The Jacksonville Jaguars weren't good enough in 2023 to make the playoffs. They've already got to work to avoid a repeat next season, dismissing defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell and most assistants on the defensive side of the ball. They didn't make as many changes on offense, but it's clear they believed the current staff wasn't getting the most out of the players. Regardless of who comes next, the Jags need to revamp the roster. Otherwise, the changes to the staff will be pointless. That's where general manager Trent Baalke comes in.
One of the reasons Jacksonville regressed in 2023 was that the front office didn't bolster the roster because they expected several players to improve. Instead of hoarding talent, and fortifying potential areas of need, they stayed put throughout most of the offseason. This exposed the lack of depth on the offensive line and the need for a third pass rusher behind Travon Walker and Josh Allen.
The fact that many of the free agents the Jaguars signed in 2022 ended up underperforming didn't help matters. They paid a premium for players such as right guard Brandon Scherff and defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi and didn't get enough bang for their buck. It didn't help matters that they didn't get enough production from the 2023 class outside of first-round pick Anton Harrison and a couple of late-round selections such as Antonio Johnson and Parker Washington.
Now, Baalke finds himself where he was late in the 2021 season when fans showed up at EverBank Stadium (then TIAA Bank Field) in full clown costume because they believed the operation had turned into a circus. But in spite of fan pressure, owner Shad Khan didn't waver and kept Baalke around, arguing that he was the right man to right the ship.
Baalke's reputation got a boost after making enough upgrades to the roster to help Jacksonville win the AFC South and win the playoffs. Nobody will that away from him, he played an integral role in putting the Jaguars in a position to succeed. The issue is that he took the gas off the pedal in 2023.
Instead of getting a third pass rusher, and adding depth to the interior offensive line, the biggest move Baalke made in the offseason was inking veteran Brandon McManus. While it paid off, he should've been more aggressive. Also, the Jags made 12 picks in the draft but they got minimal production from their rookie class.
In particular, running back Tank Bigsby and tight end Brenton Strange, drafted in Rounds 3 and 2, respectively, left much to be desired. While Travis Etienne and Evan Engram were ahead of him on the depth chart, they barely got any playing time. The coaching staff must've thought they hadn't done enough to earn snaps. Otherwise, they would've thrust them both onto the field, but they didn't.
The Jaguars now enter the 2024 season with most of the same needs they had last year, and that's on Baalke, not Doug Pederson, not Press Taylor, nor the players.