Only the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, and Super Bowl runner-up New England Patriots are ahead of the Jaguars on Harrison’s rankings. The Jaguars finished 12-7, losing a heartbreaker in the AFC Championship to the Patriots. As I’m sure we’re all aware of by now, this was Jacksonville’s first winning season since 2007.
Here is Harrison’s explanation to the high-ranking for the Jags:
“Too high for the Jags? False. They have the draft capital and some cap room to rectify the one spot on the team that you were thinking of eight seconds ago when you read the ranking. Their defense is chock-full o’ talent, from stem to stern. As far as free agency goes, wide receiver is the group that presents the most concern. Both Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee are set to hit the open market. Of course, who’s throwing them the ball, or potentially throwing them the ball? That’s the question everyone is underlining this offseason. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports that Jacksonville intends to head into 2018 with Blake Bortles as the starter -- and that this was the plan regardless of the wrist surgery that could lock in his 2018 contract (which is guaranteed for injury). Alex Smith would have been a nice fit, as many in the Twitterverse pointed out. Obviously that’s not happening. Soon-to-be former Redskins starter Kirk Cousins would be a huge upgrade. Money would be an issue there. So, Bortles?”
He doesn’t sound too confident in Blake Bortles, which is always the question for Jaguars fan, but cites the strong defense, draft capital and potential cap room to improve the team. Though, he does mention that if the Jaguars plan to pursue Kirk Cousins that money would be an issue. Alfie Crow debunked that myth earlier this week.
The No. 3 position for Jacksonville is a big turnaround from Harrison’s Week 1 Power Rankings, where he ranked the Jaguars No. 31, only ahead of the New York Jets. That’s right — even the Cleveland Browns who were coming off of a one-win season (and followed that up with a zero-win season in 2017) were ranked ahead of the Jaguars. In his defense, Jacksonville was coming off of a 3-13 campaign and had six straight seasons of five wins or less, but come on, man!
This was Harrison’s thoughts on the Jaguars prior to the Week 1 matchup against the Houston Texans.
Incredible. Incredible that Doug Marrone would hand the reins back over to Blake Bortles, citing the mobility factor while saying Bortles’ good plays versus the Panthers were essentially non-factors. Huh? While Bortles isn’t bad on the move, he’s no Randall Cunningham, much less a 1996-esque Mark Brunell. Not to mention (but we’ll mention), what message does this send to the rest of the offense? That Bortles’ “benching” -- and the brief transition to Chad Henne -- was merely a stern directive to the young quarterback to get into gear? Maybe Leonard Fournette will go off versus the Texans on Sunday, rendering this whole point moot. Against that stout Texans front. Yeah, and maybe the Browns could have gotten a first-round pick for Osweiler via trade ...
Strong take there, Elliot. Bortles did have his most efficient, and most would argue best, season of his career in 2017. But again, nobody saw the Jags coming this season. That Texans game in Week 1 was kind of a wake-up call to the rest of the league for what this team was about this year. Harrison also had the Rams at No. 29 in his initial rankings — another surprise team this past season. It just goes to show the NFL is hard to predict each year.
The No. 3 ranking is great, and I think, well deserved. But the thing is, the Jaguars are not going to surprise anybody next year. The nucleus of talent on defense is all returning, Allen Robinson will likely be healthy and back in Jacksonville and the Jags have the whole offseason to upgrade the offense.
As Jaguar fans, we all understand how hard it is to make it back to an AFC Championship (and beyond). Hopefully Jacksonville remains healthy, focused and hungry in 2018.