We all know just how badly the Jaguars need a new quarterback and some guys who can rush the passer. From now up until the draft we’re going to repeatedly hear the same stats: Henne’s numbers and the lack of sacks.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m on board! I like Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel and Jadaveon Clowney and I love talking draft and all of that good stuff. However, I’m not of the belief that if we’re able to secure 2014’s top defensive end or quarterback in the draft, the Jaguars will all of a sudden be a playoff team. I’m not diminishing the importance of the two positions. They are that important, but even if Jacksonville addresses both positions whether it be through free agency or the draft, the Jags still have many needs and a long way to go.
Next to QB and DE, I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Jaguars need to beef up the middle of the offensive line. Meester retired. Nwaneri has been pretty solid and Will Rackley has been inconsistent. Just how pass protection is important for offensive tackles, the running game is the equivalent for guards and centers. We all know the early rushing struggles from 2013. It got better mid year and towards the end of last season, Jacksonville finally started seeing some success running the ball.
Was Fisch running a zone blocking scheme? A power scheme? As philosophies shifted from one to the other, and as the coaching staff tried to figure out just what they had to work with, a weird blend of ZBS and a man scheme emerged. In a nutshell, just as with the rest of the team, the new coaching staff worked with what they had. Hopefully this offseason, the Jaguars are able to find the type of interior offensive linemen they need in order to effectively run the ball on a consistent basis. Could that lineman already be on the roster?
Jacques McClendon is a guy who was brought in after training camp cuts. He saw some snaps here and there in 2013. He was taken in the 4th round by the Indianapolis Colts in 2010 and has bounced around the league since then. Remember last August when there were those mass signings of cut players? We saw the likes of players who actually made an impact come to Jacksonville such as safety Winston Guy and TE Clay Harbor. McClendon was one of those guys. He was able to step in on occasion, and considering he was brought in after final cuts, he was serviceable. He has good size at 6’3, and 324lbs., but other than that we really don’t know very much.
What about Drew Nowak? He came to camp a UDFA in 2012 from Western Michigan as a defensive tackle. Due to depth issues, he was switched to offensive guard. He wasn’t half bad during preseason, but as was the running theme with 2012, Nowak hit injured reserve. He spent 2013 on the practice squad. I wonder how he has developed over the last year? Speaking of 2012 UDFA’s, the Jaguars biggest rookie free agent had to have been Mike Brewster. He played at a name program at Ohio State, can play guard and center, and while he’s not what one would call the most effective at his position, he does play with a lot of grit. He’s seen some time along the interior of the line in spot duty, but really I see Brewster as more as that backup interior lineman on gameday who can play guard or center in a pinch.
Wide receiver is yet another big need for the Jaguars. Life in the NFL is pretty funny. This time last year, we were all very hopeful for the potentially electrifying tandem of Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts. Well…with Blackmon all but out of the picture for now and with Shorts somewhat banged up, the wide receiver position is yet again…completely depleted.
Guess I should have been worried about Blackmon…
Enough about Blackmon, let’s focus on the guys who are here. Mike Brown is a free agent who has been praised by Dave Caldwell on occasion. He had some big opportunities last year filing in for a certain suspended pass catcher and finished the season with 32 catches for 446 yards and 2 TDs. Brown really has come a long way since coming to Jacksonville as a 2012 UDFA rookie QB from Liberty as a workout player. I wouldn’t call him a starter, but could he be a quality 4th receiver? I think so.
Kerry Taylor is another one of those waiver wire warriors who came in during final cuts of 2013 training camp. He was relatively quiet until the last game of the season when he went 8 for 75 and a TD. He’s done enough during the season to earn a second look at camp in August.
The building blocks of the wide receiver position will and should be Cecil Shorts and Ace Sanders. Shorts has been as consistent as he can be in an anemic offense, catching 66 passes for 777 yards and 3 TDs last season. 2013 4th round pick Ace Sanders just looks like he’s one of those players that could make a play at any given moment. I really enjoyed watching all of the creative ways Fisch got the shifty slot man from South Carolina involved. I’m very excited about seeing what he will do in the future.
The Jaguars have absolutely no one on this roster who keeps defensive coordinators up at night. Because of this fact, wide receiver is a glaring need.
If you have not noticed, I have not mentioned any players in free agency or the draft who could potentially fill these holes. As time gets closer, I will obviously begin talking about the ever exciting player acquisitions (FA, draft) that occupy our minds during the dead season as we all pretend to know what’s best for our beloved team. Why not now, though? A GM will always look at his current roster to see if there is already someone there who can fill any potential gaps. On a young team that is being built on competition, it’s especially imperative that we look at the young players already acquired.
Next to QB and DE, I must say that wide receiver and the interior of the offensive line are next up for upgrades. What do you guys think? Other than QB and DE, what do the Jags need?
-David R. Johns