Who could blame them right...?
Here's a few reasons why the Jaguars could make some serious noise this year while trying to rebuild a team that's been spiraling downward for a few seasons now.
1. Blaine Gabbert has weapons
There's no more excuses for Blaine. He finally has a nice receiving corps with two young budding stars, a former pro-bowl TE in Marcedes Lewis who shouldn't be blocking as much this year, and hopefully a healthy Maurice Jones-Drew in a contract year who will be hungry to prove he's worth another big contract. Along with the already in place weapons, Denard Robinson and Ace Sanders might provide big play potential and keep defenses on their toes.
2. No more offensive line problems?
Eugene Monroe is a top 10 LT in the NFL. Pairing him with a healthy Will Rackley, instead of a rotating door at LG, should make that side of the line a strength. Brad Meester in the middle provides quality veteran leadership and can be a stop gap to Mike Brewster after next season. The right side of the line, after being a mess last year, could also be a strength with a healthy Uche Nwaneri and the 2nd overall pick Luke Joeckel. Having Cameron Bradfield learn behind Joeckel for a year or two should help if the Jags don't end up re-signing Monroe when his contract is up, allowing Bradfield to be more experienced in a couple years.
3. New defensive scheme
Gus Bradley is known for his aggressive and fast paced defense which should suit our personnel extremely well. Even though scheme-wise it's not meant to be too complex, it's far from vanilla. Mel Tucker boasted a 4-3 defense with a "simplistic" approach to stopping the offense. His philosophy was "no big plays, keep everything in front of us" leading to a very soft defense. Although I like Mel, and he did make our defense a top 10 D just a couple years ago, I think this new hybrid 3-4 defense will be more effective. Putting Tyson Alualu at DE (which he played in college) should allow him more room to make plays in his natural position. Andre Branch seems to fit the LEO position perfectly instead of holding the edge on a run play or trying to adjust to NFL speed at the outside DE position in a 4-3 scheme. Pair those with a full season of Jason Babin and our pass rush should look a whole lot better, especially with man to man press coverage principles on the outside, giving less time for the opposing Quarterback to make a play.
4. No pressure to win *now*
In recent seasons, the Jaguars were thought to be maybe a player or two away from really competing for a playoff spot. In hindsight, that just wasn't the case. This upcoming season gives the Jags an opportunity to play without any pressure to win a serious amount of games, thus allowing our coaches to evaluate the strengths of our roster and build going forward. This year is a make or break year for Blaine Gabbert, and while Gus Bradley and GM Dave Caldwell aren't tied to him in any way, it would be nice to see him turn the corner and prove he can lead this team to wins in the future. In a worst case scenario, the Jaguars are not competitive at all this season, and draft either JaDeveon Clowney or a top tier Quarterback in a strong QB class at the top of next year's draft.
All in all, I don't expect the Jaguars to be a playoff team this year, but I could really see them improve in a lot of areas. The defense looks to be on its way rebuilding with a youth movement that looks like it could be scary in a few years. Offensively we could turn the corner with a new scheme and Blaine playing with less pressure to "not throw turnovers" (Thanks Mularkey). It'll be fun to see if the Jaguars can make that leap this early to being a competitive team even though nobody on the planet expects much out of them.
Here's to the Jacksonville Jaguars possibly making some serious noise this year!