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2016 Pro Football Focus grades: Jaguars players rate high despite down season

A glimmer of hope?

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NFL: Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

With the football season on our heels, Pro Football Focus has been producing intriguing data from the 2016 season, and often tweeting it out, on a frequent basis this summer.

And surprisingly, I’ve noticed a lot of current Jacksonville Jaguars on these lists they’re putting out there.

We don’t need to rehash the debacle that was the 2016 season for Jacksonville, but keeping in mind the team only won three games, and watching the struggles live, it is somewhat hard to believe.

Pro Football Focus grades don’t mean everything, and I know there are some issues with certain aspects of grading — for instance PFF often cited Johnathan Cyprien as a top safety in the league because he was good at stopping the run, but that is misleading to his position overall because he wasn’t very good in coverage.

Nonetheless, these metrics are fun to look at, and perhaps it provides a glimmer of hope for 2017. Let’s recap the categories where PFF has ranked current Jaguars toward the top.

Brandon Linder

Brandon Linder received a grade of 87.6 in 2016, which ranked 5th out of 28 qualifying centers. The tweet below bills him as “Secret Superstar,” since he’s not yet, and maybe never will be, a household name. The Jacksonville faithful appreciates you, though, Brandon.

Malik Jackson

Malik Jackson is one of the league’s most disruptive interior defenders, according to PFF. On average, it took Jackson only 8.7 snaps between “impact plays” in 2016 — tackles, sacks or pressures. That tied him with Leonard Williams of the New York Jets last season.

Aaron Colvin

The following graphic includes a three-year period (2014-2016) and looks at third-year cornerbacks who have given up the fewest yards allowed per snap in coverage. Nickel cornerback Aaron Colvin ranks only behind Nevin Lawson of the Detroit Lions in this category, allowing just 1.03 yards. Colvin also led the entire league in 2016 by allowing only 6.9 (nice) yards per completion.

Telvin Smith

The tweet below shows run stop percentage (percentage of stops per snap played in run defense) from linebackers who play in a 4-3 defensive scheme. Jacksonville’s WILL linebacker Telvin Smith ranked second in the league last year with a 10.3 percent run-stoppage rate. Only Vontaze Burfict from the Cincinnati Bengals was ahead of him.

Jalen Ramsey

Jalen Ramsey is quickly becoming a complete cornerback at the NFL level and is likely on his way to a Pro Bowl or All-Pro season very soon. Not only did Ramsey lead Jacksonville with an 82.5 coverage grade last season, but his nine run stops were the most by any AFC cornerback. His 10 pas breakups also led all rookie cornerbacks.

T.J. Yeldon

T.J. Yeldon is a player who has received a lot of criticism, mainly due to his ineffectiveness as a runner. As a pass-catcher, however, he has the third-lowest drop rate among halfbacks.

Paul Posluszny

Perhaps the old wily veteran still has something left to offer in 2017. Last season, he ranked second, only behind Seattle’s Bobby Wagner, in terms of pass-rushing productivity, which measures pressure on a per snap basis (weighting toward sacks). Poz was also the highest-graded linebacker in the AFC (88.4).

Blake Bortles

By far the most surprising metric on this list in my opinion, but Blake Bortles ranked second in the entire league on slant routes in 2016. Ahead of everybody except Aaron Rodgers. Is this a misprint? Bortles also ranked third in the league in missed tackles forced by a quarterback last season.

Calais Campbell

It was a big 2016 for Calais Campbell. His 15 QB hits were the second most in the league by an interior defender. Campbell and Aaron Donald were the only two interior defenders to earn a grade of 90 or better last season. Although he’ll play mostly off of the edge in Jacksonville’s scheme, this is all good news.

Looking ahead to the future, PFF was pretty optimistic about the Jaguars. Jacksonville’s offensive line, which I feel is still a big question mark, ranks 13th heading into 2017.

There are more, but I need to stop somewhere. Some of these metrics are quite specific, but are cool to look at. Outside of Bortles apparently being a mastermind when throwing slant passes, I would say the most surprising measurement was Posluszny’s pass-rushing productivity — a metric that is weighted toward quarterback sacks, and Poz only recorded 1.5 sacks.

Which advanced statistic surprised you the most? Let us know in the comments!