Know Your Enemy continues with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars had another disappointing season in 2015 in the 3rd year under head coach Gus Bradley. Jacksonville finished 5-11 despite a solid offensive performance (23.5 PPG for 14th). The Jaguars under defensive guru Gus Bradley had the 31st ranked defense allowing 28.0 PPG which puts Bradley firmly on the hot seat on his fourth season.
Blake Bortles had a solid second season with an 88.5 QB rating on 606 attempts. Bortles tossed 35 TDs but also 18 interceptions. His completion percentage was only 58.5% but had a solid 7.3 YPA. Bortles is a solid developing franchise QB that Jacksonville will expect to take the next step in 2016. Mariota and Brian Hoyer both had higher QB ratings for the Titans and Texans but Bortles may have the highest upside for 2016.
Jacksonville had a pretty good running game at 4.2 YPC last season. Rookie 2nd round pick of 2015 TJ Yeldon led the way with 4.1 YPC on 182 carries but only had 2 TDs. Denard Robinson had 4 YPC on 67 carries and Bortles was a running threat at 6 YPC on 52 carries. Jacksonville has since added power back Chris Ivory in free agency in 2016 on a big contract. Ivory earned 4.3 YPC on 243 carries with the Jets. He is a good running back and carry the load. Jacksonville has a nice combination to run the ball in 2016.
Jacksonville had some issues on their interior offensive line with run blocking. AJ Cann struggled but is a young talented guard from Round 3 in 2015. Brandon Linder will replace veteran Stephen Wisnieski at center and Mackenize Bernadeau arrives from the Cowboys to play left guard as a free agent.
Top 5 pick from 2013 Luke Joeckel could slide inside to guard if he doesn’t beat out newly acquired free agent Kelvin Beachum (Steelers) at left tackle. Beachum arrives from the Steelers but is recovering from a torn ACL in October 2015. Jeremy Parnell had success in run blocking but struggled in pass blocking at right tackle after a big free agent contract in 2015. Joeckel has been a bust and must improve his pass blocking in 2016.
The Jaguars have some young talent and free agents (Beachum, Parnell, Bernadeau) that could improve in 2016. Bortles was pressured 35.6% of his dropbacks and sacked 51 times in 2015. Jacksonville must figure out a way to provide more pass protection and make us of their franchise QB and plethora of weapons.
The Jaguars have plenty of weapons for Blake Bortles. Allen Robinson had 1,400 yards and 14 TDs in 2015. Allen Hurns got a nice contract after a 1,031 yards and 10 TD season. Julius Thomas had a strong 2014 with the Broncos but underachieve with 455 yards and 5 TDs on 79 targets in 2015. Bryan Walters had 368 yards and only 1 TD as the third WR. TJ Yeldon and Chris Ivory are decent receiving backs. The Jaguars have the weaponry to succeed and the run game. They were 14th in PPG and this could improve in 2016 if their offensive line takes a step forward.
The good news for Jaguars fans is that their defense got an influx of talent this offseason after being 31st in 2015. First round pick from 2015 Dante Fowler (DE) returns from an injury that cost him the entire 2015 season. Malik Jackson was added from the Broncos on a monster contract to play pass rushing DT. Stud LB prospect Myles Jack was drafted in Round 2 despite a knee issue. Jack is a boom or bust player that could really help the Jaguars LB unit. Yannick Ngakoue was drafted in Round 3 at DE and Sheldon Day at DT in Round 4 for good measure. Free agent Prince Amukamara was added on a one year deal to be the number 1 CB after five years with the Giants. Tashaun Gibson got a big five year deal to play free safety after success with the Browns. Jalen Ramsey was drafted in Round 1 in the top 5 to bolster the secondary at CB or safety. Jacksonville should be much better on defense with all these changes by GM David Caldwell.
Fowler is an unknown but is very talented out of Florida in 2015. If Fowler is recovered from his injury, he could have a nice year at right end. Jared Odrick is a veteran DE/DT that led the Jaguars with 5.5 sacks, 4 hits and 22 hurries in 2015. Tyson Alualu had 2 sacks, 8 hits and 18 hurries at left end. The former 1st round pick hasn’t been very good but has starting experience.
Malik Jackson provides the biggest boost. Jackson notched 5 sacks, 8 hits and 44 hurries from a 3-4 defensive end spot. Jackson will be a pass rushing DT in Bradley’s 4-3 defense. Senderick Marks only played 151 snaps due to injury but returns to bolster the Jags DT unti. Sheldon Day was added for depth in Round 4 out of Notre Dame. Jackson should help the both the young Fowler and veteran Odrick bolster the pass rush. Jacksonville only had 36 sacks in 2015 but this could change drastically in 2016 with all these new pieces.
Paul Posluzney (ILB), Dan Skuta and Telvin Smith are solid veteran LBs. Puz and Smith struggled in run defense and only Smith was average in coverage. Skuta was solid in run defense. The injection of Myles Jack (ILB or OLB) could really help revamp the Jaguars line backing crew if Jack can put his knee issues behind him. The influx of talent on the defensive line should help the LBs in run defense as well. Jacksonville was 5th only allowing 3.7 YPC which could actually improve with the addition of Jack and the defensive line. Stopping the run is a bona fide strength for the Jaguars defense.
Top 5 pick in 2016 Jalen Ramsey, if healthy (knee), should help Jacksonville at corner back or safety in 2016 season. Ramsey is a complete prospect with size and speed and experience. Prince Amukamara (1 year deal) and Davon House (2015 free agent addition) should be a solid combination at cornerback. If Ramsey plays cornerback it will be a big strength.
Tashuan Gibson was added in free agency on a five year deal at free safety after a good season with the Browns in 2015. Johnathan Cyrpien and Josh Evans struggled at safety for the Jaguars in 2015 but will return. Crypien may start at strong safety if Ramsey stays at cornerback. Evans should provide experienced depth.
The Jaguars defense allowed a 97.2 QB rating and the additions of Jack, Ramsey, Gibson and Amukamara should help the coverage. Davon House as the number 2 CB (possibly 3rd CB) should help him succeed more as well. Third corner Aaron Colvin will be suspended the first 4 games for substance abuse violation but Colvin played well in 1,100 snaps for the Jaguars last season. Dwayne Gratz (471 snaps in 2015) will need to step up in Colvin’s absence. Jacksonville could have a very formidable defense if their young players are good in their first season.
Schedule and Overall
Jacksonville was 4-4 at home and 1-7 on the road in 2015. They beat Miami, Buffalo, Indianapolis and Tennessee in Jacksonville and won at Baltimore in the lone road win. Four of their five wins were at home.
The Jaguars host Green Bay to start the season and travel to Chicago in Week 6. Jacksonville visits Detroit in Week 11 and welcome the Vikings during Week 14. Jacksonville should be a tough matchup for all four North teams. They have a potent offense (14th PPG) which could be better with improved line play, Chris Ivory and further development from Bortles. The Jaguars defense was 31st but had a major influx of talent at every level of the defense and depth. If they gel quickly and the young players perform, Jacksonville could have a top 10 defense and save Gus Bradley’s job. Watch out for the Jaguars in 2016.