The Jacksonville Jaguars have been fairly active in free agency this year, at least compared to the first 3 years of head coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell‘s regime. With the offense showing some flashes of brilliance during the course of quarterback Blake Bortles‘ second season, the focus has been on trying to fix a defense that finished 31st in total passing DVOA in 2015.
While plenty are griping about the fact the Jaguars haven’t found an edge rusher to pair with Dante Fowler Jr. (myself included), there’s no doubt the Jaguars are a more talented team today than they were a little over a week ago. With the draft still on the calendar as a potential resource to improve the team, it’s fair to wonder if the Jaguars can and should be competing for a division title in 2016.
Pro Football Focus thinks so, and they listed the Jaguars as the 2nd best team in the AFC South, just behind the Houston Texans.
"2. Jacksonville JaguarsKey additions: DT Malik Jackson, RB Chris Ivory, CB Prince Amukamara, S Tashaun Gipson, OT Kelvin BeachumKey losses: None (C Stefan Wisniewski remains an unrestricted free agent)Gus Bradley has been the rare beneficiary of patient ownership. He must start repaying the faith in wins pretty quickly, though. Will 2016 be the year? The good news is that the Jaguars appear to have finally found their long-term answer at QB. Blake Bortles took not just a step, but a leap forward last season. Coupled with a trio of top receivers, the Jaguars should be able to move the ball effectively through the air. The offensive line is a major concern—the only lineman to record a positive grade for the Jags in 2015 is currently a free agent—but in T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory, Jacksonville has a pair of running backs capable of generating yardage on their own.The crucial projection in this ranking concerns the Jags’ ability to generate pass-rush pressure. Only sub-package DE Ryan Davis generated any sort of consistent heat on opposing QBs last season; the arrival of Malik Jackson should help in that regard. The return from injury of Dante Fowler will also be crucial. If Fowler can hit the ground running, the Jaguars’ defensive front will be much-improved. The addition of CB Prince Amukamara to a group that already includes Aaron Colvin and Davon House gives Jacksonville three solid corners, and Tashaun Gipson could add the playmaking touches to an already reliable unit. Improving against the pass would give the Jaguars a real chance to compete in the AFC South."
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Given the way the last 3 seasons have played out under Gus Bradley, color me skeptical. I think the Jaguars are improved but I refuse to believe in this defense until I see the full package on the field together. Yes, Tashaun Gipson is by far the best safety the Jaguars have had in years and Malik Jackson should be an upgrade over an already effective player in Sen’Derrick Marks, but none of that really matters if the Jaguars can’t generate a pass rush. Dante Fowler Jr. will probably be pretty good, but it’s fair to say he’s not going to be a double-digit sack guy in his first season.
The offense could also take another step forward, but I think it won’t matter if the defense doesn’t make strides.
All that said, the Jaguars should be contenders and perhaps favorites in the AFC South if they find a way to add a pass rusher or two in the draft.