The Jacksonville Jaguars could be the NFL’s version of France

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 14: Telvin Smith /

For many people around the world, including myself, the 2018 FIFA World Cup offered a brief reprieve from the boredom of the NFL offseason.  France showed its class throughout the tournament, being crowned champions on Sunday.

Throughout the later stages of the tournament, I couldn’t help but notice the striking similarities between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the French National Team. First and foremost is the youth of each side. France brought the second youngest squad to the World Cup, while the Jaguars fielded the fourth youngest roster in the NFL this past season.

Next is the stars, of which there are many similarities between each team. France’s breakout star was Kylian Mbappe, a 19 year old who is one of the best young players in the world. He’s young, physical, uber talented, and has a whole lot of confidence in himself. Sound like anyone you know? Jalen Ramsey is the future of the cornerback position in the NFL, and with a first team all-pro nod already under his belt, the future could be coming sooner rather than later.

N’golo Kante was an absolute stalwart in the middle for France all tournament long. While Kante has only 15 goals to his name for club and country, he is the gold standard for defensive midfielders. Telvin Smith may not be the gold standard at linebacker with guys like Luke Keuchly playing the position, but Smith is without a doubt one of the best linebackers in the NFL. Both players are undersized, but have a relentless motor and pursuit of the ball. They have both been praised for their physicality and intelligence for the game.

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Under the tab labeled “playing style” on Kante’s Wikipedia page, this line stands out: “he is also capable of starting offensive plays after regaining possession.” Kante and Smith are both capable of turning defense into offense, as evidenced by Smith’s 3 interceptions in 2017, tied for best among linebackers. Add in a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries, there’s no denying Smith is a bonafide playmaker.

Paul Pogba signed his first professional contract with French club Le Havre at just 15. He quickly rose up the ranks and made a move to Manchester United before joining Italian powerhouse Juventus.

A fellow blue blood athlete, Leonard Fournette was ranked as the best overall recruit in the 2014 class. The LSU product was selected at number four overall by the Jaguars in the 2017 draft. Both players set the tone on offense, Pogba with his creative play at center midfielder and Fournette as the workhorse running back.

Despite these accomplishments, both players are not immune to criticism. Pogba has long been criticized for sometimes taking a passive role on offense, while Fournette faced doubters questioning his effectiveness based on stats like yards per carry.

However the results are hard to ignore, Fournette rushed for over 1,000 yards as a rookie despite an absent passing attack and led the offense to the doorstep of the Super Bowl. Pogba won best young player at the 2014 World Cup and just added a World Cup title to his resume.

Coming into the 2018 World Cup, France was viewed as a young team with potential, but weren’t quite ready. France suffered a crushing defeat in the 2016 Euro final, the last major tournament before the 2018 World Cup.

The Jaguars experienced similar heartbreak in the 2017 AFC championship game. With expectations higher than ever, can the Jacksonville mirror their French counterparts and win it all in 2018?