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How will the Jaguars offense look in 2020?

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New England Patriots v Washington Redskins Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

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If there’s one question about the Jacksonville Jaguars that gets asked more frequently in our weekly Q&A columns, it’s this:

“How will the offense look under Jay Gruden?”

It’s a fair question and we’ve answered it briefly in a few articles, but I thought it deserved a deep dive since the answer will likely be the biggest indication of how the season goes.

It all starts with the quarterback

If there’s one thing we know about Gruden, it’s that he has an ability to bring out the best in young quarterbacks. Andy Dalton and Kirk Cousins were given no shortage of opportunities to throw either.

As offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals:

  • 2011 - Dalton 516 passes vs. 385 rushing attempts by top two running backs
  • 2012 - Dalton 528 passes vs. 314 rushing attempts by top two running backs
  • 2013 - Dalton 586 passes vs. 390 rushing attempts by top two running backs

As head coach with Washington:

  • 2014 - Griffin/Cousins/McCoy 546 passes vs. 305 rushing attempts by top two running backs
  • 2015 - Cousins 543 passes vs. 346 rushing attempts by top two running backs
  • 2016 - Cousins 606 passes vs. 267 rushing attempts by top two running backs
  • 2017 - Cousins 540 passes vs. 239 rushing attempts by top two running backs
  • 2018 - Cousins 606 passes vs. 294 rushing attempts by top two running backs
  • 2019 - Keenum/Haskins/McCoy 477 passes vs. 253 rushing attempts by top two running backs

That’s a typical season looking like 550 pass attempts by the starting quarterback and 310 rush attempts by the top two running backs, with those two numbers growing wider apart in recent years.

Compare that with the Jaguars last year: 587 pass attempts by quarterbacks and 332 rush attempts in 2019. Even though the attempts number for the quarterbacks was inflated due to the team playing from behind so often, those should be pretty typical numbers moving forward with Gruden even if the team is winning games.

Look for the West Coast offense

Gruden loves him some West Coast offense, which is designed around quick reads by the quarterback, play-action passing, end-around plays, and downfield passing. Aside from his experience working with young quarterbacks, his work developing the West Coast is probably a big reason why the team hired him.

You’re going to see the quarterback rolling out of the pocket, high-efficiency throws, timing routes, and more. And you’re going to see volume, as I discussed above.

But that’s just the passing game.

The run game over his tenure was inconsistent to say the least in (seemingly) dealing with a new lead running back every year but no one was ever really a factor in the passing game except rookie Giovani Bernard during Gruden’s final season in Cincinnati. Receivers saw the lion’s share of targets, touchdowns, and yards.

And one last thing about running backs — in two of his three seasons as offensive coordinator the backup running back saw an average of 10 touches a game. Ryquell Armstead averaged fewer that four touches per game. In all, Leonard Fournette will have a reduced workload in both the passing and running games.

Red zone production will be up

The Jaguars scored touchdowns on just 19 of 47 trips last season — a pathetic 40.4 percent.

How were Gruden’s offenses since 2011?

  • 2011 Bengals: 23/51 (45.1%)
  • 2012 Bengals: 31/57 (54.4%)
  • 2013 Bengals: 34/46 (73.9%)
  • 2014 Washington: 23/48 (47.9%)
  • 2015 Washington: 30/49 (61.2%)
  • 2016 Washington: 28/61 (45.9%)
  • 2017 Washington: 25/46 (54.3%)
  • 2018 Washington: 21/40 (52.5%)
  • 2019 Washington: 20/41 (48.8%)

That’s right, folks. That abysmal Washington team of last season was markedly better than the Jaguars.

Summary

Will Gruden fix all the Jaguars’ offensive woes? No. They have an extremely young roster on that side of the ball. Their receiving corps, outside of DJ Chark, are largely untested. They don’t have a playmaker at tight end. And they haven’t really addressed their running back depth in a meaningful way since 2017.

But they’re very, very bad right now and Gruden’s offenses have been better than what the Jaguars showed last year in each of his nine seasons. That should give us hope.