Every fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars is optimistic about the improvements their team made this off-season, and there’s plenty of reason for that positive thinking headed into the first week of preseason games. But what are the realistic expectations for a team that won five games last season, and hasn’t had a winning season since 2007?
Realistic Jacksonville Jaguars Expectations
Jacksonville teams coached by Gus Bradley have won a total of 12 games in three seasons, but now it appears as though things are on the right path. General manager Dave Caldwell signed the top free agents for positions of need, and he paid a high dollar amount with even higher expectations.
Caldwell signed the AFC’s leading rusher, Chris Ivory, to provide a hard-running presence and perhaps a veteran counterpart to T.J. Yeldon, who looks to prove that he can run between the tackles this season. Caldwell signed an elite defensive lineman in Malik Jackson, and he signed the top available free safety in Tashaun Gipson. He also helped the offense by signing a potential starting left tackle in Kelvin Beachum.
While we won’t see all of these players in the preseason, this alone would’ve made for an outstanding off-season. But Caldwell, in addition to being aggressive, has also put together perhaps two of the best drafts in franchise history to create a roster stacked with all-pro potential.
But 12 wins in three years still hangs over the city like the black clouds that roll in every summer afternoon in Jacksonville. A nice off-season can get the fans excited, but ultimately, these guys still haven’t done anything yet.
The Question Marks
Blake Bortles threw for 35 touchdowns last season, but led the league in interceptions. The supposed franchise left tackle, Luke Joeckel has spent most of preseason training camp playing left guard, and the franchise pass rusher, Dante Fowler Jr., has never played a game in the NFL.
Coaches say Bortles has cut down on turnovers, especially in the red zone. However, it’s easy to do when throwing against the defense you practice against every day. Joeckel apparently looks great at guard, but he wasn’t drafted to play guard. He was drafted to protect Bortles and has failed to do so. Fowler has been rambunctious and disruptive throughout camp, but that’s in front of 3,000 fans, not 75,000.
Protecting the Franchise
The point is, there are as many doubts as there are reasons for optimism. Some of these questions may work themselves out. Perhaps the biggest question mark that may not have been addressed is the struggling offensive line.
Missing on a draft pick in the top five always sets a team back. Joeckel’s struggles have done just that. To try and patch the hole, the team signed Kelvin Beachum, who hasn’t seen the field much this off-season. Beachum is recovering from a torn ACL. No one is sure if he will get any playing time prior to week one.
To further complicate the situation, the backup left tackle is now injured. There isn’t much else in the way of depth along the Jaguars front. Right guard and right tackle should be OK, but there’s nothing of substance behind them. That could prove problematic or even devastating for a team that gave up 51 sacks last season.
The Last Word on What to Expect
If they want to protect the franchise quarterback , move up in the offensive stat book and in the win column; that huge question mark that aligns the offensive line needs to be answered within the next three weeks. If offensive co-ordinator Greg Olson and Bradley figure it out, it’s realistic to expect 10 wins and a division title for this team. If not, it may be more of the same for Jacksonville.