Jacksonville Jaguars a legitimate playoff contender
With all the additions made on defense, plenty of people are starting to believe in the Jacksonville Jaguars as a playoff team.
Despite all the support he’s received over the course of 3 years as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Gus Bradley has to be feeling the pressure after accumulating a discouraging 12-36 record during his career. Effectively given a pass for his first 2 years, Bradley finally had a reasonably talented team in 2015 and he wasn’t able to muster more than 5 wins.
Heading into 2016, the excuses are all but gone and the Jaguars are expected to compete for the playoffs – rightfully so. Hampered by a horrific defense last year, general manager David Caldwell orchestrated one of the most significant one-year rebuilds on one side of the ball in recent memory. Caldwell added at least 4 new starters on defense without even counting the return of 2015 first round pick Dante Fowler Jr.
With 2-3 new veterans starting and at least 2 rookies starting, the defense will be notably faster and more athletic than it was in 2015. If that side of the ball can play anywhere near the level the offense did last year during the rise of Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, and Allen Hurns, then the Jaguars should be in the playoff hunt in December.
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Two separate FanSided writers agree. The first, Sam Weaver, thinks the Jaguars should be able to
"Wildcard: Jacksonville JaguarsJacksonville will barely escape winning a division title, as will the Indianapolis Colts. This division will be half a game apart until the end of the season, as all of the teams have made significant improvements to their franchises.Of all of the teams developing in the AFC South, the Jags have changed the most. Their defense is, on paper, one of the scariest in the NFL, and their offense has one of the most talented WR duos in the league with Hurns and Robinson. The Jags also have a talented young quarterback in Blake Bortles, and will continue to advance together as a team. They are poised for serious playoff contention in the very near future."
The other writer, Erik Lambert, is all in on the Jaguars and thinks they’ll win the division with an 11-5 record:
"Jacksonville Jaguars (11-5)Biggest Strength: Receiving CorpsBiggest Weakness: Offensive LineFinal Record ReasonThe tipping point for this team in 2016 will be the defense. On paper it has improved by leaps and bounds with additions like Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack. They have to play the games though and if they’re able to play up to their potential, in conjunction with a maturing offense this team will finally break through to the playoffs with a division title."
As optimistic as I am about the Jaguars heading into 2016, I don’t think I would bet the farm on an 11-win season. 9 to 10 wins seems more reasonable, but far be it for me to bash Lambert for putting the Jaguars up so high. Like me, he also isn’t impressed with the rest of the AFC South as he has the Texans (8-8) and the Colts (4-12) and Titans (7-9) all finishing well behind Jacksonville.
Even though it’s all just offseason fluff, predictions like these signify how far the Jaguars have come in terms of perception. Now it’s time to actually do in the regular season.