NFL

5 Key Questions About The Jacksonville Jaguars

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The Jacksonville Jaguars are entering their third season of rebuilding (a complete gutting) and the first two seasons have yielded a grand total of seven wins. If the team is going to get back to respectability, these are some of the questions that need to be answered positively.

Will Blake Bortles Progress?

The Jaguars spent the third-overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft on quarterback Blake Bortles, and after an exciting preseason, the NFL is not quite sure if Bortles will be worthy of his draft status.

Bortles showed flashes of brilliance last season, but he had many more of those “what were you thinking?” moments.

Rookie quarterbacks make mistakes and Bortles made his fair share of them last season. With that said, good quarterbacks make adjustments and it’s on Blake to fix his mechanics issues when the real bullets fly and reduce the mental mistakes from being tricked by coverages.

The highest drafted player ever from UCF was put in an almost certain position to fail last year, as the team had a leaky offensive line, no semblance of a running game or a wide receiver that anyone could depend on. Add in one of the statistically worst defenses in the NFL and you have a recipe for a 3-13 season.

How Will The Free Agent Acquisitions Play?

The Jaguars much needed renovation occurred mostly through free agency. The big prize signing was Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas formerly of the Denver Broncos, who will serve as a field-stretcher over the middle. Add in new right tackle Jermey Parnell, center Stefen Wisniewski and running back Bernard Pierce and the Jaguars did some free agent shopping on the offensive side of the football.

General manager Dave Caldwell didn’t stop there, as he fortified the defense by adding defensive end Jared Odrick, linebacker Dan Skuta, cornerback Davon House and safety Sergio Brown.

How much can you depend on free agents to work out?

Most teams will admit that if half of them work out, that’s a pretty optimistic figure. With potentially eight new starters via free agency, there are two ways to look at this. If half work out, that’s four new starting pieces that were better than a season before. You can also say that’s a lot of wasted money on four potential busts.

Paying backups starter money doesn’t make them better players, in fact it usually does the opposite. A lot of the Jags acquisitions were backups in other places and now must play bigger roles.

The Jaguars have a better roster than a year ago, but by how much is the question.

Is There A Real Threat On The Outside?

It’s understood that tight end Julius Thomas will be the Jaguars “go-to-guy” in the passing game.

It’s also understood that teams will put safeties and linebacker on Thomas to rough him up and take him out of the offense.
Who will the Jaguars turn to when Thomas is double-teamed?

The team has some talented wide receivers entering their sophomore campaigns in Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns, but they are far from finished products that anyone can count on. Robinson looks like the best option on the outside, as he was beginning to develop a rapport with Blake Bortles prior to his foot injury that cost him the season. Hurns started off fast, but was plagued by drops all of last year and Lee was too lackadaisical on routes to stay on the field.

The player who will step up will likely come from one of those three mentioned, but it’s far from a sure thing.

Can They Run The Ball To Take Pressure Off Bortles?

During the start of Ben Roethlisberger’s brilliant career, he was little more than a game manager who showed up big when the game was on the line. Big Ben is the player that Blake Bortles is most often compared to.

Instead of taking pressure off Bortles last season, he was basically asked to be an Aaron Rodgers type of playmaker without even mediocre weapons around him.

Last year is in the past, and it’s now time to look at the present and there is time for a “do-over” for Blake Bortles rookie season.
Sure, you’re only a rookie once, but it’s not too late to take a lot of Bortles plate by executing with the running game.

Toby Gerhart didn’t work out last year and the team turned to other options such as Denard Robinson, who played surprisingly well behind a sketchy offensive line. This year the team added Bernard Pierce in free agency and more important, T.J. Yeldon in the draft. Yeldon is expected to be the No. 1 option in the backfield and no matter who is carrying the ball, they need to keep the offense on schedule.

Can Sen’Derrick Marks Return To Form?

Although most of the country didn’t realize it, the Jaguars had an elite defensive player last season in defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks. Marks was a monster last season as he finished with a career high 8.5 sacks and anchored the only part of the Jaguars defense that was above average.

Marks tore his ACL in the team’s season finale at Houston and the only non-question mark on the defensive side of the ball quickly became a question.

If Sen’Derrick Marks has to begin the season on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list and misses the first six weeks of the season, there will be a lot of pressure on guys like Jared Odrick, Roy Miller, Ziggy Hood and rookie Michael Bennett.

The Jaguars are still trying to compile an NFL roster, basically as if they started from expansion two years ago. With a major lack of elite talent it could be a killer to lose their best football player for any extended period of time.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.