The Jacksonville Jaguars set records last year on the offensive side of the ball. Blake Bortles set individual franchise records in yards and passing touchdowns, Allen Robinson set the franchise record in touchdowns, and Allen Hurns was one of the most productive second-year receivers in the league last year. There are a lot of important players on offense contributing at a high level.
But we near training camp, the preseason, and ultimately the regular season, who is the most important player on offense for the Jaguars? (You can't say Blake Bortles because that's cheating.)
The most important player for me on the Jaguars offense is Chris Ivory. Can the Jaguars be pretty good if Chris Ivory isn't? Sure, kinda. But, if Chris Ivory is what he was last season for the Jets, that should be the shot in the arm the Jaguars need towards consistency, which was a huge issue last season. The Jaguars weren't consistent on offense because at times, they couldn't sustain drives. They also couldn't punch the ball in the endzone on a consistent basis, which is pretty insane considering how much their scoring was up.
Ivory can also take pressure of Blake Bortles as he looks to settle into being more consistent, because he won't have to feel like he has to do it all himself. When Bortles gets into his issues, I feel he's trying to do too much, so if someone like Ivory can shoulder some of that load, it should ripple through the rest of the offense.
While the performance of the Jaguars' A-Team (Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns) is undoubtably very crucial to the team's success, I refuse to list either receiver as the "most important" player on offense. Hurns and Robinson are not replicas of each other, but both are capable of picking up the slack that could be left behind by the other.
For this reason, I'm going to go with someone who might not be the most popular choice -- Julius Thomas.
Thomas is, whether we like it or not, the only Jaguar that demands attention on offense. He didn't have a huge statistical year in his first year with the Jaguars, but you better believe he made an impact. As he enters his second season with the team, Thomas will once again become a point of emphasis for opposing defenses -- a distraction that should allow other offensive weapons an opportunity at replicating some of their 2015 success. Marcedes Lewis does not demand the coverage responsibilities that Julius Thomas does. For this reason, Thomas is the most important Jaguar and he needs to be on the field.
If we aren't saying Blake Bortles, then I am gonna go with Allen Robinson, with Allen Hurns close behind.
As big of a step as Bortles took last season, he could not have done it without either of the Allens. Robinson was a big-play threat who was capable of giving Bortles a target that he could just lob it up to; Sometimes carelessly, but normally effectively. Hurns was a dependable third down target who made a number of tough catches and acrobatic adjustments to move the chains.
If Bortles, and the team, are going to take another step forward, then he will need both Allens to continue to give him the huge amount of support that they have showed they are capable of doing.
It has to be Allen Robinson, right? He's a top-five talent in the league at wide receiver and he's only entering his third year. He led the league in catches of 20 yards or more, he led the league with 17.5 yards per catch (only counting players with 1,000 yards or more), he tied for the league lead in touchdowns, he had the longest catch of 2015, and he did it all with only the eighth-most targets. There isn't a player on the offense (Blake Bortles not included) who causes the team to drop off more significantly if he's out of the lineup.
If not Robinson, I'll say Chris Ivory. Our red zone scoring and short-yardage was pathetic last year and Ivory was brought in to revamp that. Our defense isn't going to transform itself overnight, but with Ivory's presence in the backfield we'll improve in points per game, third down conversions, and time of possession -- and those things will help a growing defense.
Although it isn't the most popular opinion, it would be hard for me to not say Kelvin Beachum. The offense was stellar last season in comparison to years past, but there are still steps to be taken. The most important step: Protecting Blake Bortles.
The Jaguars ranked fourth in the league last year in sacks allowed with 51, which banged Bortles up as the season went on. Although he never missed a game, he was continually getting bruised up in the backfield and it could have been much worse. If Bortles continues to get sacked 50 or more times a year, the injuries will come, and they won't stop.
The offensive line as a whole needs to grow. There's lots of potential coming from Brandon Linder's transition to center, as well as A.J. Cann's growth at right guard. However, I think Kelvin Beachum's production at left tackle will make or break this offensive line.
Although Luke Joeckel looked alright last year, the Jaguars front office realized he wasn't the answer and took action this offseason in signing Beachum to a deal to "compete" for the starting left tackle position.
Beachum was a top-10 tackle in his time in Pittsburgh before his ACL tear. If he has recovered as well as he and the team believes, I expect him to regain the status he held in Pittsburgh -- thus giving Jacksonville top-10 talent at left tackle...
...something we haven't had since Tony Boselli.
Left guard because I don't know who it is. The biggest collective question mark for the Jaguars' offense is the offensive line. Within that question mark is another question mark. Who is playing left guard?