The Jacksonville Jaguars were 10–6 in 2017 and on top of the AFC South. They returned in 2018 with basically the same players but finished the season 5–11 and fourth in the AFC South. Now the Jaguars will attempt to get back to 2017 form. The question is can they?
The biggest off-season change was, of course, the getting rid of oft under-achieving quarterback Blake Bortles. In five seasons with the Jaguars Bortles was astonishingly average…or below. And, yes, his mediocrity did not hinder their post-season run, so all was okay, until the next year. Pro Football Focus rated Bortles 64.1 for the end of 2018. That made him the 29th ranked quarterback for the 2018 season.
Now the Jaguars have the services of Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles and offensive coordinator John DeFlippo. DeFlippo guided Foles to his Super Bowl MVP win. Jaguars hired an offensive coordinator who was fired from his last job before the season ended. DeFlippo was fired because he didn’t design enough run plays. Now he is hired by a team who is built to run. (Hmm more on that later)
In addition to DeFlippo and Foles the Jaguars acquired most of the help for the offensive side of the ball. In free agency it seems the Jaguars plan was to build up the offense around Foles. So they acquired wide receiver Chris Conley who had his best season in Kansas City last season with five touchdowns and Geoff Swaim, who led all tight ends in catch rate last season with 81 percent.
In the draft they added to depth to the run game by drafting Ryquell Armstead in the fifth round and added to the tight end room in the third round with Josh Oliver. It should be noted that Oliver is thought of mainly as a pass catcher who can line up in the slot and as a wide out.
And then there was the offensive line — they didn’t do Bortles any favors last season. The offensive line allowed 53 sacks last year. That was the third most in the league. They looked to shore up the offensive line with the free agent acquisition of Cedric Ogbuehi. The only problem with the Ogbuehi is that according to Pro Football Focus he is ranked in the bottom 10 of qualified offensive tackles in pass blocking. The drafting of Jawaan Taylor in round two will help. It also helps that injuries could be the main reason for the porous nature of the offensive line. There was only one offensive lineman who made it through the whole 2018 season. If they can come back healthy the questionable acquisition of Ogbuehi will not matter.
The run game last season was putrid. Running back Leonard Fournette missed seven games due to injuries and another because of suspension for fighting. His stats were 133 attempts for 439 yards. He averaged 3.3 yards a carry for a lowly five touchdowns. T.J. Yeldon played 14 games and averaged 4.0 yards per carry on 104 rushing attempts. He ended the season with one touchdown on 414 yards, then shuffled off to Buffalo.
The defense wasn’t really a problem, though it seemed so. But they actually tied for fourth in scoring defense and ranked fifth in yards allowed. The only problem was they did not have as many “splash” plays. Their sack total went from 55 in 2017 to 37 in 2018. And as far as takeaways that also dipped from 33 in 2017 to 17 in 2018.
Unfortunately, in the off-season their defensive moves were a lot of losses. Malik Jackson went to Philadelphia, Tashaun Gipson went to Houston and Tyler Patman went to Miami. They did pick up linebacker Quincy Williams in the third round, but with a need for safety this just seems like a reach. And defensive tackle Dontavius Russell in the seventh round seems like a pick for future when the need is for now.
If you are playing IDP just about any of the defensive players on the Jaguars are in play.
It should noted that the Jaguars have not had a tight end gain 100-yard since 2015. In a shallow tight end pool, betting on either Swaim or Oliver seems a bit desperate, however with the injury to Oliver, Swaim will be getting most of the tight end production.
Fournette has been in regression mode. But you wouldn’t know that by his ADP, which is currently at RB14. It could be because he is now playing behind a better offensive line and a better quarterback. Bounce-back is a possibility, especially if 1) he stays healthy and 2) is used in the passing game out of the backfield.
Dede Westbrook seems the take in a crowded field of WR2 /WR3 players. Conley is an option mainly because of his familiarity with Foles. But Westbrook still seems the better option.
Foles can be surprisingly good or at least better than his ADP has him being picked at or around the late…late…late rounds. But look according to fantasypros.com, Foles has the easiest schedule for quarterbacks. He is in an offense he is familiar and he is surrounded by respectable position players. Not to mention his defense should give him good field position. Foles could be a sneaky late round acquisition.
Can the Jaguars get back to 2017 form? They will be better than 5–11. The defense has two superstar players betting on themselves, which is always good for an upgrade.
The offense before getting on the field is already better with Foles under center. Fournette “promises” to be better.
The AFC South is always open for the taking. Look for the Jaguars to lead the south (especially if Andrew Luck’s injury limits his ability on the field), Tennessee Titans working out the Marcus Mariota situation and the Houston Texans did little to shore up their very porous offensive line. Look for the Jaguars to be on top of their division in another playoff run.
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