Growth - sometimes you can’t predict it… sometimes you know it’s coming… sometimes you are depending on it, and it lets you down (I’m looking at you Mike Thomas).
Last season, most of the Jags’ improvement came from roster upgrades – even though we got some significant growth from individual players (Derek Cox, Jeremy Mincey), the main source of team improvement came from the players we got in free agency, particularly on the defensive side of the ball (Landry, Poz, etc.). This year, to make a significant jump from 5-11, we’ll depend on significant individual growth at some key positions, even though we did make some roster upgrades, particularly at WR. Where might we see (or hope for) such growth? First up…
Pass-catchers (WRs/TEs) – I know I just talked about how we made some key additions at WR this offseason, but each of them have their question marks – Laurent Robinson has had one good year, Lee Evans is working against age and injury, and Blackmon is a rookie WR whose game may not translate as perfectly as recent top 10 WRs (usually year three is the biggest year for WR production). Furthermore, even if these three perform above expectations, we’ll still need some better production from the disappointing group of receivers from last season. Who are prime “step up” candidates?
- Mike Thomas – The 4th year WR took a step back last year, but with a move back to primarily the slot position and a little less attention, he’s primed for a bounce back year.
- Cecil Shorts – Pretty much a non-factor during the season, Shorts showed some promise in shorts last year. He’s got nowhere to go but up.
- Marcedes Lewis – After making a huge leap in production two years ago, Lewis was a real disappointment last year. He should’ve been the safety valve for a rookie quarterback, but was anything but that last year. Of anyone on this list, he can make the biggest impact on our passing game, as a possession receiver and red zone target.
Pass-Rush (DEs/DTs) – A top three need that didn’t really get addressed this offseason (besides locking up our own Jeremy Mincey), I think we need to see some serious growth in this area to deal with some of the QBs we’ll be facing this season.
- Tyson Alualu – Year three needs to be a bounce-back year for Tyson. We haven’t generated a ton of pass rush from the ends in recent years, so any production we can get from the DT position is huge. Coming back from an injury, Joe Cullen and the d-line are expecting big things from the Samoan sensation this year.
- D’Anthony Smith – Injury has caused him to be a big question mark, so any production will be a positive. But if he can have a rookie Tyson Alualu-type year (probably the zenith of expectations for him this season), the Jaguars will be ecstatic.
- Austen Lane – Like Cecil Shorts, there were big things expected after last year’s offseason, but injury and probably inexperience derailed the train. He’s got the size, strength, and speed to make 3-down impact, and he’s got nowhere to go but up.
- Others: Aaron Kampman, Aaron Morgan, Andre Branch
Quarterback – This was the focus of the coaching search, free agency, and the offseason. Nothing else really needs to be said here.
Who do you think we’re depending on this season? Let me know in the comments!
– Zain Gowani
Tags: Aaron Kampman Aaron Morgan Andre Branch Austen Lane Blaine Gabbert Cecil Shorts D'Anthony Smith Dawan Landry Derek Cox Guyu Whimper Jacksonville Jaguars Jeremy Mincey Marcedes Lewis Mike Thomas Organized Team Activities Otas Paul Pozluzny Tyson Alualu