No one expected the Jacksonville Jaguars to be 1-9 headed into the bye week, and if they're telling you that they're lying to you and themselves. It's been a frustrating and, frankly, underwhelming first 10 weeks.
But not all who wander are lost. General manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley are tinkering with the roster, finding diamonds in the rough of the NFL Draft.
The result? Encouraging, young prospects at (literally) every position for the Jaguars. Some are starters, some are role players, but all have shown individual growth and the potential to get this team to the next level.
Ryan: It's obviously Blake Bortles. In addition to having all the physical tools and athleticism he needs to be a great player, his ability to hang in the pocket and make confident throws downfield is something we haven't seen in a Jaguars uniform in a long time. Once the mental part of the game catches up to him, and he's making better pre-snap adjustments and reads, he'll be fine.
Alfie: I think this is pretty obvious that you have Blake Bortles here. While he started hot and then came back down to Earth to look like a rookie, the talent is clearly there. It doesn't help that the offense he's playing in also includes a handful of rookies, so you're dealing with hoping a lot of young guys get everything right on a given play. As it stands right now, I'm not concerned with Bortles at all and he's shown me more good than bad.
Ryan: Again, this is the obvious choice and it's Denard Robinson. Over the past four weeks, he's averaged 98 yards on the ground per game. When's the last time a Jaguars running back averaged 98 rushing yards per game over just a four-week span? The final four weeks of the 2011 season.
Alfie: Like quarterback, this one is quite obvious. Denard Robinson has molded himself into a legitimate NFL running back in his second season, transitioning from quarterback at Michigan. I don't know if he'll ever be that guy who gets 25-30 touches a game, but in today's NFL he doesn't need to be. If he can get 15-20 touches and give you 100+ total yards, that's perfect.
Ryan: There's two options here, and I'll go the undrafted route. Allen Hurns represents Caldwell's and Bradley's ability to find rookies in undrafted free agency who can perform at the top of their class. He's third in the AFC in yards and fourth in receptions. Is he a starter in the league? Probably not. But is he a mismatch for a defender covering the No. 3 or No. 4 receiver? Absolutely.
Alfie: While it's a position in transition and a bit of a hindrance right now, it's a spot the team can take a big leap going forward. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns proved themselves reliable and Marqise Lee has had a handful of flashes. With being forced into action the trio should learn the NFL game at a faster rate than normal.
Ryan: Luke Bowanko. Caldwell found what looks to be mainstay center Brad Meester's replacement in the sixth round. Except for right guard Brandon Linder, I think Bowanko is the best offensive lineman the Jaguars have. He's only had one bad game -- Week 4 against the San Diego Chargers. When Bowanko is as consistent a pass blocker as he is a run blocker... Whew.
Alfie: The most encouraging player on the offensive line for me is Brandon Linder. Luke Bowanko has done a nice job, but Brandon Linder has asserted himself as the team's best offensive lineman and it was noticeable he was out of the lineup against the Cowboys. For two guys who commenters obliterated as being nothing more than depth at best, they are two of the team's better offensive lineman, and they're actually playing well.
Ryan: The defensive line is the oldest position group for the Jaguars, and as such there's only a handful of young guys to choose from. But interior rusher Ryan Davis is less than three years in the league and has the second-most sacks (4.5) on the team, despite playing less snaps than most of the starters.
Alfie: One guy on the defensive line no one really talks about that is playing well when he gets in the game is Abry Jones. He's played on the edge and on the inside, but he shows an ability to be disruptive in the backfield and also be stout against the run. He was a smart undrafted pickup for Caldwell and it's possible he could find himself in the starting lineup down the road.
Ryan: Except for a few hiccups against the Cincinnati Bengals, rookie Telvin Smith has played lights out the past four weeks. With the interior defensive line handling the run well, Telvin's speed, athleticism, and versatility has helped him provide balance at covering both the run and the pass.
Alfie: This is another easy one in Telvin Smith. He's flashed quite a few times this season both good and bad, but when it finally clicks for him and he becomes consistent, the Jaguars should have a heck of a weak side linebacker on their hands. He's done well in coverage and is a willing tackler even though he's on the smallish side.
Ryan: Demetrius McCray. The former seventh-round draft pick has gone up against the likes of Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, and Dez Bryant and not looked foolish. It was only when the Bryant was shifted away from McCray, and towards Dwayne Gratz, that the Cowboys had better success in the passing game.
Alfie: This is another easy one because of how well Demetrius McCray has played the past few weeks in Alan Ball's place. He played so well matching up with Dez Bryant last Sunday that the Cowboys starting shifting Dez to the other side of the ball. McCray flashed a few times last year and in the preseason, but he appears to be ready to handle a full time starting gig.