Reasonable Expectations for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2020

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 29: Ryquell Armstead #23 of the Jacksonville Jaguars makes a catch for a third quarter touchdown against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High on September 29, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 29: Ryquell Armstead #23 of the Jacksonville Jaguars makes a catch for a third quarter touchdown against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High on September 29, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

What are reasonable expectations for the Jacksonville Jaguars heading into the 2020 NFL season?

With free agency and the NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, the Jacksonville Jaguars are entering its offseason programs with plenty of new faces.

The team that was four points shy of making the Super Bowl in 2018 is now a shell of itself, attempting to return to its glory days in what looks to be a rebuilding process.

With a young and revamped team, expectations for the Jaguars are unanimously low with +650 odds to make the playoffs according to OddsShark. Many prominent outlets like The Athletic and Bleacher Report are giving the team a top-five pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

But before analyzing how the team will perform in 2020, there are other factors to look at.

Key Additions: Jay Gruden, Joe Schobert, Tyler Eifert, Rashaan Melvin, Rodney Gunter, Al Woods, Cassius Marsh, CJ Henderson, K’Lavon Chaisson, and Laviska Shenault.

Key Departures: John DeFilippo, Nick Foles, A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell, Marcell Dareus and Marqise Lee.

Here are the biggest questions for the Jaguars moving forward.

Will Yannick Ngakoue play a down for the Jaguars in 2020?

After a chaotic Twitter exchange between the disgruntled pass rusher and Jaguars co-owner Tony Khan, no trade was made and the two parties remain at a standstill. The biggest question now is whether Yannick Ngakoue will sign his $19.3M franchise tag and play in 2020. If he does, the Jaguars pass rush attack will be one to watch with Ngakoue, Josh Allen, and rookie K’Lavon Chaisson. If not, Jacksonville will more than likely try to move Ngakoue at the trade deadline to receive some type of compensation.

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Are Leonard Fournette and the Jaguars in it for the long-run?

Another player the Jaguars tried to move before or during the draft is Leonard Fournette, with no suitors outside of discussions with the Miami Dolphins. The team isn’t expected to pick up Fournette’s fifth-year option, so will fourth-year running back be the team’s number one option going forward? After not selecting a running back in the draft, Jacksonville looks to move forward with Fournette. If the season looks grim, Fournette can also be shipped for draft capital.

Will Telvin Smith return to the team?

Not much is being said in regards to Telvin Smith, who abruptly decided to not play football during the 2019 season. No one knows if Smith will return to the team in 2020, but coming back will be a big boost to the retooled Jaguars defense. Smith, Schobert, Myles Jack, Shaquille Quarterman, Quincy Williams, and Leon Jacobs is a deep linebacker room that suffered greatly last season due to injuries and lack of depth. Smith reportedly turned down offers to play for other teams, but will the talented linebacker ever return to Duval?

AFC South Shakeups

Houston Texans: Traded All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in exchange for David Johnson and second-round pick Ross Blacklock. The also acquired Brandin Cooks from the Los Angeles Rams.

Indianapolis Colts: Signed Philip Rivers and traded 2020 first-rounder in exchange for DeForest Buckner.

Tennessee Titans: Resigned Ryan Tannehill and franchise-tagged Derrick Henry. The team traded Jurrell Casey to the Denver Broncos.

2020 Regular Season Preview

A lot of the Jacksonville Jaguars success this upcoming season largely falls on Gardner Minshew, who will be entering his second season and first season as the starter. In 14 games last season, Minshew threw for 3,271 touchdowns, 21 touchdowns, and six interceptions for a 91.2 quarterback rating.

Minshew will be playing under a new playbook with Gruden and an offensive line consisting of Cam Robinson, Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, A.J. Cann, and Jawaan Taylor. Jacksonville slightly addressed giving Minshew more targets this season in signing Eifert and drafting Shenault and Collin Johnson.

It’s a prove-it year for Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley, who are in the last years of their contracts. The Jaguars wide receiver room is packed, but outside of DJ Chark, everyone is going to have to take steps forward in providing Minshew with a consistent target.

Fournette is expected to return and continue to be the workhorse back for the team. Gruden relies on the play-action which could be the best option for Fournette’s success in 2020. This will also benefit breakout star Chark on deep passes, which is another strength to Minshew’s game.

This will be the only season for Minshew to prove himself as a reliable starter for the future of the organization, especially with Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields likely to enter the 2021 draft.

On the defensive side of the ball, Jacksonville will continue to have Todd Wash on the sideline but will implement more 3-4 looks instead of the 4-3 defense the team has used since Gus Bradley coached the team.

The biggest strength of the unit will be the defensive line with Ngakoue, Chaisson, and Josh Allen setting the edge and pass rush. Taven Bryan, Woods, Gunter, and Davon Hamilton will attempt to fix a run defense that allowed 139.3 yards per game on the ground.

It’s clear that the Jaguars want to win at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football.

Linebacker is a resolved issue now, with Schobert captaining the defense and Myles Jack moving to weak-side linebacker, where he plays his best football. Mentioned earlier, the unit goes much deeper and will provide solid play in 2020.

A largely different secondary will determine the success of the Jaguars defense, especially going against quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger, Matthew Stafford, Lamar Jackson, Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, and Rivers.

Henderson will immediately be plugged into the team’s starting cornerback role and will learn as he plays. Surprise standout Tre Herndon will also continue to build upon his success as an undrafted free agent player with D.J. Hayden continuing to anchor in the slot.

Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson are back as the last line of defense with rookie Daniel Thomas likely to backup either while making an impact on special teams.

Jacksonville’s special teams will look the same with Logan Cooke, third-highest net average in 2019, and Josh Lambo, second-highest field goal percentage in 2019, returning. Seventh-round pick Chris Claybrooks, who averaged 30.7 yards per kick return with Memphis, will compete for the starting returner job.

2020 Opponents

Home: Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, and Indianapolis Colts. (Two home games are scheduled to be played in London.)

Away: Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, and Indianapolis Colts.

Record Prediction: 5-11

Jacksonville is looking at another season of growing pains and disappointment. The truth about this Jaguars team is that there aren’t enough playmakers to generate a meaningful impact on both sides of the ball. Chark and Allen are the only two game-changers as of now with question marks surrounding Minshew, Jack, and the two first-round picks.

Despite having a last-place record, the schedule is tough and the team will travel to some hostile stadiums to face top-tier teams. At the moment having two London games won’t do the Jaguars any favors either.

While I do believe Minshew will find individual success, it might not be enough for the front office — current or new regime — to decide to keep him around over a player like Lawrence. Once again, Minshew’s success is the driving force on how good the team will be in 2020, but his supporting cast might not be enough to compete in the division.

The best situation regarding this Jacksonville Jaguars team is the camaraderie that will hopefully develop between players, coaching staff and front office. This offseason shows that Jacksonville is leaving behind toxicity and moving forward with a high character and athletic locker room. The Jaguars are a couple of seasons away from being contenders again, but this offseason showcased the start of a meaningful step toward relevancy.

Next. The Jacksonville Jaguars Draft made me smile. dark