Nortman, who was ranked 17th in net average.

Jacksonville was neither great nor terrible on special teams. It outgained the opposition by 1.3 yards on punt returns, but was beaten out by 0.7 yards on kickoffs.

The Jaguars don’t have a taxing schedule, but it’s certainly not easy either. Early Vegas lines say that they’re an underdog in 15 of the 16 games, with the lone exception being a home contest versus Tennessee in Week 16.

2016 Jacksonville Jaguars Rookies:
Go here for the Jaguars Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2016 Jacksonville Jaguars Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2016 Jacksonville Jaguars Analysis: The Jaguars have been one of the worst teams in the NFL for quite a while now, but that’s beginning to change. Blake Bortles is progressing nicely; the offense has some dynamic play-makers; and the defense will be much better in 2016. Eight wins is certainly very possible, and a potential playoff appearance is not out of the question.

Projection: 7-9 (3rd in AFC South)

NFL Draft Team Grade: A+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2016 NFL Draft: It’s all about improving the defense. The Jaguars have eight selections in the 2016 NFL Draft, and it wouldn’t surprise me if as many as seven were used to improve the horrible stop unit. The offensive line also needs to be bolstered, but the defense is the first, second and third priority.

2016 NFL Draft Accomplishments: It’s pretty crazy that the Jaguars will be adding three top-five draft prospects to their defense next year. Of course, there’s Jalen Ramsey, who might have been the top player in the entire 2016 NFL Draft. Then, Jacksonville nabbed Myles Jack in the second round, despite the fact that he was also under consideration at No. 5 overall. Jack, of course, fell because teams were worried about his knee. Those concerns were quelled once Dr. James Andrews came out and said that Jack wouldn’t need microfracture knee surgery. Add in Dante Fowler, who missed all of 2015, and Jacksonville’s defense is set to improve by leaps and bounds this upcoming season.

The Jaguars absolutely killed it. Ramsey and Jack were outstanding picks, as were Sheldon Day and Tyrone Holmes on Day 3. In fact, Jacksonville didn’t select a single player who was graded below a “B” until the seventh round.

Jacksonville appears to have put together the best draft class. And there’s really not much to say beyond that. Bravo. Easy A+.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

5. Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State A+ Grade
Stupid teams do stupid things. The Jaguars used to be a stupid team, but they’ve made great strides recently, and now look like they’re on the cusp of competing for the playoffs. They’ve taken another step toward that with this pick. Jalen Ramsey is one of the top two players in the draft. Jacksonville shouldn’t have been able to obtain him with the fifth-overall selection, but it did. Congrats, Jaguars! You’re one of the winners of the draft.

This is a great pick, worthy of an A+. Ramsey is very talented, and he can play both cornerback and safety. Jacksonville’s secondary was a complete mess, but that’s no longer the case with Ramsey on the roster.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

36. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA A+ Grade
I usually penalize teams for moving up in the 2016 NFL Draft, as history has shown that it’s not a good idea to squander resources. However, the Jaguars shifted up just two spots to obtain someone who was in consideration at No. 5 overall. That earns an automatic A+.

This might just be the best pick of the draft. Excluding his injury, Jack was seen as perhaps the best player in this class. He would’ve been a top-five selection had he not hurt his knee. He fell out of the first round because teams were scared off, but given that it’s become apparent that Jack doesn’t need micro-fracture knee surgery, there’s no excuse for the Browns and Chargers for passing on him. Credit the Jaguars, who are killing this draft. Oh, and also major dap to Charlie Campbell, who called this hours ago on Twitter!

69. Yannick Ngakoue, DE/OLB, Maryland B Grade
Had Jalen Ramsey been off the board at No. 5, the Jaguars would’ve picked Joey Bosa. They were clearly hungry for another edge rusher, so it’s not a surprise to see them take one here. Ngakoue was seen as a third-round prospect, so it makes sense to take one here. He has a great motor, which I’m sure the Jaguars will love.

103. Sheldon Day, DT, Notre Dame A Grade
The Jaguars have been enjoying a great draft thus far, so it’s not surprising that they began their third day with a bang. Sheldon Day is a very good football player, but he dropped because he’s a poor scheme fit for a lot of teams because of his size limitations. I struggled finding a spot for Day, but this makes a ton of sense. Day figures to be a great situational pass-rusher for Jacksonville.

181. Tyrone Holmes, DE/OLB, Montana A Grade
It’s always difficult to predict these things – NFL general managers often draft busts, after all – but Tyrone Holmes could end up being the steal of the draft. Holmes was extremely productive at Montana. Sure, the level of competition was an issue, but he was absolutely dominant for them. Holmes also has enormous potential, which he displayed at his Pro Day. He should’ve been chosen two rounds earlier. This is another great pick by the Jaguars.

201. Brandon Allen, QB, Arkansas A- Grade
The Jaguars didn’t have a developmental quarterback behind Blake Bortles, as Chad Henne was the only reserve quarterback. It makes sense to add another signal-caller, and I like Brandon Allen. He’s small (6-1, 217) and doesn’t have a big arm, but he’s a smart, accurate quarterback who should be able to develop into a solid No. 2. I’m actually surprised that Allen, who was great in the Senior Bowl, wasn’t chosen a couple of rounds earlier.

226. Jonathan Woodard, DE/DT, Central Arkansas C+ Grade
Jonathan Woodard has solid athleticism, but hasn’t really shown any other signs that he should’ve been drafted. Perhaps he’ll develop into a solid backup, but Woodard was probably better off on the UDFA wire.

Season Summary:
A 5-11 season is never satisfying, but the Jaguars have shown growth, at the very least. They were in a position to perhaps win their division as late as Week 16. Their offense played well until Blake Bortles broke his thumb. Adding help around Bortles, as well as the other side of the ball, could propel Jacksonville to a winning record in 2016.

Offseason Moves:
  • Jaguars sign G Patrick Omameh
  • Jaguars sign OT Jeff Linkenbach
  • Jaguars cut S Sergio Brown
  • Jaguars sign OT Kelvin Beachum
  • Jaguars sign G Mackenzy Bernadeau
  • Jaguars sign CB Prince Amukamara
  • Jaguars re-sign TE Marcedes Lewis
  • Jaguars sign S Tashaun Gipson
  • Jaguars sign P Brad Nortman
  • Jaguars cut RB Toby Gerhart
  • Jaguars sign DE/DT Malik Jackson
  • Jaguars cut G Zane Beadles
  • Jaguars cut DE Chris Clemons
  • Jaguars re-sign QB Chad Henne

    Team Needs:
    1. Left Tackle: I imagine that general manager David Caldwell will be too stubborn to replace Luke Joeckel, but it needs to be done. Joeckel is an abomination of a blind-side protector. Perhaps he’d be better on the right side, but he needs to be either moved or replaced. There’s no question about that. The Jaguars surrendered the third-most sacks in the NFL, and Joeckel was mostly at fault for that. Signed Kelvin Beachum

    2. Two Safeties: Jacksonville was guilty some of the worst safety play in the NFL. The team surrendered so many big plays to mediocre quarterbacks. Two safeties have to be acquired unless the team really believes that John Cyprien can turn things around. If Jalen Ramsey is available at No. 5 overall, the Jaguars almost have to pull the trigger. Signed Tashaun Gipson

    3. Edge Rusher: The Jaguars will have Dante Fowler back from injury next year, but they still need someone else to get to the quarterback in the wake of Chris Clemons’ decline. A second-day choice could be used to address this spot.

    4. Middle Linebacker: Paul Posluszny, 32 in October, used to be a solid player, but he has become a huge liability. There will be some options for the Jaguars in Rounds 2-4 of the 2016 NFL Draft.

    5. Cornerback: Aaron Colvin and Davon House were adequate starters in 2015, but neither played anywhere close to a No. 1 cornerback. The Jaguars may address this position with the No. 5 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Signed Prince Amukamara

    6. Guard: The interior of the offensive line must be improved as well. The situation at guard isn’t as dire as the tackle spot, but it still needs to be addressed. Signed Mackenzy Bernadeau and Patrick Omameh

    7. Running Back Depth: The Jaguars were not very happy with Denard Robinson behind T.J. Yeldon. They’ll be looking for depth here in the middle rounds if they don’t get anyone in free agency.

    8. Center: Stefen Wisniewki is a free agent. The plan is to have 2014 sixth-rounder Luke Bowanko take over if Wisniewski isn’t re-signed. If he isn’t, some competition for Bowanko wouldn’t hurt because he’s an unknown.

    9. Punter: Bryan Anger is hitting free agency. Fortunately, former general manager Gene Smith isn’t around; otherwise, he’d give Anger a $100 million contract. Signed Brad Nortman

    10. Kicker: Replacing long-time kicker Josh Scobee, Jason Myers was 26-of-30, which is great, but he whiffed on a whopping seven extra points.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2016 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Malik Jackson, DE/DT, Broncos. Age: 26.
      Signed with Jaguars (6 years, $90 million)

      It’s going to be very difficult for the Broncos to afford both Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson. Whereas Wolfe is elite versus the run and very good when rushing the passer, Malik Jackson is the opposite. Like Wolfe, Jackson is just 26, so he has a bright future ahead of him.

    2. Tashaun Gipson, S, Browns. Age: 26.
      Signed with Jaguars

      Normally one of the NFL’s better safeties, Tashaun Gipson was hindered by an ankle injury all year. He struggled as a consequence, but should be able to rebound in 2016. He’ll turn just 26 in August.

    3. Prince Amukamara, CB, Giants. Age: 27.
      Signed with Jaguars (1 year)

      Prince Amukamara is talented; there’s no question about that. However, he would have a much higher rating than this if he could just stay healthy. Amukamara has missed 25 games in his 5-year career, including 13 contests in the past two seasons.

    4. Kelvin Beachum, OT, Steelers. Age: 27.
      Signed with Jaguars

      Kelvin Beachum is a talented left tackle who would be rated a bit higher than this if he wasn’t coming off a torn ACL that he sustained in mid-October. There’s a chance he could be available for the 2016 opener, however.

    5. Chris Ivory, RB, Jets. Age: 28.
      Signed with Jaguars

      Chris Ivory was outstanding early in the 2015 season, but he wore down as the year went on and was ineffective toward the end. Given his running style, Ivory won’t be around much longer.

    6. Patrick Omameh, G, Bears. Age: 26. — Signed with the Jaguars
    7. Mackenzy Bernadeau, G, Cowboys. Age: 30. — Signed with Jaguars (2 years)
    8. Brad Nortman, P, Panthers. Age: 26. — Signed with Jaguars (4 years)
    9. Jeff Linkenbach, OT, Chargers. Age: 29. — Signed with Jaguars

    Jacksonville Jaguars Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Stefen Wisniewski, C, Jaguars. Age: 27.
      Signed with Eagles (1 year)

      Finally healthy after an injury-ridden 2014 campaign, Stefen Wisniewski played well in his first year with the Jaguars. He’s especially strong in pass protection.

    2. Bryan Anger, P, Jaguars. Age: 27.
      Signed with Buccaneers (1 year)

      Incompetent general manager Gene Smith spent a third-round pick on a punter. Yeah, that actually happened. Bryan Anger was that player, and he didn’t even finish in the top 20 of net punting in 2015.

    3. Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jaguars. Age: 32.
      Re-signed with Jaguars (3 years, $12 million)

      Marcedes Lewis, 32 in May, is slowing down, but he’s still a terrific blocker who can catch passes somewhat well.

    4. Zane Beadles, G, Jaguars. Age: 29.
      Signed with 49ers (3 years)

      The Jaguars signed Zane Beadles to an insane 5-year, $30 million deal two years ago, so it’s no surprise that he’s no longer on the team. Beadles has been OK at times throughout his career, but struggled mightily in 2015. Perhaps he’ll rebound, but there’s no way he’s getting anything close to what Jacksonville paid him two springs ago.

    5. Ryan Davis (RFA), DE, Jaguars. Age: 27. — Tendered by Jaguars (2nd)
    6. Andre Branch, DE, Jaguars. Age: 27. — Signed with Jaguars (1 year, $3 million)
    7. Chris Clemons, DE, Jaguars. Age: 34. — Signed with Seahawks
    8. Arby Jones (RFA), NT, Jaguars. Age: 24. — Tendered by Jaguars
    9. Clay Harbor, TE, Jaguars. Age: 29. — Signed with Patriots
    10. Sam Young, OT, Jaguars. Age: 29. — Signed with Dolphins
    11. Chad Henne, QB, Jaguars. Age: 31. — Re-signed with Jaguars (2 years, $8 million)
    12. Justin Blackmon, WR, Jaguars. Age: 26.
    13. Sergio Brown, S, Jaguars. Age: 28.
    14. Toby Gerhart, RB, Jaguars. Age: 29.
    15. Bernard Pierce, RB, Jaguars. Age: 25.
    16. Joplo Bartu (RFA), OLB, Jaguars. Age: 25.
    17. Joe Banyard (RFA), RB, Jaguars. Age: 27.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    Top 90 | QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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