No matter how tough it has been to be a Jacksonville Jaguars fan this year, this team gives us a lot to look forward to in the future.
This year, the team have continuously pulled on our heartstrings, given us false hope, and let us down. This team has frustrated the community and it's loyal fan base.
This team, based off of its strength of schedule, production of its offense, and development of its young core, should be at least 7-5, maybe even 8-4, and in control of the AFC South.
But here we are, with the Jaguars sitting at 4-8. Not technically out of playoff contention, but there is little hope for reaching the postseason.
As a fan, I am devastated. The Jaguars had their chances to shine this year. Games were literally handed to them, but they still found a way to lose. The Jaguars were given three chances to beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 4, but kicker Jason Myers missed all three field goal attempts. They either held a lead or were within a possession of the lead in the fourth quarter against Carolina, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, Houston, New York, San Diego, and Tennessee, and found a way to lose every game.
Hell, if you think like that, the Jaguars could be 11-1. But, as I said before, here we are.
It's time for us to stop holding onto the possibility of making the playoffs in 2015. While there is still a chance to reach the playoffs, it is very unlikely, considering the Jaguars are 4-8 and aren't performing at the level a playoff team should be playing at.
It's time for us to stop clinging onto this year, and start thinking about next year.
While the Jaguars have lost games they really should have won this year, have found ways to play inconsistently, and have blatant holes in their roster, this team also has shown a lot of promise, and that's something that no one has been able to say about the Jaguars since, well, probably 2007 when the team last reached the playoffs.
Blake Bortles is the future of this franchise. The Jaguars finally have a quarterback they can be confident in to be the face of the franchise. The Jaguars have put together a solid group of receivers in Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Julius Thomas, Marquise Lee, Bryan Walters, Rashad Greene, and Arrelious Benn, who will return from injury in 2016. T.J. Yeldon has solidified the team's running game as well. The Jaguars appear to be set at all three skill positions, something that hasn't been said since the Brunell-Taylor-Smith-McCardell days.
The offensive line has improved this year under offensive line/assistant head coach Doug Marrone, but still needs work. Left tackle Luke Joeckel isn't as bad as we all predicted, allowing only two sacks this year. Zane Beadles has been disappointing at left guard, allowing five sacks and being a non-factor in the run game. I don't expect him to be back next year.
Center Stefen Wisniewski has been consistently average, but I expect him to be replaced this offseason by Browns center Alex Mack, who may chose to opt out of his contract and come to Jacksonville, where he signed an offer sheet two years ago.
Right guard Brandon Linder went down with a shoulder injury earlier this season, and A.J. Cann stepped in to fill the void. Cann has played very well throughout his rookie season, and should be the starting left guard when 2016 comes around. Right tackle Jermey Parnell looks to have been a good signing last offseason, and should continue to be a significant piece of this offensive line.
A starting offensive line in 2016 of Joeckel-Cann-Wisniewski/Bowanko/Mack-Linder-Parnell is a lot of reason for hope.
Onto the defense, well, there is work to be done. While the team has established their cornerstones on defense in line backer Telvin Smith, defensive end Jared Odrick, and LEO Dante Fowler Jr., this side of the ball needs work. The pass rush has been abysmal this year, and Fowler should boost that tremendously next year. But let's keep our fingers crossed on bringing in playmakers during the offseason. Fowler can't do it alone.
The secondary has been inconsistent this year, as well. While I believe we have found two very good corner backs in Davon House and Aaron Colvin, the pass rush has been so bad that the secondary has been picked apart late in games when teams tend to pass the ball more. When the pass rush is fixed, the secondary will look much improved. The only pressing need in the secondary is at free safety, as neither Josh Evans or Sergio Brown are long term answers.
Finally, to special teams. The Jaguars have their long snapper Carson Tinker locked up on a new four-year deal and that's pretty much the only positive. Jason Myers has been inconsistent this year, as he has missed six extra points this year, which leads the league and almost ties the league total of eight from a year ago. Granted, the extra points were shorter last year, but a 33-yard kick is an expectation at the NFL level. Punter Bryan Anger has displayed his leg strength over the past four years, but has a knack for out-punting the coverage and placing the ball poorly, leading to long punt returns.
All in all, the Jaguars have established the cornerstones of the team. But to say the team is "built" is an overstatement because while this team has filled many gaps during Dave Caldwell's tenure as general manager there are still holes. As we near the end of the season and the beginning of the offseason, look for the teams major needs to be pass rusher, free safety, linebacker, center, and help along the defensive line.
The Jaguars have a young, blossoming offense that has exploded onto the scene in 2015 and should be a threatening offense to opposing defenses for years to come. The defense and special teams have their faults, all of which can, should, and will be addressed this offseason.
If the Jaguars can fill those needs, and continue to progress along all fronts, the Jacksonville Jaguars should be a very exciting team to watch in 2016.
Let's get excited about that.