As the preseason kicks into full gear, we wanted to sit down with people who watch the Jaguars outside of the Jacksonville market and see what the team looks like from 1,000 miles away. (Or in today’s case, 3,981 miles away.)
We asked some questions of Cian Fahey of FootballOutsiders.com about how the Jaguars could look this year, what he thinks of our edge rush, and if we should reserve some time off in January for when the Jaguars make the playoffs and we go on our eventual six-day bender.
1. Pretend you’re Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson. What are the game situations, field positions, etc… that you’d use T.J. Yeldon in and which ones you’d use Chris Ivory.
Cian Fahey: The Jaguars don't need to follow a rigid game plan with Yeldon and Ivory. Ivory needs to be used in short-yardage situations but he isn't just a short-yardage back. The duo could split carries further out the field to keep both players fresh. The one major concern the Jaguars have is on third downs. Neither Ivory or Yeldon appear to be ideal options on third downs.
2. Jacksonville has a number of promising young pass rushers, but they don’t have a LEO who has played an NFL down other than rarely used Chris Smith. Is it fair to expect the team to be better at rushing the passer even with so much inexperience?
Cian Fahey: While the Jaguars don't have an established edge rusher they could potentially have two of the best penetrating defensive tackles in the NFL. Malik Jackson proved himself to be an outstanding player during the Broncos Super Bowl run last year. Sen'Derrick Marks was previously the Jaguars best defensive player before a torn ACL ended his 2014 and disrupted his 2015 season. Marks and Jackson together on third downs could be very disruptive.
Even if Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue need time to develop their consistency, both should prove to be talent upgrades over the extremely limited Andre Branch and the now-retired Chris Clemons.
3. How will Blake Bortles’ production be affected by an improved defense and the arrival of Chris Ivory?
Cian Fahey: Chris Ivory's arrival matters more than the expected defensive improvement. Ivory is a goal-line specialist. He carried the ball 18 times within 5 yards of the end zone last year. The Jets trusted Ivory in a way that the Jaguars didn't trust Yeldon. Yeldon had fewer carries in the red zone last year than Bortles had touchdowns. 27 of Bortles' touchdowns came in the red zone last year.
4. With more than half the defense new arrivals or rookies, how do teams historically do when one side of the ball is playing football for the first time together? Is it different for offense and defense?
Cian Fahey: We've never actually done a research study on that but there are obvious challenges when trying to incorporate so many new pieces at one time. Defenses need to feature 11 players who are in tune with each other because communicating assignments is so important in this era where offenses can attack you in so many different ways. The two best defenses from recent seasons, the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos, built a foundation before gradually adding impact players to reach the heights that they ultimately reached.
5. Should I put a deposit down on a playoff game at EverBank this year?
Cian Fahey: Give it a year for the new talent to develop together.