With the playoffs in full swing, one can’t help but wonder if the Jacksonville Jaguars can make the playoffs next year. When David Caldwell was first hired as general manager, the conservative thinking was he would need three years to restore this roster from the dumpster fire Gene Smith assembled.
Early on in the 2013 season, it seemed as if Caldwell would need a lot more time for a team that looked destined for an 0-16 record. Somehow Head Coach Gus Bradley inspired this team to 4 wins and suddenly the outlook of the team in 2014 looked a lot less bleak.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are still going to need a lot of help, specifically from the 2014 NFL draft, to improve to compete for a playoff spot. Here are some of the spots where the Jaguars can improve on offense this offseason and how.
|Position||Need to Improve?||How? (Round)|
|Running Back||Yes||Draft (2-7)|
|Wide Receiver||Yes||Draft (3-7)|
|Left Guard||Yes||Draft (4-7) or FA|
|Right Guard||Maybe||Draft (UDFA)|
|Center||Yes||Draft (3-7) or FA|
David Caldwell made what I thought was a surprising move at the time when he took Luke Joeckel with the second overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. I thought the Jaguars were set at left tackle with Eugene Monroe, but apparently Caldwell had other plans and he flipped Monroe over to the Baltimore Ravens for some day 3 picks. Joeckel moved over to the left tackle and Austin Pasztor took over right tackle where he has looked surprisingly competent. Unfortunately Joeckel went down with a season ending injury his first week at left tackle, but his return effectively gives the Jaguars the services of two top 3 draft picks in 2014.
I think the Jaguars can confidently go into 2014 with Jockel and Pasztor as the bookends, but the interior offensive line is a completely different story.
Brad Meester’s retirement makes center a priority this offseason. A veteran free agent the level of Alex Mack would be ideal, but the likelihood of him leaving Cleveland is very small. The Jaguars will probably have to look at a center in Day 2 or 3 of the draft or a converted guard who needs some time to develop in undrafted free agency.
Will Rackley was one of the worst offensive lineman in the league last year and he has no reason to be starting in 2014. The Jaguars can undoubtedly find an upgrade in free agency or at any point in the draft. Even if he’s not an immediate upgrade, someone should be able to come in and compete for the left guard spot and make Rackley work for it.
Uche Nwaneri was by no means terrible, but he certainly isn’t worth the massive contract he’s carrying around. He has a nearly $6 million cap hit in 2014 and can occasionally be a liability in pass protection. Still, it’s looking like the Jaguars are going to be very young on the offensive line next year and Uche’s veteran presence might be needed.
The Jaguars could and should be looking at revamping the interior offensive line if only for the sake of the rookie quarterback who is going to be starting in 2014.
– Daniel Lago
Yell at me on Twitter @dlago89