After shipping out many of the players that once led the Jacksonville Jaguars to an AFC championship game, there is much to prove with the team now rebuilding yet again. Which players need to step up to have a future with the team?
Which Jacksonville Jaguars Players Have the Most to Prove in 2020?
After the Nick Foles trade, followed by bringing in Jake Lutton and Mike Glennon, it is clear that Gardner Minshew is the unquestioned starter going into 2020. However, Minshew doesn’t have much time to prove if he is a franchise quarterback. If he doesn’t perform well enough, the Jaguars will more than likely be picking near the top of the draft again next year. Pair this with their other first-round pick, and the Jaguars could end up in a better spot than ever next year to take a franchise quarterback.
So Minshew has one year to prove that he is the future for Jacksonville. Minshew showed that he has good accuracy on his deep ball and a great ability to improvise under pressure last season. Both of these traits are essential for a top tier quarterback and are hard to develop. Minshew also did well with play-action. Though Jacksonville barely used it last season, this will be a key part of Jay Gruden‘s offense.
Minshew is still far from a complete player though, despite a good rookie year. He will need to improve upon his accuracy in the intermediate parts of the field and stop scrambling out of clean pockets. Furthering his processing skills and ability to move off of reads will also be crucial to his success. Overall, Minshew is not fully developed and needs work in some key areas. Still, his ability to improvise and throw deep are traits that not many possess. He is worth giving at least another season under center to progress as a passer and determine if he is their franchise quarterback.
Last year, Tre Herndon walked into a starting role by Week 3 following the Jalen Ramsey debacle. Herndon started as an outside corner for the rest of the season. There were some poor stretches of play, but overall, he played about as well as you could expect for an inexperienced backup. Now Herndon remains the only outside corner on the team from last year and has a good chance of starting again.
The Jaguars drafted C.J. Henderson 9th overall this offseason, who will immediately start for them. In addition, the team brought in Rashaan Melvin via free agency. Still, Herndon remains the favorite to be starting on the outside opposite of Henderson. Herndon will have to improve upon his ball skills to be a part of Jacksonville’s future.
Last year Herndon proved he could be sticky in coverage. However, he has issues with working his head back towards the football when his back is facing the quarterback. As a result, he doesn’t properly track the ball and rarely puts himself in a good place to make plays on the ball. This should be a primary focus of his to have a future starting role with the team.
Cam Robinson was initially a second-round pick coming from Alabama who made an immediate impact, starting his entire rookie year with the team. After a good start to his career, Robinson suffered a torn ACL during Week 2 of the 2018 season, missing the rest of the year. Robinson would make his return during Week 3 last season.
During his third season in the NFL, Robinson continued to show off his nice run blocking skills. However, his pass protection did see a significant downgrade from his rookie season and college days.
Robinson is now in a contract year and needs to start improving upon his pass protection instead of regressing to get a second contract. Whether Robinson needs to stay healthy or have better technique, if his pass protection does not improve, then this may be his final year in Jacksonville. Robinson will also have to deal with competition this offseason as the Jaguars moved Will Richardson to left tackle.
Considering DeDe Westbrook was a fourth-round pick, he has given the Jaguars a pretty solid return on investment. Westbrook has been a solid contributor for the Jaguars, starting 25 out of 38 games in his three-year career. He has also been targeted over 100 times in each of the last two seasons. And he was on pace for 100 targets during his rookie year had he played all 16 games.
With a new offense being installed under Gruden and the addition of Laviska Shenault, Westbrook will have to adjust to a new role. Westbrook will have to prove his ability to play the slot full time. I expect Shenault to be used in a variety of ways, but he will likely be an outside receiver primarily. While DJ Chark and Chris Conley are almost exclusively used on the outside.
This leaves the slot position wide open for Westbrook to take. He’s played slot receiver in the past but is used to having outside snaps as well. If Westbrook can show that he can be an efficient starting slot wide receiver, then he has a chance of getting a second contract with the team.
Though David Caldwell said that Leonard Fournette is still in the Jaguars long-term plans, there aren’t any other signs indicating this. Fournette has been linked to numerous trade rumors and had his fifth-year option declined this offseason. One of his most prominent issues has been staying healthy. Fournette had a nice start to his rookie season, but an ankle injury derailed his play in the second half of the season. The following season he suffered numerous hamstring strains that caused him to miss eight games.
Another issue is that Fournette can be a one-dimensional runner. He’s at his best in power run situations where he can put his head down and run forward. However, he does struggle running out of zone concepts. His vision as a runner is also a liability when using these concepts. Though he improved in this area last season, this has been a large part of Gruden’s run game previously. Fournette will have to continue to improve this aspect of his game. He will also have competition for third-down snaps with new addition Chris Thompson.
Overall, Fournette has to do a lot this upcoming season to have a future with the Jaguars. He will have to stay healthy while showing that he can be used in a variety of run schemes this upcoming season. If he can show his best football is ahead of him, then just maybe he has a chance of being in Jacksonville long-term.
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