Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said that, “This is starting to turn into a place where players want to go” in a recent conference call for season ticket holders. That couldn’t be more true and is highlighted by the six players the team brought to Jacksonville on the first day of the 2015 NFL Free Agency period.
With seven new signings on the team, the Jaguars are looking to bolster the roster overhaul that began two years ago.
The Jaguars are just 7-25 in the last two seasons and would love to double that win total in 2015. That would be serious progress for a roster that has had flashes of brilliance in the last two seasons but hasn’t been able to bring it all together.
Getting from 3-13 in 2014 to 7-9 in 2015 would be difficult and there are a lot of questions that remain. We look to tackle three of those questions, post free agency’s first week here.
Dec 28, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) runs with the ball during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. The Texans defeated the Jaguars 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
1) Can Blake Bortles Improve?
Four of the Jaguars’ first six signings were on defense. The other two – offensive tackle Jermey Parnell and tight end Julius Thomas – should provide an immediate boost to both the run game and the passing game. Parnell will be locking down the right tackle spot, leaving left tackle Luke Joeckel as arguably the biggest question mark going forward. With four more reliable links on that chain, though, Bortles shouldn’t be on his back 55 times in the 2015 season.
Sacks, hurries, and hits disrupt a quarterback plenty and getting their young QB in a rhythm will help the Jacksonville Jaguars mount a stronger offense overall. Adding weapons helps, too. Thomas will be the guy in the Jaguars’ passing attack going forward and will be expected to be Bortles’ safety valve and primary target while also opening up opportunities for the young wide receivers to succeed on the outside. It’ll be up to Bortles to get the ball to these playmakers on a consistent basis.
After a rough season with many errant throws, perhaps the best help Bortles will receive is from the sidelines where new offensive coordinator Greg Olson – respected as a young QB mentor – and new quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett – also a former offensive coordinator – will be helping Bortles take major strides in his second year. Bortles didn’t look comfortable in former OC Jedd Fisch’s system, so tailoring a system to play on Bortles’ strengths may be in the best interest of the offense and may yield the best results for the team.
While week one of free agency bolstered the offense on the whole, Bortles is still a big question mark for 2015.
Next: How can the defense improve?