With the advent of free agency and the 2016 NFL Draft squarely in front of us, we haven’t had a lot of time for our beloved offseason trope pieces. One label the Jacksonville Jaguars have received in the last 3 seasons has been of an “up-and-coming” team. This is somewhat of a backhanded compliment since you have to be near the bottom to come up, but the Jaguars haven’t exactly lived up to that moniker during head coach Gus Bradley’s tenure.
Chris Wesseling of NFL.com was up to the task of singling out the franchises on the rise this offseason and, after thoroughly praising the Oakland Raiders, mentioned the Jaguars.
"Similar to McKenzie’s draft success, Jaguars general manager David Caldwell hit home runs with quarterback Blake Bortles and wide receiver Allen Robinson — his first two picks in 2014. After landing Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas last offseason, Caldwell signed four of this year’s top 40 free agents in defensive tackle Malik Jackson, cornerback Prince Amukamara, safety Tashaun Gipson and running back Chris Ivory. Not to be forgotten, 2015 first-round edge rusher Dante Fowler will make his Jacksonville debut after missing the entirety of his rookie season with a torn ACL.Erecting the structure of a high-octane offense with just one rookie class afforded Caldwell the opportunity to throw his ample resources at the other side of the ball this time around."
Caldwell has had one outstanding draft class (2014), a pretty bad one (2013), and one still yet to be determined (2015). It’s fair to say the jury is still out on Caldwell and the overall direction of the franchise. Blake Bortles will likely be the determining factor in whether or not the Jaguars are relevant in the next several years, but the defense is still too far behind to consider them contenders.
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The Jaguars might be on the rise, but it’s fair to wonder whether that rise is happening fast enough.