Jacksonville Jaguars: Three keys to being a contender in 2020
Can the Jacksonville Jaguars shock the NFL and contend for the AFC South title or a playoff berth in 2020?
Don’t write the Jacksonville Jaguars off just yet.
After listening to everybody nationally, and even some of the local media you would think the 2020 NFL season was already over when it hasn’t even begun.
Nobody is giving this team a chance to make any kind of noise in the AFC South. Put a fork in them. They’re done.
The front office and coaching staff will tell you that this is a team with a different culture, a new attitude, and a plan for the future. General manager David Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone are hoping that the drama from the 2019 season will not carry over into this year, and players who have been brought into this organization will buy into this new game plan.
Jacksonville Jaguars fans can only hope.
With newly signed free agents and 12 new draft choices, there is plenty of opportunities to make a first impression. If all things are considered equal, then at this moment the Jaguars have just as much of a chance to win their division and make the playoffs as their three rivals.
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Somethings are easier said than done.
If the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to become contenders in their division this season, these three things must happen.
It was an issue two seasons ago where the Jacksonville Jaguars roster looked more like a M.A.S.H unit. Last season, the injury bug wasn’t as bad last season, but it did leave a huge mark on the tight ends and at linebacker toward the end of the 2919 campaign.
The Jaguars must stay healthy if they want to compete this season.
Running back Leonard Fournette showed he could shoulder the load at running back and played 15 games last season, missing Week 17 due to the flu. The offensive line stayed intact, but it needs to perform better as a unit. Wide receiver Dede Westbrook must be healthy as he was in and out of the lineup with injuries.
He still managed 66 catches in 2019. There are some concerns about the offseason workout program because there was more virtual training than expected.
I like this roster because of its versatility and its youth and athleticism. I hope the new players who were signed and drafted can find cohesion quickly. But staying healthy is the first step toward winning more games in 2020.
First Half Points
This isn’t just an issue from last season, rather a carry-over from 2018. The Jaguars scored just over seven points per game in the first half of contests over 16 games. That puts the offense way behind. Gardner Minshew is flashy and rallied the troops often last season, but he cannot be expected to do that week after week.
Jay Gruden was brought in to lead a quicker tempo on offense that is conducive to a better passing attack and is considered “running back-friendly”.
I hope that means Fournette will still be a major part of the game plan each week.
The Jaguars have to get the ball and strike while they can. That means more time on the field and the concept of “three and out” must be eliminated from the playbook.
I am curious if there will be more play-action and will the short and intermediate passing game will mean the speed on the outside (Westbrook, DJ Chark, and Chris Conley) will help spread the field more.
This passing game has a chance to be very good if the new system is run effectively.
Win the Games You are Supposed to Win
What I mean by this is the Jacksonville Jaguars have a schedule that is easier at the beginning of the season and back-loaded with playoff contenders in the final eight weeks. This is a team that needs to stack up wins to game confidence and momentum.
With Minshew’s work on tape for everyone to see, opportunities for scoring may become less as defenses try to slow him down outside the pocket. Granted, the weapons he has this season look better on paper. But after a season of being unknown, everyone knows who he is and what he is capable of.
The Jaguars face three division opponents early in the first five weeks of the schedule and also face three teams with potential rookie quarterbacks under center in the first eight weeks. The defense must play above what is expected of this unit and grab a few victories while it can.
Games against the Steelers and Bears at home highlight the final eight weeks of 2020. If they can steal (pun intended) a win or two, and play within their system on offense and defense, I still think this is a team that could surprise some folks this year.