So, let’s have an open discussion. Theoretically, there are question marks at just about every position, which I’ll get into below, but the question I want to ask the community is, which positional group on the Jaguars are you most concerned about heading into the 2019 season?
The team has changed significantly from the 2018 roster. Most notably, the Blake Bortles era is officially over in Jacksonville. Nick Foles takes over as the starting quarterback, and fans and media alike believe this is an upgrade. However, how big of an upgrade is it? Of course, Foles played well in Philadelphia when he needed to come in as the backup, and won the city its first Super Bowl. But his stint as a full-time starter with the St. Louis Rams did not work out well. So while Foles should bring stability to the position, he is still largely unproven. Still, Jaguars fan should be less concerned about the quarterback position now compared to any time in the past five seasons.
Then there is the tight end group. This looks like a glaring hole on paper, as it was last year for Jacksonville. The team has overhauled the position, bringing in Geoff Swain in free agency and drafting rookie Josh Oliver in the third round. Those will more than likely be the tight ends on the field in two tight end sets, but Ben Koyack, James O’Shaughnessy and rookie Charles Jones are also currently on the roster. Foles and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo have historically loved to get the tight end involved. This doesn’t look like the most promising group, but I think Oliver is versatile. I am interested to see how he and Swain contribute offensively.
The defense has a new look. While the majority of the core of stars from last year’s unit remain, there have been big changes. Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson are gone. Telvin Smith is taking the year off for personal reasons. This season’s likely starting safety duo is comprised of two largely unproven players. With Jackson’s departure, will second-year player Taven Bryan play up to his potential as he moves back to three-technique? With Bryan, Marcell Dareus and Abry Jones rotating inside, and Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue and Josh Allen on the edge, the defensive line shouldn’t be a concern.
Without Smith, the linebacking corps are a big question mark. Is rookie Quincy Williams ready to immediately start on the weak-side? Is Jake Ryan healthy enough to contribute following an ACL tear? Will second-year player Leon Jacobs keep his “starting” role at strong-side linebacker and improve this year? These are all important questions.
The original starting offensive line from last season remains largely intact, outside of right tackle Jermey Parnell. But this was a group that really struggled with injury last season, either played banged up or out of the lineup entirely. When you look at the projected starters, there is a lot of promise if the group is able to stay upright in 2019. Cam Robinson’s early availability is in question, and he isn’t expected to be ready for the start of training camp. The right tackle spot will see a positional battle between rookie Jawaan Taylor, second-year player Will Richardson and veteran Cedric Ogbuehi. Oddly, I feel pretty good about the o-line if they stay healthy.
Honestly, the skill positions for the Jaguars leave a lot to be desired. Will Leonard Fournette bounce back after a disappointing sophomore campaign and play at the level he is capable of reaching? Will Alfred Blue and Ryquell Armstead be reliable options to spell Fournette? The Jaguars’ brass seems to like the wide receiver group, but will somebody outside of Dede Westbrook ascend this year? Will Marqise Lee recover from his ACL injury in time to contribute in Week 1? Will free agent signees Chris Conley or Terrelle Pryor surprise us? These are all questions on my mind.
With all of that said, for me, my answer is the safety group. Tight end is also a big question mark, but I am more intrigued to see how the new expected starting safety duo of Jarrod Wilson and Ronnie Harrison will fare. The depth behind them is also a question mark. Wilson is penciled in at free safety, and will take over for Gipson who signed with the Houston Texans this offseason. Harrison took over at strong safety for Barry Church late last season, and will now move into a full-time starting role.
It’s not necessarily that I think these two will struggle, but I just feel like the back part of the secondary is an unknown at this point. Harrison flashed his potential last year, getting on the field in “big nickel” packages early before taking over for Church. He finished his rookie year with 32 total tackles, one sack, three tackles for loss, three passes defended and one interception in 14 games (eight starts).
In a limited sample size, Wilson has been solid in pass coverage when he had to come in for an injured Gipson or found himself on the field for other reasons. In three seasons with the Jags, he has accumulated 26 total tackles, two tackles for loss, two passes defended and one forced fumble. He has played in 47 career games with two starts.
If Wilson and Harrison are able to play on par with what Jacksonville’s passing defense has done recently — ranking in the top-two in the NFL in both 2018 and 2019 — then this defense should remain elite. If they struggle, then the whole unit will take a hit. Playing alongside with Ramsey and Bouye will help tremendously. Overall, I expect the defense to remain one of the league’s best.
Let us know your thoughts by voting in the poll and commenting below.
Which positional group on the Jaguars are you most worried about heading into the 2019 season?
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