So today’s question is: which positional group are you, as a fan, most comfortable with heading into the season?
We discussed a lot of the question marks each position has attached to it in Tuesday’s piece, but today let’s look at why we could be optimistic with each positional group:
Quarterback: Nick Foles is a clear upgrade over Blake Bortles. How big of a difference that is going to make remains to be seen, but I think it’s obvious that the quarterback position is no longer going to be something holding this team back. The development of expected backup, rookie Gardner Minshew II, is also going to be fun to watch.
Running Back: Leonard Fournette is healthy and has hopefully matured. I’m expecting a bounce-back season from the former No. 4 overall pick, but that depends upon if he can stay on the field or not. The whole group has been retooled, with Alfred Blue, Thomas Rawls, Benny Cunningham and rookie Ryquell Armstead now in the fold.
Wide Receiver: I fully expect Dede Westbrook to continue to ascend into a breakout playmaker. It’s a little bit iffy after that, but if Marqise Lee can remain healthy, D.J. Chark makes a leap in his sophomore year and Keelan Cole can get back to his 2017 self, then there is promise. Chris Conley’s connection with Foles is also a positive thing.
Tight End: While the tight end position is a big unknown for this team, there is a lot of potential for surprises. The bar is set incredibly low. I expect rookie Josh Oliver to be versatile and line up all over the field. Geoff Swaim could be a typical Jacksonville tight end who can both block and catch, while Ben Koyack and James O’Shaughnessy can continue to contribute when needed.
Offensive Line: I mentioned in the other piece that I, oddly, feel pretty good about this group. But that entirely depends on health. The Jaguars had a revolving door at offensive line last season, and used 12 different starters. If it remains intact, this is actually a strong unit on paper, especially on the left side. If Cam Robinson can return to full-strength following an ACL tear, expect a much improved group in the trenches.
Defensive line: While losing Malik Jackson at the three-technique isn’t something we should easily dismiss, there really isn’t reason for any concern here. Think about it: Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue coming off of the edge, while Marcell Dareus and Taven Bryan plug the middle. Then you have Abry Jones, Josh Allen, Dawuane Smoot and others rotating in. Campbell will slide into the interior on pass rush downs. This is a menacing unit.
Linebacker: Telvin Smith sitting out this year is a blow, but his play fell off somewhat in 2018. Jacksonville is not better without him, but it allows an opportunity for rookie Quincy Williams on the weak-side, and opens up potential playing time for others, such as free agent signee Jake Ryan and second-year strong-side linebacker Leon Jacobs. Expect Myles Jack to have a strong campaign, as he enters his second full season at MIKE, and the final season of his rookie deal.
Cornerback: This is a group we shouldn’t worry about. Some say that Jalen Ramsey had a “down season” last year, but he was still a Pro Bowl starter. A.J. Bouye struggled somewhat, but together these two still make up one of the top cornerback duos in the league. D.J. Hayden is a solid nickel cornerback. The depth behind him is questionable, but the team likes Quenton Meeks and Tre Herndon. This unit ranked No. 2 against the pass last season.
Safety: This was the position I identified as most concerning, but it’s really just more of an unknown at this point. Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson have both shown potential in limited snaps, and Harrison got starting experience last year. Seeing what they can do on a full-time basis will be fun to watch. The depth behind them isn’t too promising, but the Jaguars seem comfortable with what they have.
Special teams should be solid as well. Josh Lambo has been the most reliable kicker the Jaguars have had since Josh Scobee, while punter Logan Cooke averaged 45 yards per punt as a rookie. Dede Westbrook is a dangerous punt returner, and well, kick returns are barely even a thing in today’s NFL, but Jacksonville has options there.
For me, this is easy: the defensive line. I expect Sacksonville to return in 2019 for the reasons I’ve mentioned above.
What do you think? Comment below and vote in the poll!
Which positional group are you most comfortable with heading into the 2019 season?
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