2017 NFL Offseason: Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Year: 3-13)

2017 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
TE Mychal Rivera, OT Branden Albert, G Earl Watford, DE/DT Calais Campbell, DT Stefan Charles, OLB Lerentee McCray, ILB Audie Cole, ILB Josh McNary, CB A.J. Bouye, S Barry Church.
Early Draft Picks:
RB Leonard Fournette, OT Cam Robinson, DE Dawuane Smoot, WR Dede Westbrook, LB Blair Brown. Jaguars Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Denard Robinson, WR Bryan Walters, TE Julius Thomas, OT Kelvin Beachum, G Luke Joeckel, DE/DT Jared Odrick, DE/DT Tyson Alualu, DT Roy Miller, DT Sen’Derrick Marks, OLB Dan Skuta, CB Prince Amukamara, CB Davon House, S John Cyprien.

2017 Jacksonville Jaguars Offense:
The Jaguars were kings of the offseason, acquiring a bunch of big names in an attempt to bolster their roster. Some were positive moves, but none of it matters unless Blake Bortles finally lives up to his first-round billing. There’s no question that Bortles possesses great talent, but he simply doesn’t want to put the necessary work it requires to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Bortles refuses to study the needed amount of film, preferring to party it up instead. The results aren’t surprising, as Bortles looks confused and commits turnovers in meaningful action. He then compiles great fantasy stats in garbage time, making all of his numbers completely misleading.

No amount of talent around Bortles matters until he gets his act together. This is already apparent because the Jaguars have a dynamic No. 1 receiver in Allen Robinson, who caught 80 passes for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns two years ago. However, Robinson slacked off this past season, as he dropped passes and appeared as though he wasn’t displaying a great amount of effort. His numbers shrunk to 73-883-6. Perhaps Robinson will be more motivated because he’s in his contract year, but being around Bortles can’t possibly help his work ethic.

Jacksonville’s receiving corps is pretty much the same, as Allen Hurns will return as the No. 2 wideout. Like Robinson, Hurns will try to rebound from an abysmal 2016 campaign. Hurns accumulated 1,031 yards in 2015, but saw that figure drop to 477 last year because of numerous injuries. Hurns dealt with neck, shoulder and hamstring maladies, and he was also concussed. He can’t be worse in 2017. Marqise Lee, who logged 63 receptions for 851 yards in 2016, will be the No. 3 again unless fourth-round rookie Dede Westbrook unseats him. Westbrook is talented, but dropped in the draft because of glaring character concerns.

The only difference as far as Bortles’ downfield weapons are concerned is that Julius Thomas is gone. Thomas struggled in Jacksonville, so his departure won’t be a big deal. The problem, however, is that the Jaguars didn’t replace him; Mychal Rivera was added, but he’s a pedestrian talent.

While Bortles’ downfield targets are pretty much the same, he’ll have a new backfield weapon who could change the entire dynamics of the Jaguars’ offense. The team spent the No. 4 overall pick on Leonard Fournette, an unbelievably talented running back who has drawn Hershel Walker comparisons. Some believe Fournette is the best running back prospect the NFL has seen since Adrian Peterson, so his presence will force defenses to respect the run much more than they did when the sub-par T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory will splitting the workload last season. This will open up some great opportunities for Bortles. It’s only a matter of whether he’s prepared enough to recognize them.

Of course, Fournette’s running ability depends on whether or not the Jaguars sport a quality offensive line. The front was atrocious last year, but there’s some reason for optimism because a second-round pick was used on Cam Robinson. Thought of in some circles as a top-20 talent, Robinson slipped to the second frame. He figures to be an upgrade over what the Jaguars had at left guard last season, as Luke Joeckel struggled mightily. Robinson will eventually move to left tackle, but that position is currently occupied by Branden Albert, who was acquired for Thomas. Albert used to be a stellar left tackle, but injuries have sapped his talent, and he was awful when he was on the field for the Dolphins in 2016.

The rest of Jacksonville’s offensive line isn’t horrible, but isn’t great either. Center Brandon Linder was great last season, but the other two spots belong to A.J. Cann and Jermey Parnell, who are middling talents. Thus, the Jaguars’ blocking unit appears to be sub par, though that won’t be the case if Albert has an unexpected resurgence.

2017 Jacksonville Jaguars Defense:
As mentioned earlier, the Jaguars added numerous big names this offseason, most of which were used to bolster the defense. Of course, they do this every year, and it never pans out. It’s been proven that building a team through free agency usually doesn’t work, yet Jacksonville still hasn’t learned its lesson.

Perhaps the best player the Jaguars acquired was Calais Campbell. The former Cardinal has been one of the top 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL throughout this decade, and he’ll slot into one of the defensive end slots in Jacksonville’s scheme. However, it’s fair to wonder if the Jaguars are paying on past production, as this echoes some of the moves Daniel Snyder used to make early in the 2000s. Campbell turns 31 in September, so he won’t be the same player. He could still perform on a high level for the Jaguars, but it’s doubtful Jacksonville will get its money’s worth. It’s also fair to question if Campbell will have motivation, as he’s going from a perennial playoff contender to one of the worst franchises in the NFL.

Speaking of motivation – or lack thereof – Dante Fowler will start at the other defensive end spots, though he’ll rotate with 2016 third-rounder Yannick Ngakoue, who recorded eight sacks as a rookie but was a major liability in run support. Fowler had half that amount, and some are questioning his work ethic. Third-round rookie Dawuane Smoot will also compete for playing time.

Aside from Campbell, Jacksonville’s top defensive lineman is Malik Jackson, who was a rare quality free-agency addition for them. Jackson performed on a high level in all facets this past season, and he’ll likely start next to Abry Jones, who signed a 4-year, $16 million contract this offseason. It was well deserved, as Jones has blossomed as a former undrafted free agent. He has no weaknesses in his game, and he’s only 26 (in September). Sheldon Day, a 2016 fourth-rounder, will also be in the mix for playing time. The coaching staff is high on him.

Jacksonville’s other prized signings were used to upgrade the secondary. A.J. Bouye was brought in from Houston to replace the departed Prince Amukamara. Bouye came out of nowhere to be excellent this past season, but it’s fair to question how effective he would have been had Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney not been so prolific at putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Texans are a smart organization, and they’re very familiar with Bouye, so the fact that they weren’t willing to meet his asking price should be concerning for Jacksonville. Then again, Bouye won’t have to be the No. 1 corner on the Jaguars because of 2016 first-rounder Jalen Ramsey, who thrived as a rookie and should only improve.

The Jaguars also picked up Barry Church from the Cowboys. Church will start next to Tashaun Gipson to form what could be a potent safety tandem. However, that will require Church to match his 2016 play, and this past season was a career year for him. He’s been only above average in other seasons, so he could regress to the mean. Gipson, meanwhile, is talented, but was slightly disappointing in his first season in Jacksonville.

Rounding out the defense, the linebacking corps hasn’t changed, outside of some depth moves. Then again, it didn’t really need to because the trio of Paul Posluszny, Telvin Smith and Myles Jack has the potential to be extremely dominant. Jack had a middling rookie campaign, but given that he’s another year removed from knee surgery, he should be much better in his second season. This is obviously great news, especially with Posluszny turning 33 in October.

2017 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 9-29 as hosts in the past four seasons because they’ve been so awful. Perhaps it’s the curse of the swimming pool.

Josh Scobee was a great kicker for a long time, but he was replaced by Jason Myers two years ago. Myers went 27-of-34 last season, but that’s misleading because five misses came from 50-plus, a range in which he was 7-of-12. He did, however, whiff on three 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 isn’t even with the team anymore, but his replacement, Brad Nortman, isn’t much better. Nortman was 22nd in net yardage in 2016.

Jacksonville was great on kickoff returns, outgaining the opposition by 2.8 yards and scoring once. However, punt returns were another story; opponents outgained them by a whopping seven yards!

The Jaguars play the Jets, Rams, Bengals, Browns and 49ers, so they’ll have a shot at least five wins this year.

2017 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.

2017 Jacksonville Jaguars Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2017 Jacksonville Jaguars Analysis: The Jaguars have been one of the worst teams in the NFL for quite a while now, but some are expecting that to change because of all the moves they made this offseason. While their defense is undoubtedly better and will allow them to be competitive most weeks, they will continue to lose as long as Blake Bortles is the starting quarterback. Bortles simply doesn’t care about his career, and it hasn’t helped that the Jaguars haven’t adequately improved his blocking.

Projection: 4-12 (4th in AFC South)

2016 Projection: 7-9. 2016 Actual Result: 3-13.

NFL Draft Team Grade: A Grade

Goals Entering the 2017 NFL Draft: Blake Bortles appears to be a sunk cost because he doesn’t care enough about his career to put the required mental work into it. Jacksonville will be able to find an upgrade at quarterback next year. For now, the team needs to prepare the roster for Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Josh Allen by upgrading the offensive line and running back group. Adding another pass-rusher and non-nickel cornerback wouldn’t hurt either.

2017 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Jaguars were one of the four teams linked to the “top” quarterbacks in this class, with many reporters and mock drafters projecting Deshaun Watson to them. Taking Watson would’ve been completely embarrassing, considering that the Jaguars already reached for two quarterbacks (Blaine Gabbert, Blake Bortles) this decade.

Jacksonville proved to be smarter than most people thought it was. In fact, the team had a more professional draft this year than what we’re used to seeing from them, thanks to Tom Coughlin’s decision-making.

Coughlin’s blueprint was all over this draft. Coughlin loves to bolster the trenches and run the ball, and he focused on improving those areas early in the draft. He used the fourth-overall pick on Leonard Fournette, who was seen by some to be a better prospect than Ezekiel Elliott. Coughlin then moved up to catch a falling prospect in Cam Robinson. The Alabama tackle has his flaws, but he gives the Jaguars hope at tackle – something they haven’t possessed since they discovered that Luke Joeckel was a bust. He could’ve gone as high as No. 16 overall, but he somehow fell into the second round.

Jacksonville’s next pick was used on Dawuane Smoot, who will help the pass rush. The Jaguars had some third-round steals to close out the draft.

I love what the Jaguars did this year. I had an issue with only one of their picks (Dede Westbrook), so I think they’re fully deserving of an “A” for what they managed to accomplish.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

4. Leonard Fournette, DE, LSU: A- Grade
It’s a little sketchy to pick a running back with a horrible offensive line in place, but Leonard Fournette is arguably the second-best player in this class. Fournette is going to provide a huge boost for Blake Bortles, so there won’t be excuses anymore. Bortles has to produce, or the Jaguars will be taking a quarterback, and there will be lots of good ones, as you can see in the 2018 NFL Mock Draft. This pick deserves a high grade though, as Jacksonville was rumored to select Deshaun Watson, which would’ve been a disaster. Fournette is going to be a great player for the Jaguars.

34. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama: A+ Grade
The Jaguars surrendered a sixth-round pick to move up one spot. I’d say it was worth it because Cam Robinson drew some interest from teams in the top 20. He fell, much like many of the other Alabama prospects, but the Jaguars stand to benefit from it. Jacksonville acquired Branden Albert this offseason, but given his injury history, the Jaguars had to find a blocking upgrade to protect Blake Bortles and open running lanes for Leonard Fournette.

68. Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois: C+ Grade
Is anyone surprised that Tom Coughlin stayed true to his strategy and took an edge rusher even though he didn’t really need one all that much? I would’ve gone elsewhere, as Smoot lacks length and doesn’t have a natural position because he’s a tweener. He does have upside, however, so this pick could work out.

110. Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma: C Grade
Dede Westbrook probably would’ve been a second-round pick if he didn’t have off-the-field issues. He also interviewed extremely poorly at the combine. I think he’s too much of a risk in the fourth round, but perhaps he’ll grow up and become a solid slot receiver for the Jaguars.

148. Blair Brown, LB, Ohio: A Grade
I had Blair Brown being chosen in the middle of the third round, so I love this value. Perhaps he fell because he has just one season of high production, but he’s very athletic and instinctive, and I think he could become a starter for Jacksonville at some point.

222. Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota: A+ Grade
This might end up being my favorite pick in the seventh frame. Jalen Myrick was slotted in the fourth or fifth round of all of my mock drafts. He has very good athleticism, and he was productive in college. He also offers some great special-teams ability to boot. Even though he’s a seventh-rounder, I’ll be mildly surprised if he doesn’t make Jacksonville’s roster.

240. Marquez Williams, FB, Miami: B Grade
I can’t say I’m surprised that Tom Coughlin added a fullback to pair with Leonard Fournette. I have no issues at all with this selection.

Season Summary:
Yet another losing season for the Jaguars. Jacksonville came into 2016 with some hope, solely based on the garbage-time statistics Blake Bortles assembled the previous year. Bortles’ utter failure to improve mentally has gotten the entire coaching staff fired, and it’s only a matter of time before the Jaguars obtain another potential franchise quarterback.

Offseason Moves:
  • Jaguars cut OLB Dan Skuta
  • Jaguars sign TE Mychal Rivera
  • Jaguars sign ILB Josh McNary
  • Jaguars cut DT Roy Miller
  • Jaguars sign G/OT Earl Watford
  • Jaguars sign DT Stefan Charles
  • Jaguars sign ILB Audie Cole
  • Jaguars cut DT Sen’Derrick Marks
  • Jaguars sign OLB Lerentee McCray
  • Jaguars sign CB A.J. Bouye
  • Jaguars sign DE/DT Calais Campbell
  • Jaguars sign S Barry Church
  • Jaguars re-sign G Patrick Omameh
  • Dolphins acquire TE Julius Thomas from Jaguars
  • Jaguars cut DE/DT Jared Odrick
  • Jaguars acquire OT Branden Albert from Dolphins
  • Jaguars cut OT Kelvin Beachum
  • Jaguars re-sign DT Abry Jones

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: Blake Bortles is a waste of an NFL player. He doesn’t care about his professional career; only the lifestyle that the NFL offers him. He refuses to work on his mechanics and to improve the mental part of his game. Jacksonville will likely wait until the loaded 2018 NFL Draft to take a franchise signal-caller, however, as Bortles will get one more chance with a new staff.

    2. Offensive Tackle Depth: The Jaguars need to improve their offensive line, beginning at left tackle. Kelvin Beachum was released.

    3. Guard: This is another obvious spot for a needed upgrade. Luke Joeckel and Patrick Omameh happen to be free agents anyway, but they’re below-average starters at best. Re-signed Patrick Omameh; signed Earl Watford

    4. Edge Rusher: Dante Fowler was a disappointment in his first year as a starter. Perhaps he’ll improve, but his effort in practice has been called into question, so there’s definitely a strong chance that he’ll bust. Jacksonville needs to find someone who can put consistent pressure on the quarterback.

    5. Defensive Tackle: The Jaguars could use an interior pass-rushing presence with Sen’Derrick Marks in decline. Jonathan Allen could be theirs in the 2017 NFL Draft. Signed Calais Campbell and Stefan Charles

    6. Safety: John Cyprien was one of the top safeties in the NFL this past season, so the Jaguars need to make sure that they’re able to re-sign him. Signed Barry Church

    7. Running Back: Chris Ivory has been abysmal ever since the second half of the 2015 campaign, while T.J. Yeldon hasn’t lived up to expectations as a second-round prospect.

    8. Tight End: Julius Thomas could easily be arrested for stealing money from the Jaguars. He’s a waste who should be cut and replaced. Signed Mychal Rivera

    9. Cornerback Depth: Prince Amukamara being re-signed would fill this need. Signed A.J. Bouye

    10. Punter: Brad Nortman was one of the 10 worst punters in the NFL last year according to net average.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2017 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Calais Campbell, DE/DT, Cardinals. Age: 31.
      Signed with Jaguars

      Calais Campbell is one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL. He’s outstanding in every regard, placing tons of pressure on opposing quarterbacks and clamping down against the run. He would be a five-star free agent if he were a couple of years younger, but he turns 31 on the first day of September.

    2. A.J. Bouye, CB, Texans. Age: 26.
      Signed with Jaguars

      A.J. Bouye came out of nowhere to have a Pro Bowl season for the Texans. Bouye was just a reserve/special-teamer prior to 2016, but he inexplicably turned into a shutdown cornerback. I’m hesitant to give him anything more than four stars because he could be a one-year wonder, but Bouye is set to earn a big contract this offseason.

    3. Barry Church, S, Cowboys. Age: 29.
      Signed with Jaguars

      Barry Church had always been an above-average starting safety, but not in 2016. He was outstanding this past season in all regards. He did miss four games with an arm injury, but was excellent when on the field. This could’ve been a fluky year, so I’m hesitant to give him four stars, but he certainly performed like a four-star free agent.

    4. Stefan Charles, DT, Lions. Age: 29. — Signed with Jaguars
    5. Mychal Rivera, TE, Raiders. Age: 26. — Signed with Jaguars
    6. Audie Cole, ILB, Vikings. Age: 28. — Signed with Jaguars
    7. Lerentee McCray, OLB, Bills. Age: 27. — Signed with Jaguars
    8. Earl Watford, G/OT, Cardinals. Age: 29. — Signed with Jaguars
    9. Josh McNary (RFA), ILB, Colts. Age: 29. — Signed with Jaguars

    Jacksonville Jaguars Free Agents:

    Salary Cap Space: $66.8M.
    1. John Cyprien, S, Jaguars. Age: 27.
      Signed with Titans

      John Cyprien was a second-round pick in 2013 who had failed to live up to his billing – until this past season. Cyprien had an incredible 2016 campaign, as he performed as one of the top safeties in the NFL. Just 27 in July, Cyprien is going to receive a big contract if he’s allowed to hit free agency.

    2. Prince Amukamara, CB, Jaguars. Age: 28.
      Signed with Bears

      Prince Amukamara signed a 1-year “prove it” deal with the Jaguars last offseason. Prove himself he did, as Amukamara missed just a couple of games. He performed on a high level in 2016 and is certainly worthy of a substantial contract.

    3. Kelvin Beachum, OT, Jaguars. Age: 28.
      Signed with Jets

      Kelvin Beachum is a talented left tackle who would be rated a bit higher than this if he were healthy. Beachum tore his ACL in 2015 and struggled this past season because he wasn’t 100 percent. However, he should provide solid value this spring. He figures to be closer to 100 percent now that he’s two years removed from his knee injury. Plus, he’s only 28. Beachum could be one of the better signings this offseason.

    4. Sen’Derrick Marks, DT, Jaguars. Age: 30.
      Sen’Derrick Marks used to be a very effective defensive tackle. He recorded nine sacks in 2014. However, he tore his ACL and has struggled ever since. Marks will be a couple of years removed from that injury though, so he could potentially offer some value as a potential Comeback Player of the Year.

    5. Jared Odrick, DE/DT, Jaguars. Age: 29.
      Jared Odrick proved that he valued money over his football career when he took a $42.5 million contract with the Jaguars two years ago. Odrick was horrible in Jacksonville, playing poorly in 2015 and then missing 10 games this past season. Odrick isn’t 30 until December, so there’s still time for him to rebound and once again become the player who earned that big contract in the first place.

    6. Patrick Omameh, G, Jaguars. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Jaguars (1 year, $775,000

      Patrick Omameh stepped in for an injured Luke Joeckel and performed better than the former No. 2 overall pick. Unfortunately, Omameh landed on injured reserve himself because of a foot problem.

    7. Abry Jones, DT, Jaguars. Age: 25.
      Re-signed with Jaguars (4 years, $16 million)

      Abry Jones is a solid rotational defensive lineman who happens to be only 25. The 6-foot-3, 313-pound Jones is a jack of all trades, but a master of none.

    8. Luke Joeckel, G/OT, Jaguars. Age: 25.
      Signed with Seahawks (1 year, $8 million)

      I’m listing Luke Joeckel as a two-star free agent because he’s only 25 and was once the second-overall pick in the draft. It’s not inconceivable that he could turn his career around. Unfortunately, Joeckel has been an abomination thus far. He was slightly less worse at guard than tackle, so perhaps he’ll have a future there like Robert Gallery once did. Probably not, though.

    9. Davon House, CB, Jaguars. Age: 28. — Signed with Packers
    10. Justin Blackmon, WR, Jaguars. Age: 27.
    11. Tyson Alualu, DE/DT, Jaguars. Age: 30. — Signed with Steelers
    12. Dan Skuta, OLB, Jaguars. Age: 31. — Signed with Bears
    13. Denard Robinson, RB, Jaguars. Age: 26.
    14. Roy Miller, DT. Jaguars. Age: 30.
    15. Bryan Walters, WR, Jaguars. Age: 29. — Re-signed with Jaguars
    16. Josh Wells (RFA), G, Jaguars. Age: 26.
    17. Jordan Hill, DT, Jaguars. Age: 26. — Signed with Lions
    18. Sean Porter, OLB, Jaguars. Age: 26.
    19. Tyler Shatley (RFA), G, Jaguars. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Jaguars


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