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 defense this offseason and how.
|Position||Need to Improve?||How? (Round)|
|Defensive Tackle||Yes||Draft (3-7) or FA|
|Defensive End||Yes||Draft (1-7) or FA|
|Outside LB||Yes||Draft (4-7) or FA|
Gene Smith spent a lot of money luring Paul Posluszny to Jacksonville when he was a free agent and he’s been nothing short of solid. He’s been the epitome of a good middle linebacker – a solid tackler who plays the run well and does a decent job in coverage against tight ends and running backs. Still, his contract ($8.5 million cap hit in 2013) is usually reserved for a more impactful player at a more important position. Regardless, Posluszny will be back in 2014 and so will Russell Allen and Geno Hayes. Guys like John Lotulelei and LaRoy Reynolds will get a shot to make the team in camp, but the Jaguars have to get some speed at the linebacker position. Luckily linebacker is a position that can be addressed effectively in free agency and later in the draft.
The Jaguars could bring in some young guys in free agency like Arthur Moats (Buffalo) or Dekoda Watson (Tamp Bay) to compete in camp. This would fit with the theme David Caldwell has set so far by signing low risk players at non-premium positions to “prove it” deals.
In regards to the draft, I don’t see the Jaguars addressing linebacker any earlier than the third round. That means guys like Ryan Shazier and Christian Jones are probably gone, but a guy like Shayne Skov or even Jeremiah Attachou could be an option in the third round if they drop. I think it’s more likely for Caldwell to wait in the later rounds and hope a guy like Ronald Powell falls into the third day and see if he can serve as a LEO/OLB hybrid.
– Daniel Lago
Yell at me on Twitter @dlago89