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Is the Jacksonville Jaguars offense good enough to win a Super Bowl? 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Edition!

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In September, we ran a series on Big Cat Country comparing the Jacksonville Jaguars “Sacksonville” defense to some of the all-time greats.

This month, I wanted to conduct a case study on how the offenses of those respective teams statistically compare to the Jaguars unit and ascertain just how much the defense had to carry the offense on their back to a championship. We already compared the 2018 Jaguars with the 2000 Baltimore Ravens offense, and this week we’re matching up Jon Gruden’s 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rather than doing a career snapshot like the last series, I extrapolated the numbers from the first five weeks of the season and matched those figures up with the final regular season statistics for respective players positions on each team’s offense.

Here goes nothing!

QB | Blake Bortles vs. Brad Johnson

REGULAR SEASON COMPARISON:

Bortles: 416/675, 61.6% completion, 4,880 yards, 26 TDs, 22 INTs, 3.3 INT %

Johnson: 345/555, 62.3% completion, 3,752 yards, 27 TDs, 7 INTs, 1.3 INT %

What a difference a week makes. Just last week, Bortles’ extrapolated stats for this season prior to the Chiefs debacle was 388/600, 64.7% completion, 4,380 yards, 28 TDs, 12 INTs, 2.0 INT %. Compare this stat line with the one above and yikes. Brad Johnson often gets lumped together with Trent Dilfer in the “bad quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl pile,” but that’s simply not true. Johnson was 34 years old during the 2002 season and was incredibly efficient in 13 regular season games (numbers above extended fo 16 games). Bortles may be on pace to have over 1,000 more passing yards (likely a byproduct of a different era of passing), but Johnson was sagacious in protecting the football with a 1.3% interception percentage. Let’s put it this way — if Bortles had Johnson’s stat line above this year, this team is probably in a really good spot.

Advantage: Brad Johnson

RB | T.J. Yeldon vs. Michael Pittman

REGULAR SEASON COMPARISON:

Yeldon: 189 carries, 825 yards, 4.4 YPC, 70 catches, 621 yards

Pittman: 204 carries, 718 yards, 1 TD, 3.5 YPC, 59 catches, 477 yards

Last week, I extrapolated Fournette’s production from four total quarters in 2018 over 16 games to see what he would have been on pace for had he been healthy. With him conceivably set to miss at least half of the season, I think it’s more appropriate at this point just to use T.J. Yeldon as the primary running back benchmark. A fourth round pick out of Fresno State in the 1998 draft, the 27-year old Michael Pittman may not have been a classic workhorse back in the Bucs regular season but was a huge factor in the Super Bowl against the Raiders, where he rushed the ball 29 times for 124 yards. Pittman was a good receiver out of the backfield but never eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards in a season during his 11-year career as an NFL running back. Yeldon and Pittman are actually pretty similar in terms of production forecast, but Yeldon’s higher yards per carry average upon comparison gives him the edge.

Advantage: T.J. Yeldon

FB | Tommy Bohanon vs. Mike Alstott

REGULAR SEASON COMPARISON:

Bohanon: 1 catch, 5 yards

Alstott: 146 carries, 548 yards, 3.8 YPC, 5 TDs, 35 catches, 242 yards, 2 Rec TDs

If you want to know how much NFL offenses have changed in the past decade, look no further than fullback Mike Alstott. A No. 35 overall pick in the 1996 Draft, Alstott was a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro despite never eclipsing the 1,000 yard rushing mark in a season during his 11-year Bucs career. Obviously, the Jaguars use their fullback Tommy Bohanon very differently than Alstott as he is primarily a lead blocker and emergency auxiliary outlet in the passing game, so this isn’t too fair of a fight. I was going to use an RB2 from the Jaguars to even this out, but they don’t even really have one due to injuries so far.

Advantage: Mike Alstott

WR | Keelan Cole vs. Keyshawn Johnson

REGULAR SEASON COMPARISON:

Cole: 109 targets, 67 catches, 944 yards, 14.0 yards per catch, 4 TDs

Johnson: 142 targets, 76 catches, 1,088 yards, 14.3 yards per catch, 5 TDs

A number one overall pick by the Jets in the 1996 Draft, Keyshawn Johnson and undrafted division two wide receiver Keelan Cole could not have entered the league any more differently. With that being said, the pair aren’t too far off in terms of Cole’s projected stat line for the remainder of the year. Johnson was clearly the alpha receiver and go-to target for the Bucs offense with his 142 targets, which was over 50% of Johnson’s pass attempts. To put it in perspective, Cole’s is being targeted on about 16% of Blake Bortle’s throws, which is a staggering contrast and major statement on how much the game has changed in the last ten years or so and how the Jags offense has thrown the ball entirely too much through five weeks.

Advantage: Keyshawn Johnson

WR | Donte Moncrief vs. Keenan McCardell

REGULAR SEASON COMPARISON:

Moncrief: 118 targets, 58 catches, 797 yards, 13.8 yards per catch, 7 TDs

McCardell: 116 targets, 70 catches, 766 yards, 11.0 yards per catch, 6 TDs

Name look familiar? Keenan McCardell was 32 years old in the Bucs championship season and the grisly veteran featured in 14 regular season games in 2002. Astoundingly, that’s 258 targets between Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell, leaving very little for the remainder of the Bucs WR corps. Even though Moncrief is on pace to slightly edge out Keenan in yards and yards per catch, McCardell was an extremely reliable receiver for Brad Johnson, especially on third downs, and I don’t think many would disagree with me that Moncrief has yet to earn the trust of his quarterback and fan base on crucial downs.

Advantage: Keenan McCardell

WR | Dede Westbrook vs. Joe Jurevicius

REGULAR SEASON COMPARISON:

Westbrook: 105 targets, 77 catches, 1,117 yards, 14.5 yards per catch, 4 TDs

Jurevicius: 52 targets, 37 catches, 423 yards, 11.4 yards per catch, 4 TDs

The 6’5” 230-pound wide receiver out of Penn State was certainly of a different mold than Dede Westbrook, and this once again illustrates how different the style of offense the Bucs and Jaguars had. The Bucs did not go to three receiver sets very often, while the Jaguars live in 11 personnel almost exclusively. On any note, Westbrook is set to smoke Jurevicius in production this year and gets the Jaguars offense a rare win.

Advantage: Dede Westbrook

TE | Austin Seferian-Jenkins vs. Ken Dilger

REGULAR SEASON COMPARISON:

Seferian-Jenkins: 64 targets, 44 catches, 360 yards, 8.2 yards per catch, 4 TDs

Dilger: 48 targets, 34 catches, 329 yards, 9.7 yards per catch, 2 TDs

Of course, this number has an asterisk next to it with Seferian-Jenkins landing on injured reserve with a core muscle injury, likely leaving the slack to James O’Shaughnessy for the remainder of the regular season. Regardless of the injury, the Jaguars tight ends will likely out-produce the 31-year old and long-time Colt Ken Dilger, who was used predominantly as a blocker in the Bucs power scheme. With how infrequently the Jaguars use the tight end in the passing game, that’s really saying something.

Advantage: Austin Seferian-Jenkins

OL | Jaguars vs. Bucs

REGULAR SEASON COMPARISON:

Jaguars: 35 sacks allowed; 4.5 yards per carry

Buccaneers: 41 sacks allowed; 3.8 yards per carry

The Bucs offensive line consisting of Roman Oben, Kerry Jenkins, Jeff Christy, Cosey Coleman, and Kenyatta Walker was actually a pretty solid one. The unit allowed 2.5 sacks per game, but a good share of them were on Brad Johnson holding on to the football a little too long to make sure he didn’t give the ball away. While the pass protection numbers are fine, their effectiveness in the run game was lackluster, plowing the way to a mere 3.8 yards per carry. This is probably going to change in the next few weeks with all the injuries to the Jaguars offensive line and the necessity to start a guard at left tackle this week, but for now, the Jags are well ahead of those numbers, especially in run blocking. Pass blocking, however, is a different story. Just last week before the Chiefs game, the Jaguars offensive line was on pace for allowing only 24 sacks on the season. Sigh.

Advantage: Jaguars OL?

Winner: Buccaneers

Aside from running back, slot receiver, and tight end, the Buccaneers offense is a resounding winner in this comparison exercise. As a whole, the Buccaneers offense was actually low-key pretty solid and was a decent compliment to Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch and the defense.

Almost incredibly, the Jaguars offense currently ranks ninth in the NFL in yards per game (404.4), but that number is largely inflated thanks to garbage time from the Chiefs game last week. Nevertheless, that’s almost 100 more yards per game than the 2002 Bucs were putting up (312.6). The Bucs produced 1.2 more points per game (21.6 to 20.4), but the Jaguars are earning over four more first downs per game.

Like last week, however, the two things killing the Jaguars are turnover differential and time of possession. The Bucs held on to the football for an average of 32:07 per game; almost a minute and half more than the Jags’ 30:28. The real kicker, however, is turnovers. The Bucs finished the season with a +17 turnover differential, which is a canyon’s difference from the Jags current -7 mark. With a turnover differential this poor, it’s almost impressive that the Jaguars have mustered a winning record throughout their first five games.

While we saw last week that the Jaguars offense is better than the 2000 Ravens unit that was the exception and not the rule, it’s starting to look more and more likely that the Jaguars are closer to those 2000 Ravens on the offensive spectrum than the 2002 Bucs and the 2013 Seahawks and 2015 Broncos, who I’ll be highlighting over the next week. Long story short, they need to pick up the slack, and it starts this week against the Dallas Cowboys.