As I read through Vicbow's "A Losing Season Would Be OK!!", it dawned on me that while it is not OK if this team has a losing season, it might not be entirely unreasonable to expect a losing season from this team.
What I decided to do was look at the 2012 Jaguars, unit by unit, present my opinion of each, and layout what I think might be reasonable to expect from each in 2012. At the end, I will sum things up, so skip to part D if you want the "meat and potatoes" of this lengthy post.
A) OFFENSE: In 2011, the team was extremely dreadful on offense, no ifs ands or buts. The team addressed this with what seems to be major improvements among the coaching staff, and some much needed upgrading at the WR position. While the positives are there, a holdout by the best offensive player on the team, a new offensive system and a still suspect starting QB lead me to question just how much improvement can be expected on the field come gameday for the offense.
- PASSING GAME:
- At this point, it is a bit early to really gauge how much improvement to expect out of Blaine Gabbert, but to be very truthful, I think it is safe to say that barring a miracle, expecting Gabbert to be much more than 20th best QB in the NFL is just not very reasonable. Now, I am not saying that he will never be better than 20/32, but when your improved WRs include a rookie and a guy that probably is not as talented as his "#1 WR" contract suggests, it is hard to expect seeing a massive jump in Gabbert's game.
- The major positives I see going for Gabbert and the passing game as a whole are:
- the new coaching staff - Olson and Sullivan are, in my opinion at least, two of the best position coaches in the NFL right now. Sullivan, almost without a doubt IS the best WR coach in the NFL, and Olson is definitely no slouch. Gabbert should benefit greatly throughout the season from feedback from Olson, and the WRs, already showing promise from Sullivan's teaching, should continue to improve under Sullivan.
- the new scheme - As for the new offensive system being installed by Bratkowski, from my understanding of it, it seems to me like it plays nicely to the kind of QB that Gabbert is.
- Marcedes "What 2011?" Lewis - Lewis was pretty bad last year, and while some of the blame can be put on Gabbert, a lot of the blame is on Lewis. Putting last season behind him, and assuming he regains his 2010 Pro-Bowl form, will work wonders for this passing game.
- So what are some reasonable numbers to expect from the major players in the passing game?
- Blaine Gabbert: While by no means a perfect measure, Andy Dalton was the 20th best QB based on QB rating last year. He threw for 3398 yards had a 58.1 comp% and a 20:13 TD:INT ratio. I think a year like that is definitely within the realm of reasonable expectations. I think we should see a better TD:INT ratio, maybe something along the lines of 25:10 and a comparable comp%. In terms of total passing yards, I am thinking that to expect ~200 YPG from Gabbert which means ~3200 yards on the season, assuming he starts every game.
- Laurent Robinson/Justin Blackmon: Seeing as these are the two major names at the position, and they are both likely to be the major contributors at the WR spot, I figured these are the two best guys to lay out my expectations for.
- When it comes to Robinson, I think he might be slightly "overvalued" in some respects, as I feel like people are expecting him to play at a level pretty much consistent with his contract. To be very honest, I do not see it happening. The guy has speed and should be able to stretch defenses at times, but at this point all I really have to base my expectation off of is his career in Dallas, where he had Tony Romo at QB and only saw the playing field because of injuries. The way I see it, with him starting from the beginning but also suffering in the QB department", I am thinking 1000-1100 yards and 7-9 TDs is the optimistic end of reasonable expectations for him.
- As for Blackmon, I actually think he will be more of a contributor than rookie WRs tend to be. Is he going to pull an AJ Green or Julio Jones? No. However, I think that it is not entirely unreasonable to expect ~800 yards and 6-7 TDS out of him(which is not much behind either of last years' 1st round WRs).
- Marcedes Lewis: Simply put, I think he is going to be quite the weapon in this offense. I think it is VERY reasonable to see a season comparable to his 2010. Maybe less than 10 TDs, but 700 yards seems very reasonable to expect.
- RUNNING GAME:
- This should be a lot shorter to discuss. Whatever this situation is as of now with MJD, I am thinking he will report soon enough not miss much time. I believe that the running game as a whole will perform similarly, regardless of whether he is the starter week 1 or not.
- While I think that the eventual goal of this team is to become much more "pass-first," we will see a whole lot of running by this team in 2012. Frankly, back to what is reasonable, it is entirely unreasonable to expect much less than 450 rushing attempts throughout the season, or roughly 28 per game. As for yards, I think 2000+ yards is quite reasonable to expect, given that Rashad appears to be healthy and could help carry the load with MJD. As for TDs, I think that given the splitting of the workload, more TDs should be expected. I would say 12-15 rushing TDs sounds about right.
- Given the uncertainty in the MJD situation as of right now, what is and isn't reasonable to expect out of him is hard to say, but at this point, I think he will begin starting in Week 2, and so I think that MJD rushing for around 1250-1300 yards and Rashad getting ~650 yards is reasonable. I do think the workload will be split something like 2:1 in favor of MJD, and so to expect ~2/3 of the yards to come from MJD seems reasonable to me.
- OFFENSIVE LINE:
- Everything mentioned (above and below) is under the assumption that this team's O-Line consists of the 5 best players(in my mind Britton, Monroe, Rackley, Nwaneri, Meester)
- With a turnstile at RT last year and an underwhelming Rackley playing guard, Gabbert was sacked 40 times, and did not get very good pass protection. I think that while improvement should be expected, even if the Jaguars field their best 5 lineman, Gabbert is still going to feel a lot of pressure and get sacked a bunch. Britton, from what I recall when he was healthy, was not all that great (although definitely not bad) at RT, and to expect a ton of improvement from him is just not so logical if you ask me. As for Rackley, I think he will show improvement, but I would still be slightly nervous at this point. The way I see it, pass protection will improve, but Gabbert might get sacked 30-35 times this coming season
- As for run protection, I think there will be improvement, although with MJD and Rashad at RB, even mediocre run protection should suffice.
B) DEFENSE: It is pretty much common knowledge that the Jacksonville Jaguar defense in 2011 was a top 10 unit despite a lot of injuries. In 2012, with a healthy unit that has built chemistry since last year, and some impressive rookies(drafted and undrafted), I might go so far as to say it is unreasonable to think this defense finishes outside of the top 10. However, there is one reason why I am a bit hesitant to say they will take much of a step forward. You might be able to guess at the reason, but if you don't want to, keep on reading.
- This is a real strong unit, one of the best 4-3 LB groups in the NFL. The only major problem I have with the group is the loss of Clint Session. Given his style of play and the injuries suffered, I think it is very much unreasonable to expect him back. This has me a bit worried, because I am not entirely sure there is a great replacement on the roster. I am a big fan of Russell Allen, but I am not sure he is the answer. Thankfully, as the league becomes more passing oriented, more nickel packages are in use, and so more and more often only 2 LBs are needed. When Poz and Daryl Smith are those other 2 LBs, that is an excellent thing.
- Not sure if people are as excited about him as I am, but Julian Stanford is a guy who stands out among the rookies. Now I do not live in Jacksonville, so I have not been to practices which have led me to be excited for him. The thing is that it just so happens Stanford (and Jeremiah Brown who has been waived) attended a small school in Staten Island, NY, not a half hour away from where I live. I would love to see Stanford (and Brown somewhere down the line) be successful in the NFL, and from what I have heard, Stanford is impressing.
- In the end, I expect Allen to start, and I definitely think it is reasonable to expect GREAT things out of this unit. It might not even be so crazy to expect Poz and/or Daryl Smith to make the All-Pro team.
- Not much to say here. I think that it is entirely reasonable to expect good overall play from this unit, especially now that Mathis and Cox are healthy. Bringing in Aaron Ross certainly won't hurt, and Mike Harris definitely was a nice late round selection.
- On a side note, returning to something I mentioned by the linebackers, I am pulling for Jeremiah Brown to succeed, and I hope he finds his way back to the team after he gets fully healthy, even if only on the practice squad.
- DEFENSVE LINE
- And here lies the reason I am not so ready to expect the defense to make the next step. To steal from Jpon, these Rushmen need to turn into Sackmen. This defense, despite ranking 6th at the end of 2011, managed only 31 sacks, tied for 4th fewest in the league. Simple put that is unacceptable, and until this team start racking up the sacks, I see their 2011 to represent pretty much their ceiling.
- So in terms of what to expect, I do think that the team will be quite good at run stopping. I think that Austen Lane will be starting(obviously assuming he is healthy) and should be good in the run game. As for the other 3 starters along the line, I think it is unreasonable to expect them to regress. They should put forth solid seasons in that area.
- As for the pass rush and bringing down of opposing QBs, I am still very skeptical. I think that the designated pass rusher position is great (Aaron Morgan, John Chick if healthy), but it is that starting DE spot opposite Mincey that really just worries me. If Lane is in fact that starter, hopefully the light bulb turned on, but is it incredibly realistic to think it suddenly did? If Branch is the starter, I think there is greater hope, but then again he is only a rookie, and for a guy who is not a freakish athlete like a JPP or Aldon Smith, it might take some time to fully acclimate himself to opposing NFL offensive lineman. In the end, I think the line will improve in the pass rush area, but I really am thinking that 40 sacks is the ceiling for the number of sacks this defense gets in 2012.
C) SPECIAL TEAMS
- RETURN GAMES:
- I am unhappy with this team's return situation. Last year it was not very good, and simply put, I see little reason to think it will be much improved. It is not like the team brought in some stud return man who should be able to solve the situation. I am not really sure there is reason to expect a whole lot of improvement from these units.
- I cannot really vouch for this, but from what I gather, Anger has been "boom or bust" for the most part. If that has been the case, I think that you have to anticipate more of the "bust" than you would like, partially because this team will be punting more than you would like. What I do know is that Anger is VERY talented, and should eventually eliminate most of the "bust" from his punting.
- In short, it is not reasonable to expect Scobee to replicate his 2011, because the offense should improve enough that he will not need to kick as many long field goals as he did in 2011. However, thinking his performance will drop off a lot because of that is also unreasonable; this team will still be kicking too many field goals.
- ~200 YPG passing, which in 2011 would have been 22nd in the NFL
- 25 TDs passing, which would have ranked 10th
- 2000+ rushing yards, which would have ranked no lower than 10th in the NFL in 2011
- 12-15 rushing TDs, which would have ranked 18th or better
- Another top 10 finish on defense
- A mediocre special teams unit.
In the end, based on the expectations I have for each unit, I think it seems reasonable to anticipate a final record of 8-8 give or take a game in either direction.