With training camp well underway and preseason games beginning last week with the Hall of Fame Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys — and with the rest of the NFL kicking off preseason action this week — NFL.com released its newest power rankings from “Around the NFL” writer Dan Hanzus.
Unsurprisingly, the preseason power rankings were not kind to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars came in as one of the bottom-four teams in the rankings at No. 29.
Here is what Hanzus had to say regarding Jacksonville:
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Previous rank: No. 30
A report surfaced last week that the Jaguars are shopping C.J. Henderson, one year after the team selected the cornerback with the ninth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Having such little patience with a premium draft pick is unusual, but Henderson didn’t join the Jags on Urban Meyer’s clock and is thus out of the circle of trust. Henderson struggled as a rookie, but the potential he showed in college would hypothetically make the 22-year-old a valuable asset on the open market. One thing is clear: It’s Urban’s show in Duval.
While 29th is still very low, the Jaguars actually moved up one spot from NFL.com’s previous power rankings following the 2021 NFL Draft. Jacksonville was ranked 30th at that time, behind the Cincinnati Bengals, but has now surpassed the Bengals. Outside of Cincinnati (No. 30), the only other teams currently behind the Jaguars on the most recent list are the Detroit Lions (No. 31) and the AFC South rival Houston Texans (No. 32). The New York Jets check in at No. 28, just ahead of the Jaguars.
Much of Hanzus’ rationale for ranking the Jaguars at No. 29 mentions the current drama going on with second-year cornerback CJ Henderson. Henderson has missed a lot of practice time in training camp thus far, after recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and also being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He was also excused from Sunday’s scrimmage for personal reasons. Henderson returned to the practice field on Tuesday of this week, and the team is hopeful he will be ready for the season opener against the Texans on Sept. 12.
According to assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach Charlie Strong, Henderson “wants to play” and the staff wants to “do everything possible” to help Henderson. While Henderson’s availability — both physically and mentally — would certainly help the Jaguars be a better team, whether the Jaguars are competitive or not this season will go far beyond Henderson’s accomplishments on the field.
Coming off of a 1-15 season in 2020, with a new first-time NFL head coach in Urban Meyer and almost a completely different coaching staff from last year, along with a rookie starting quarterback in Trevor Lawrence (even if the Jaguars won’t name him as the starter just yet), and a lot of new personnel and schemes on the field, it is not surprising that Jacksonville enters the season with low expectations. Look for the Jaguars to try to move up the power rankings throughout the 2021 season.
For those who are curious, the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the top team on the preseason list, with the Kansas City Chiefs coming in second.