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Jaguars’ young talent is key to success moving forward

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Jaguars must rely on young, talented core of players to revive their season

New Orleans Saints v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images

Entering the 2019 regular season, the expectations surrounding a team with young, but otherwise unknown players, were bleak. The Jaguars were coming off of a disappointing season which saw multiple veteran players depart and had no real production out of their previous draft class in 2018. Ultimately, the team was forced to play wait-and-see with their young core of players.

Now, the team is entering a bye week at 4-5 with plenty of reason for optimism in the future. Regardless of the team’s expectations for finishing the season, the talent surrounding the team is promising.

Former second-round pick DJ Chark Jr. has proven to be a legitimate number one receiver in this league. The second-year player is currently tied for first in the AFC in receiving yards with 692 (Cortland Sutton) and is tied for first in the AFC in touchdowns with six (Darren Fells).

Along with Chark Jr., the Jaguars are getting legitimate impactful snaps from defensive tackle Taven Bryan, safety Ronnie Harrison, right guard Will Richardson, and linebacker Leon Jacobs thus far this season — all players selected by the team during the 2018 NFL Draft or signed during the 2018 undrafted free agency period.

2018 Draft Class snap counts

Player Offensive/Defensive Snap total Percentage
Player Offensive/Defensive Snap total Percentage
Ronnie Harrison 563 94.94%
DJ Chark Jr. 484 77.56%
Tre Herndon 447 75.38%
Will Richardson 336 53.85%
Taven Bryan 208 35.08%
Leon Jacobs 119 20.07%
https://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/jax/2019-snap-counts.htm

Moving forward this season, the Jaguars will need to rely heavily on their young core of players in order to be successful. The team has already found reliable players from their most recent draft class in defensive end Josh Allen, offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor, and now-backup quarterback Gardner Minshew II.

Taylor, like Minshew, has gotten better each week he’s played this season, and according to Jaguars’ offensive coordinator John DeFilippo is not a shock at all.

“Just through our schedule, Jawaan’s pulled some pretty decent pass rushers”, DeFilippo said last week. “Not decent, really good pass rushers here through this first half of the season and he’s handled himself well.”

Taylor has been sent through the gauntlet thus far this season. Having played J.J. Watt, Cameron Wake, Von Miller, Brian Burns, and Cameron Jordan, the young right tackle has played well enough to earn praise among his coaches and teammates.

“We were talking about our draft class the other day, and Jawaan’s just one of those guys that, again, you get better in this league as a player when you love football, you’re passionate about your job and you’re all about the team. And he has those three qualities and it’s not a shock he’s getting a lot better as we go.”

In order to be successful in the NFL, a team must hit on several draft picks, especially with a roster as young as the Jaguars’ is right now. Not being able to rely on veteran players as a safety net has bitten teams more times than not. Luckily for Jacksonville, their ability to develop and grow with young, talented players has been exceptional.

Over the next seven games, the Jaguars will get a great look at their rising stars on both sides of the football. Several players have stepped up for the team lately, and Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has taken notice. With Minshew, it was the same way. Now, the Jaguars’ head coach says other players can follow his — and other young players’ — lead.

“Guys like Tre Herndon, who was thrown into a [starting] role and is playing well for us,” Marrone said on Tuesday. “Keelan Cole who came in as a free agent, then he had some success, then he really wasn’t playing as much these past couple of weeks, and then all of a sudden, he had back-to-back games with touchdowns. Just being ready, and I think it’s a great example for all of our players.”