Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer and his staff immediately went to work this offseason to rebuild the team and give the franchise an identity. The roster has been revamped in Meyer’s vision, and there are a lot of new faces at just about every position.
With that said, outside of the obvious position at quarterback with No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence now at the helm, what unit is the most-improved heading into the 2021 season? We will focus on offense today, and tackle defense at a later date.
Here is a quick breakdown of each offensive positional group.
With James Robinson entering his second NFL season — after breaking out as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2020 — and the additions of veteran Carlos Hyde in free agency and rookie Travis Etienne through the 2021 NFL Draft, the backfield looks to be pretty strong for the Jaguars this season. Pro Football Focus ranks the unit as No. 15 in the league entering the 2021 campaign.
If Robinson continues to ascend in his development, Etienne is truly the dual-threat runner/receiver that the coaching staff sees him as, and Hyde can effectively spell Robinson when he is tired, then this group should be productive. We may even see some two-running back sets with Robinson and Etienne, either with both players in the backfield or with Etienne split out wide or in the slot as a wide receiver.
Other running backs currently on the roster include Nathan Cottrell, Dare Ogunbowale and Devine Ozigbo.
The wide receivers room underwent a bit of a makeover this season. The Jaguars parted ways with a few players at the position from last year’s roster — Keelan Cole, Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook, but brought in Marvin Jones Jr., Jamal Agnew and Phillip Dorsett in free agency. Most recently, Jacksonville signed Laquon Treadwell as a free agent. Of course, the group also returns D.J. Chark Jr., Laviska Shenault and Collin Johnson from last year’s squad, and added rookie Jalen Camp in the sixth-round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
It is hard to argue that the unit didn’t get better this offseason, at least on paper, compared to 2020 — especially with Trevor Lawrence now throwing the ball. Chark has used the offseason to work on improving his body, strength and overall play. Shenault was a standout during OTAs and minicamp. Jones will provide a reliable, veteran presence who his teammates trust. Plus, there is room for others to step up as playmakers, too.
Other wide receivers currently on the roster include Pharoh Cooper, Josh Hammond, Josh Imatorbhebhe and Tim Jones.
This is the position group where most Jaguars fans were hoping the team would make a big splash either in free agency, through the draft or via a trade. The first two scenarios did not happen, and while a trade still certainly could, the tight end spot is probably Jacksonville’s biggest question mark on offense.
The team added Chris Manhertz in free agency. Manhertz is known as one of the best blocking tight ends in the league, but he has not has much production as a pass-catcher. With that said, the word from OTAs and minicamp was that Manhertz looked pretty natural catching the ball as well, so perhaps he will surprise there. As the roster currently stands, James O’Shaughnessy will likely be the team’s top pass-catching threat at tight end, and he has also impressed throughout offseason workouts.
Meanwhile, second-year players Tyler Davis and Ben Ellefson — who has received praise from the coaching staff this offseason — look to carve out their own roles. The Jaguars also drafted Luke Farrell out of Ohio State in the fifth round of this year’s draft, who is also known more for his blocking prowess compared to his receiving ability.
Then, of course, there is the complete wildcard that is former quarterback Tim Tebow. Whether or not Tebow makes the active roster, let alone contributes to the offense, remains to be seen.
This is the unit that is the most unchanged in comparison to the 2020 roster. The Jaguars return all five starters from last year’s team: left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder, right guard A.J. Cann and right tackle Jawaan Taylor. The primary depth players from last season also return, with Tyler Shatley, Ben Bartch and Will Richardson. The only notable addition is rookie second-round pick Walker Little, who offensive line coach George Warhop has been impressed with throughout the offseason.
This is a unit that was fairly effective in the run game last season, but had plenty of struggles in pass protection. For the most part, the play of the interior offensive line was relatively strong, but the tackles had a lot of ups and downs. Pro Football Focus ranks the Jaguars as just the No. 22 offensive line unit in the NFL heading into this season.
Other offensive linemen currently on the roster include KC McDermott, Austen Pleasants, Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms, Derwin Gray and Garrett McGhin.
So, which position group is most improved on offense?
In my personal opinion, it is the wide receivers. First of all, the unit gets a boost from what will likely immediately be more stable play at the quarterback position with Trevor Lawrence. Next, the addition of Marvin Jones Jr., as well as D.J. Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenault both putting in some serious work this offseason, gives me a lot of confidence with this group. Then there are several other players, such as Collin Johnson, Phillip Dorsett or rookie Jalen Camp who have an opportunity to make an impact.
Your turn. Let us know in the poll below and in the comments section which offensive position group you see as the most improved heading into the 2021 campaign.
Which offensive position group is most-improved for the Jaguars heading into the 2021 season?
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