Jaguars storylines to follow at OTAs and Training Camp
By David Levin
There are only a couple of days until the Jacksonville Jaguars begin OTAs. There are plenty of storylines fans should follow over the next few months.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are about to begin OTAs at the practice fields adjacent to TIAA Bank Field. While the roster remains a work in progress, the coaching staff and the front office believe the moves made during free agency and the NFL Draft will make this organization more competitive in 2019.
Here are three storylines fans should follow starting May 21.
Run Leonard Run – It’s no secret the Jacksonville Jaguars are at their best when Leonard Fournette is running the football and the offensive line is doing its job by opening holes for the third-year running back.
Circumstances last season prevented that from happening. The Jaguars went from a team averaging 141 yards per game on the ground in 2017, which led the NFL, to a team that scraped together 107.7 yards per game in 2018, that was good enough for 19th in the league.
If Fournette is healthy (a BIG “if”) and the offensive line can remain a cohesive unit as well, there is no reason to believe Jacksonville won’t use the same philosophy as it did when it won the AFC South title two seasons ago. This is where the addition of Nick Foles helps this offense because teams cannot stack eight men in the box to beat the Jaguars.
Concentrate on the run and Foles could pick secondaries apart.
Use the tight end more – James O’Shaughnessy was brought back in free agency, joining a crowded tight end room with little substance. O’Shaughnessy led all tight ends on the Jaguars roster with 24 catches and no touchdowns. The Jaguars must find a way to use O’Shaughnessy and the other tight ends more efficiently.
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In the offense run last season, there was no identity for the tight end. Heck, that has been an issue for years in Jacksonville. John DiFilippo is known for using tight ends as primary targets and should use rookie Josh Oliver as a primary target. The problem I see is how effective the tight end will be used as a blocker with both Geoff Swaim and Ben Koyack filling those roles.
I am still open to the idea of Jacksonville making a move to add another tight end to the roster, especially now that it seems the Minnesota Vikings will try and trade Kyle Rudolph. Adding some like Rudolph to this roster makes him a top-three target the minute he walks onto the field.
Defense, Defense, Defense – The Jaguars still had a top-five defense last season, but there were cracks in the walls of the foundation last season. The pass rush wasn’t as dominant. Linebackers played in space and missed coverage assignments. There was a breakdown in communication in the secondary during the team’s seven-game losing streak.
Calais Campbell has 10.5 sacks last season. Yannick Ngakoue had 9.5. Both were below their 2017 totals. The form one of the better pass rushing combinations in the NFL. The team lacks a third pass rushing option. That’s where rookie Josh Allen fits in. Also, the team must find a way to replace the 134 tackles Telvin Smith had last season.
If there was ever motivation for Myles Jack to earn a big contract extension, this is the one. Look for Jack to persuade the coaching staff to remain in the middle of the defense and lead the team in tackles.
The Jaguars must also make sure the back line is solid. Both Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye should be fine, but like others, I am concerned with the play at safety and depth in general.