While the NFL playoffs are underway, the focus for the Jacksonville Jaguars has shifted to the 2020 offseason. We already know that Tom Coughlin is out and the team will not fill the role of executive vice president of football operations, while head coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell will return and report directly to owner Shad Khan.
But where does this team go roster wise? There are so many holes to fill due to a poorly constructed roster and attrition taking its toll on the team. Mock drafts are already abundant — which are always fun to look at, but, frankly mean nothing prior to the end of the season or even the NFL Combine.
Of course, free agency comes before the draft as well. It will be important to see which needs Jacksonville fills with the veterans available in March before we start trying to predict which rookies the team wants to select in April.
But when you look at this team in its current state, it’s hard to identify the team’s “biggest” need. An argument could easily be made that the team has several big needs — defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback tight end, offensive line, wide receiver, etc. There is also a debate about the quarterback position, depending on how you feel about Gardner Minshew II — personally, I think the Jaguars need to commit to him as the starter heading into the 2020 season, but that remains to be seen.
The defense is a mess. This was a unit that ranked top-five in total defense and pass defense in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons. In 2019, the Jacksonville defense plummeted to 24th in total defense and 16th against the pass. But what really ailed this defense was opposing teams’ rushing attacks — the Jags were 28th in the NFL against the run, giving up an abysmal 139.3 yards per game.
Defending the run is something that needs to be addressed this offseason via free agency, draft or trade by adding a run-stuffing defensive tackle who can contribute immediately, and by figuring out the linebacking corps. There are many questions: Is Myles Jack really the answer at MIKE? Will Telvin Smith return in 2020 (unlikely)? Will Marcel Dareus be cut in the offseason (the team has a club option), and if he is, can Taven Bryan and Abry Jones be counted on at defensive tackle? These are all questions that need to be answered, but the interior defensive line and linebackers are two position groups that need some serious bolstering this offseason.
Continuing with defense, and while it’s maybe not as a big of a need, I would like to see the team add a quality cornerback to pair with A.J. Bouye on the outside (if the team doesn’t make him a cap casualty this offseason). D.J. Hayden was good in the slot, and Tre Herndon held his own for the most part, but adding a solid cornerback should be on the agenda with Jalen Ramsey no longer on the roster.
Of course, with the defense, we are waiting to learn the fate of defensive coordinator Todd Wash. His unit has regressed and his coaching has been called into question by the fanbase — but will Marrone decide to move on from him? Are there any quality defensive coordinators that would actually find the Jacksonville opening as a good opportunity with a lame duck regime at the helm? And if there is a coaching change there, how will scheme and personnel change along with it? We’ll see.
Offensively, things don’t look much better. Outside of D.J. Chark, the team lacks any special, play-making receivers. Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley are decent options, and I am a fan of both of their games, but I’m not sure either is a game-changer that other teams have to specifically game-plan against. Keelan Cole has flashed his potential but has been hot and cold, and mostly cold, over the past two seasons (Cole is also a restricted free agent this offseason). The 2020 class offers a lot of talent at wide receiver, and the Jags may be wise to take one relatively early to try to pair somebody with Chark as a true No. 2 wide out.
The tight end position is in dire straits, as the team lacks a No. 1 option there. James O’Shaughnessy was having a solid campaign with 14 catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns in just five games before an ACL injury ended his season early. The Jags also aren’t sure what they have in tight end Josh Oliver, a third-round pick in the 2019 draft. Oliver dealt with injuries throughout training camp and into the regular season before eventually being placed on injured reserve in November. He appeared in just four games and had three catches for 15 yards. This is a spot that needs a big upgrade this offseason.
As far as the offensive line goes, it’s kind of a head-scratching situation. This should be a talented group down in the trenches, but is instead an underachieving bunch that graded out as 26th in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. You have two of the highest-paid interior offensive linemen in the league in Brandon Linder and Andrew Norwell. Norwell was a big time free agent addition in 2018, but has mostly struggled in Jacksonville. He’s another player at risk of being a cap casualty. You have young talent at both tackle spots in Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor, who had their struggles but also both have good potential. A.J. Cann and Will Richardson shared reps at right guard for most of the season, and I think that’s a spot that could use some bolstering as well. Richardson is another young player with talent who showed off his position-versatility, but has not put it all together yet.
Any way you slice it, Jacksonville has a lot to figure out this offseason. Let’s open this up to discussion. What do you think the biggest need is for the Jaguars heading into 2020? Please vote in the poll and comment below.
What is Jacksonville’s biggest position of need in 2020?
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