Aug 8, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Chris Clemons (91) celebrates a sack during the first quarter of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars a Dark Horse in 2014

We’ve chronicled the avalanche of mostly positive press the Jacksonville Jaguars have received this offseason, and a decent chunk of that optimism has come from the Around the NFL guys over at NFL.com. The recent success of first round pick Blake Bortles has only increased the team’s positive perception, enough so that Marc Sessler chose the Jaguars as his dark horse team for 2014.

After picking Blake Bortles to win Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, I’m doubling down with the Jaguars as my sneaky team of choice. It boils down to new hope under center and a Gus Bradley-led defense set to emerge in Year 2. Red Bryant,Sen’Derrick Marks and Chris Clemons meshed well in August for an amped-up line that racked up eight sacks and 36 quarterback hurries over four preseason tilts.

Jacksonville’s frisky defense will help keep the Jaguars in games until Bortles replaces the painfully bland Chad Henne. We can point to the rookie’s lack of work against opposing starters, but everything Bortles was asked to do in August, he did with more poise and flair than Henne. It recalls Ben Roethlisberger‘s rookie season with the Steelers, during which he watched from afar in 2004 before replacing a milquetoast and dinged-up Tommy Maddox just two weeks in.

Bortles will grab the reins by Week 3 and turn Jacksonville into a team nobody wants to play by December.

Obviously a lot of the Jaguars’ success in in 2014 is predicated on Blake Bortles actually seeing the field and playing well, and Sessler clearly thinks all of that is going to happen. He also makes note of some of the additions on defense and correctly implies the unit could be frisky and effective enough for the Jaguars to make waves. If his prediction of Blake Bortles winning rookie of the year holds true, than the Jaguars might be a surprise playoff contender this year rather than next.

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Tags: Blake Bortles Chad Henne Jacksonville Jaguars Red Bryant Sen'Derrick Marks

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