In less than one week, the Jacksonville Jaguars will take to the practice field at TIAA Bank Field for training camp on the road to the regular season.
There have been a few changes on offense for the Jacksonville Jaguars since the end of the 2017 season. Guard Andrew Norwell was signed as the team’s biggest free agent acquisition. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was brought in to replay Marcedes Lewis. Donte Moncrief was signed to a one-year deal to shore up the wide receiving corps. And if that wasn’t enough, Blake Bortles signed a three-year deal to remain the team’s starting quarterback.
The offense itself will be more of the same grind, using the running game to set up the past, handing the ball off to Leonard Fournette and letting him set the pace. This could be a team that passes the ball more this season, but Bortles won’t be asked to win football games, just manage the team down the field.
For a team that finished fifth in the league in scoring average, there are plenty of doubters out there who wonder if this offense can dominate on a weekly basis.
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Bortles, Seferian-Jenkins, Fournette, et al hope to make those non-believers see the light.
Just like I did with the defense, I present to you the three biggest questions regarding the Jaguars offense this season.
Will Leonard Fournette Improve This Season?
It’s hard to look at Fournette and think his season was anything but solid. He became the second rookie running back to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He scored nine touchdowns on the ground and showed a proficiency for catching the football out of the backfield.
What concerns me and others is the 3.9 yards a carry he averaged last season. If he is going to help the Jaguars get to the Super Bowl, as he said was his only focus this season along with playing better, that average needs to rise.
If Fournette can get to 4-yards per carry, it takes more pressure off Bortles and the passing game. No one in the NFL faced more eight-man fronts on running plays than No. 27 in 2017. It may be more of the same this season, but the offensive line is better.
Fournette is also leaner and looks to be in better shape in minicamp. That could mean he will be quicker getting to the hole and through the defensive line, which should help his average per carry.
How Good Will The Offensive Line Be?
I’m more sold on the Jaguars offensive line than most writers. While Pro Football Focus ranks the starters 15th overall in the NFL, I think there is a chance this is a top 10 unit with room to grow.
Norwell was brought in to help with the run game on the left side and brings All-Pro experience to line up next to Cam Robinson. The left side of the line and center Brandon Linder will be as good as any three in the NFL.
It’s the right side I am concerned about.
Jermey Parnell may be playing his last year here in town. The team drafted Will Richardson out of North Carolina State to play the position in the future. A.J. Cann was better last season, but he could be the biggest question of the starting five. There is a belief amongst the coaching staff he will play better this year.
The Jaguars do have good depth with Tyler Shatley and others. If injuries hit and these starters miss time, it could be detrimental to the running game and pass protection.
Who is the No. 1 Wide Receiver
When asked during minicamp, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said he wasn’t concerned about the lack of a true No. 1 receiver. He also said there is plenty of competition amongst those in camp, which should make for tough decisions when it comes to setting the 53-man roster.
Wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell echoed some of the same things Hackett said, but also explained that having a true No. 1, like Antonio Brown or Julio Jones, makes it a bit easier preparing for Sunday.
Marqise Lee and Moncrief go into training camp No. 1 and No. 2. That could change by the start of the regular season. McCardell was beaming when asked about Keelan Cole. He should have a bigger role in the offense this season.
Whatever happens, this will be the most exciting camp battles in the next few weeks.