The Jacksonville Jaguars snuck up on everyone last year. The 10-6 record, the AFC South title. The run to the AFC Title game. No one outside the locker room in TIAA Bank Field thought this team had a chance to shock the world.
These Jacksonville Jaguars should be better than last season.
Now that the national media is aware of this franchise, with its dominant defense and ground and pound running game, the Jaguars have taken on another persona – the one teams are aiming for.
If I told you this is a football team that could be better than last season, but the record would not reflect the improvements, you might think I am nuts. But in reality, the AFC South has gotten better this offseason, with the three other teams in the division making changes to compete for a playoff berth.
More from Jacksonville Jaguars News
- Jacksonville Jaguars should welcome Derrick Henry into the kingdom
- Jaguars Rumors: Trent Baalke seems to be getting respect now
- Jaguars News: This division rival might be making a big move
- Former Jacksonville Jaguars S Johnathan Cyprien: “New Profession, Same Standards”
- Jacksonville Jaguars TE Evan Engram officially gets the franchise tag: 3 takeaways
This might be the most competitive this division has been in years. Outside of Indianapolis, all three of the remaining teams could be in the hunt for the division title and a first-round bye once it makes the playoffs.
I’m still banking on the Jaguars being a better team than 10-6 from last year. Here are three reasons why they will prove I am right this season.
Not every team in the NFL can boast 10 of 11 starters on defense returning this season.
The Jaguars can.
And while finding an outside linebacker is still a key area of concern this offseason, it is not as traumatic as it could be, given the team plays nickel defense often and the secondary is the best starting four in the league.
Led by Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, and Jalen Ramsey, it’s business as usual for defensive coordinator Todd Wash. Adding Ronnie Harrison, a hard-hitting safety in the Draft and D.J. Hayden to play the nickel cornerback should mean more hard-hitting, and tighter coverage on passing downs.
Taven Bryan will add speed on the outside as well while learning on the fly.
The Jaguars defense was ranked second overall in the NFL last year. This unit is hungry to stake its claim as the best in the league – period.
Speed, Speed, Speed
The Jaguars lost two wide receivers and a tight end this offseason and still added more speed and depth at both positions. If there is a faster group of pass catchers in the league, someone please tell me who it is.
Wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett like the pieces to the puzzle they have to work with on this unit. DJ Chark was drafted and will help with the return game. Donte Moncrief is a tall, fast wide receiver who will become a solid red zone target.
Returning players Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole and Jaydon Mickens can run the deep route as well as serve as a possession receiver. Rashad Greene isn’t fast, but he is quicker than he looks.
The Jaguars may not have a true No. 1 pass catcher, but this unit could be underrated this season.
The Maturity of Blake Bortles
When the local media first talked to Blake Bortles at the team’s OTAs, there was a difference in how he talked about this team. What we saw was a confident player ready to take his next step in maturation as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
The Jaguars need Bortles to be as good as he was last season, and slightly better than that.
There is no question, No. 5’s play last season was better, although there is room for improvement. He admits that. Hackett talks about it. If the 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions become 25 scores and only 10 picks, then there is a good chance Bortles makes the Pro Bowl.
I’m a bigger fan of Bortles than some here locally. I see a guy growing as a player and a person. It bodes well for this franchise. We all want to see the playoff version of the Jaguars signal caller all year. Should that happen, this year will be “Super.”