Jaguars Super Bowl Run: Players Need to Make the Leap from ‘Bad’ to ‘Elite’


More from Black and Teal

The Jacksonville Jaguars are woefully short of elite players.

There isn’t a superstar among the team. (Well, at least not one who is suspended…)

In fact, if you’re Pro Football Focus and ESPN then the Jaguars don’t have a single “elite” player on the squad and that means they are at least 13 players short from making a run to the Super Bowl.

Pro Football Focus and ESPN recently came together to produce a rating of how far each of the 30 teams who didn’t play on Sunday are from competing in a Super Bowl. It’s great news if you’re a Dallas Cowboys fan, but it’s terrible news for us Jags fans. No team ranked lowed than the Jags, who need at least 13 above average players per the ESPN piece. Of the 36 players who were graded by ESPN and PFF, only two (guard Brandon Linder and defensive lineman Ryan Davis) were rated as “good.” 10 players were listed as “bad” which left the other 24 at simply “average.”


"To be considered a Super Bowl contender, 40 percent of the players who took part in at least 250 snaps (varies by team) have to be rated as good or elite."

That would mean the Jaguars need at least 12 more players at good elite to make a Super Bowl run.

Instead of having 12 players in those categories, the Jags beat the league average of 5.8 players listed as “bad” with 10.

Those 10 players aren’t just role players who could become good or elite. These are players the Jaguars need to become good or elite. Here they are with the ones who absolutely must improve for the Jags to have a shot:

  • WR Marqise Lee
  • DE Tyson Alualu
  • RB Toby Gerhart
  • WR Cecil Shorts III
  • ILB J.T. Thomas
  • DT Abry Jones
  • WR Allen Hurns
  • DE Chris Clemons
  • S Josh Evans
  • QB Blake Bortles

That’s a surprising list for some of us who saw really good things out of Thomas, Lee, Hurns, and Bortles. Unfortunately, you’ve got to take the good with the bad with so many young players and those four really did stink at times.

The most obvious person who needs to improve is Bortles. His stink was particularly bad in the latter half of the season and he simply must improve for the team because he is the future. Check here to put his rookie campaign in perspective.

What may be surprising for some of us is to see so many players from a receiving corps that surprised many of us. Hurns and Lee were usually bright spots and look to have a future with the team. Meanwhile, it seems there will be some head scratching over what to do with Cecil Shorts. I have faith Hurns and Lee will develop to at least average players and Hurns has the potential to be a major difference maker every time he plays a snap. Hopefully they will all get better.

Another player who should get better and flashed pretty much every down he played was J.T. Thomas. He showed that missing MLB Paul Posluszny wasn’t so bad for the Jags. While he’s listed as “bad” here I think that we saw enough over the last season to confidently place Thomas as a future “good” player at a minimum.

Toby Gerhart, the biggest free agent disappointment for the Jaguars, needs to get better as the stopgap between Maurice Jones-Drew and….whoever comes after Gerhart. The Jags expected him to be able to carry the load. Instead he hobbled to 326 yards. I expect better from him next year, but I don’t anticipate him becoming one of those “good” or “elite” players that ESPN says the Jaguars need. He just needs to not be a liability.

Chris Clemons holds an unique role with the Jaguars. He was brought in to be the Leo and to guide the other young players. Instead he was a mediocre rushing presence (despite decent sack numbers) and is looking like the biggest bust in free agency aside from Gerhart. The Jags need him to be better as their young defensive linemen learn the ropes from a once-celebrated pass rusher.

These players – among others – must get better. Some of the young players have proven they won’t be around much longer as the team constantly stocks up on other, better new players. That said, hopefully some of them will be able to become future cornerstones for a franchise that can make a Super Bowl run.

They just need to get over the hump and become above average.