3 Jacksonville Jaguars with the quickest routes to prosperity in 2024

• These 3 Jaguars should have no trouble getting back on track next season.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) takes to the field before an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023 at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) takes to the field before an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023 at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. / Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA

Players know that playing football comes with an inherent risk of getting hurt but that doesn't make it any less painful every time someone goes down with an injury. And while players spend a significant amount of time trying to prevent injuries, there's a random element to it. This is why there are years when some clubs are hit harder than others. 2023 was one such year for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Although several things played a role in the Jags' late-season collapse, injuries to key contributors were among the main reasons. Working in their favor is that most of their players who dealt with ailments last year are already back in the fold. These three, in particular, should have no trouble getting back on track in 2024.

Jaguars LG Ezra Cleveland has a quick path back to prosperity in 2024

The Jags experienced a revolving door at left guard throughout most of 2023. That was partly due to their decision to stick with incumbent Ben Bartch even though he had suffered a season-ending injury in 2022. The fact that the front office chose not to address the position in spite of having several chances in the offseason didn't help matters.

Once the season came, Bartch showed wasn't 100 percent and was benched after just three weeks. The coaching staff then rolled with veteran Tyler Shatley but he wasn't much better. Once left tackle Cam Robinson returned from a four-game suspension, offensive tackle Walker Little was bumped inside. He struggled to acclimate to the position and injuries ultimately brought the plan to a halt.

Without any better in-house alternatives, general manager Trent Baalke acquired Ezra Cleveland from the Minnesota Vikings at the trade deadline. However, Cleveland wasn't able to contribute right out of the bat because he was nursing a foot sprain. He never got back to full strength and played poorly when called upon.

But despite his struggles, Cleveland got a three-year deal worth $24 million in the offseason. This makes sense when you take into account that he has been a dependable player throughout most of his career. Before he was shipped to Jacksonville last year, he had only given up one sack.

Another thing that hindered the former Boise State Bronco was that he wasn't able to acclimate to the Jaguars' offensive line despite the fact that he was reunited with his position coach in Minnesota, Phil Rauscher.

Now healthy, Cleveland should benefit from spending the offseason in Jacksonville and getting a better grasp of the scheme.

Jaguars DT Davon Hamilton has a quick path back to prosperity

Defensive end DaVon Hamilton was the best player the Jaguars selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. While K'Lavon Chaisson, C.J. Henderson, and Laviska Shenault — all picked before the player affectionately known as Ham — flamed out in Jacksonville, he's become a mainstay of their defensive front.

A defensive tackle early in his career, Hamilton made the switch to defensive end last year. He was having an outstanding offseason in 2023 and was poised to have a breakout year. Unfortunately, the former Ohio State Buckeye suffered a non-football injury in the preseason and later suffered an infection that sidelined him for several weeks.

Hamilton eventually was back in the fold but wasn't his usual self, both physically and mentally. He's now a full-go and back at his playing weight of 320 pounds. In defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen's 4-3 scheme, the Ohio native will probably switch back to defensive tackle.

Given that Nielsen's area of expertise is the defensive line, Hamilton could have a career year in 2024. He's never logged more than 54 percent of the team's defensive snaps or more than 2.5 sacks in a season. That could change under Nielsen's tutelage.

Jaguars WR Christian Kirk has a quick path back to prosperity in 2024

Back in 2022, the Jaguars and general manager Trent Baalke got plenty of flak for signing wide receiver Christian Kirk to a market-value contract. In retrospect, some of the criticism was actually valid. The biggest one was that the former Texas A&M Aggie had tallied more than 900 yards in a season just once in his career. That said, Jacksonville was paying him for what he could do on their offense rather than his production during his four-year stint with the Arizona Cardinals.

Fast forward to 2024 and the decision looks great in retrospect. As a matter of fact, it took Kirk only a few months to prove he was deserving of the contract he signed, hauling in 18 receptions for 267 yards with three touchdowns in his first three games as a Jaguar. The Arizona native went on to amass 84 catches for 1,108 yards with eight touchdowns, all career-bests.

Kirk was on his way to another banner year in 2023 before he suffered a core injury in Week 13 that forced him to miss the remainder of the season.

Despite missing almost five games (he got hurt early in the bout against the Cincinnati Bengals), Kirk posted a respectable 57 receptions for 787 yards with three touchdowns. Had he stayed healthy, there's a strong chance he would've had his second straight 1,000-yard season.

Kirk is now back at full strength and ready to pick up where he left off before he went down. More than anything, he's on a mission to remind everyone that he's still the same playmaker. When you factor in that Trevor Lawrence is also healthy after dealing with several ailments in 2023, Kirk is in a favorable position to make noise next season.

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