Here’s why I’m very confident the Jaguars can be at least a playoff contender this season. The Jags were 5-11 last year with the following serious weaknesses: quarterback, receivers, coaching, and punting. In every area of weakness the team has improved, and they may have even improved dramatically in all of those areas. All other areas were positions of strength: overall defense, running back, kicking, offensive line. Aside from offensive line, the Jaguars were genuinely exceptional in their areas of strength.
QUARTERBACK: Even if one assumed Gabbert will ultimately be a bust -- which I personally doubt he will be -- he’s still almost certainly going to be better than last year simply by virtue of the numerous reasons recounted here and elsewhere. And here’s a mathematical proof that he already is amply improved from where he was last year: everyone seems to agree Chad Henne is both an acceptable quarterback and was better last year than Gabbert. Well all reports are that Gabbert is now appreciably better than Henne is, so -- assuming Henne has not regressed -- Gabbert must be both substantially improved and adequate, just as intelligent people would expect of any top-10 quarterback entering his second year who faced the various obstacles Gabbert did his first year.
RECEIVERS: The WR talent has increased to the point that our #1 WR from last year is now either our third- or fifth-most talented player at the position. Marcedes Lewis will more likely resemble 2010 Marcedes than 2011 Marcedes now that his personal issues are resolved. And Jerry Sullivan.
COACHING: Mike Mularkey and his staff both care and have talent. Jack Del Rio and his staff certainly did not care, and many lacked talent.
PUNTER: Matt Turk was responsible for at least one (Bengals) and arguably two (Panthers) losses last year. Bryan Anger is supposedly a special punter, and even if he isn’t special, above average would be a major improvement.
So in every area of weakness the Jags have improved, and maybe significantly in all areas. And there’s no reason to believe that the Jaguars’ 2011 strengths won’t carry over to 2012. If Eben Britton can stay healthy the only obvious weak position on the offensive line should be improved as well. I think at least 8 wins should be expected and 10 wins is reasonably possible if Gabbert improves sufficiently.