The 2016 season was supposed to be the Jaguars year. Promise was shown in quarterback Blake Bortles the year before, after he posted a 35 touchdown season to go along with 4,400 yards. The Jags had a high caliber receiver in Allen Robinson who tied for the most TD receptions that year with 14. The defense was only getting stronger as well. Jacksonville selected cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Myles Jack in the first two rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft.
On top of all those good things going in Jacksonville’s favor, they have the luxury of playing in the AFC South. In 2015, the Houston Texans won the division with a 9-7 record. The AFC South had many believing that 9-7 or even 8-8 would win the division again in 2016, and that’s exactly what happened. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, they were not the team to finish 9-7, it was the Houston Texans once again. In fact, Jacksonville finished dead last in the AFC South with a 3-13 record.
Since 2011, the Jaguars have gone 22-74, and have finished no better than third in their division. To make things even worse, including this years draft, Jacksonville has had a top five pick in each draft since 2012.
For a team that has been awful for quite some time, what can the Jaguars do to put themselves back in the playoffs for the first time since 2007? Here are three easy fixes to get them back to winning caliber football.
Add a CB Opposite Jalen Ramsey
The Jaguars defense was great against the pass in 2016. In fact, Jacksonville was ranked 5th in the league in passing defense. On the other hand though, this defense ranked dead last in interceptions with only seven. In order to become a great defense, turnovers have to be made and the Jaguars failed to do that in terms of interceptions in 2016.
Outside of QB, CB is probably the hardest position to play as a rookie. Don’t tell Jalen Ramsey that though. In his rookie year, Ramsey was a force to be reckoned with. He was able to pull down two interceptions to go along with 14 pass breakups. The other side of the field was where Jacksonville struggled.
Prince Amukamara was signed in the 2016 offseason, but wasn’t able to do much on the field. He failed to force any turnovers, and was average in coverage at best.
Jacksonville needs to put somebody on the opposite side of Ramsey to make this secondary one of the best in the league. Free agent cornerbacks like Stephon Gilmore and Trumaine Johnson can be had this offseason. The Jaguars, who hold the 5th pick in this years draft, could go after guys like Marshon Lattimore from Ohio St. or Quincy Wilson from Florida.
Bring in QB Competition for Bortles
It’s hard for a team to give up on a highly drafted QB just after three years. Jacksonville however, could be doing just that. In his three year career with the Jaguars and in the NFL, Blake Bortles has 69 touchdowns and 51 interceptions. He has thrown at least 16 interceptions in each season and has yet to have a completion percentage of 60%.
In Bortles’ defense, at least for his first two years in the league, Jacksonville didn’t surround him with a good offensive line. 2014 and 2015 combined saw Bortles sacked 106 times. 2016 was different. Bortles was sacked 34 times, which was ranked for 15th in the league. There were QBs sacked less than him that had a worse year like Jay Cutler and Ryan Tannehill. There were also QBs sacked more than Blake who had better years like Sam Bradford and Tyrod Taylor.
Jacksonville may look to bring in a QB this offseason like Tyrod Taylor, who could be cut by Buffalo if a contract isn’t reworked. The Jaguars could even draft a QB within the first three rounds like Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes.
A competition is needed if this team wants to succeed.
Get a Consistent Running Game
Jacksonville hasn’t had a 1,000 yard rusher since Maurice Jones-Drew in 2011. When MJD left the Jags at the end of the 2013 season, Jacksonville plugged in guys like Toby Gerhart and Denard Robinson. However, that didn’t work out for the Jags.
Jacksonville does have an up-and-coming running back on their team in TJ Yeldon. In 2015, Yeldon, who was a rookie at the time, rushed for close to 750 yards. 2016 saw TJ’s numbers fall off because he shared carries with Chris Ivory. While many thought the signing of Ivory in 2016 was going to boost this Jaguars backfield, reality set in. Jacksonville had the 22nd ranked rushing offense.
Jacksonville will be looking in the draft, as the 2017 free agent class isn’t stacked with great RBs. Could we see the Jaguars duplicate what the Cowboys did in last years draft, and select a RB like Dalvin Cook or Leonard Fournette with a top 5 pick? We will have to wait and see.