Jaguars Report: Just Wait Until Next Year

With their franchise quarterback a year away from being ready, it's one more year of rebuilding for the Jaguars. But that doesn't mean they aren't headed in the right direction

Marcedes Lewis will likely be catching passes from Chad Henne, not Blake Bortles, this fall. (Bob Mack/AP/The Florida Times-Union)
Marcedes Lewis will likely be catching passes from Chad Henne, not Blake Bortles, this fall. (Bob Mack/AP/The Florida Times-Union)

I’m at EverBank Field, home of the Jaguars. It’s yet another team practice and training and showering and dressing at its permanent facility. For the Jaguars, it’s a chance to bond with local fans (1,504 of them for a late-morning practice in sticky 88-degree weather), and a chance to do things like practice at a local high school (which they did on Monday in front of more than 3,000), so they can continue to build the local market.

One vivid memory from watching practice

The young and impressive receiving corps (even without Justin Blackmon, who you’ve got to think will never see the field for the Jaguars because of his myriad slip-ups). Marqise Lee (second round, 2014) and Allen Robinson (second round, 2014) listened intently to vet WR coach Jerry Sullivan during the early portion of practice, when the receivers go through routes without the ball, to get their precision down. The group dropped three or four easy balls today. And this is likely to be a power-running team. But when Cecil Shorts III gets back from a hamstring strain in mid-August, the receiver group should begin to resemble an NFL unit. What might have been, though, with Blackmon.

How this team can go 12–4

It’s a 500-to-1 shot. Chad Henne will have to be a top-10 quarterback to have a prayer. No sense in wasting space on it, because it’s not going to happen. This is a year for progress, not realistic Super Bowl hopes.

How this team can go 4–12

That was Jacksonville’s record last year, and it took a stretch of four wins in five games in the second half of the season to get there. So 4-12 would represent no progress, and particularly in the mediocre AFC South, I doubt that will happen. But the early schedule is quite unkind (four of the first six on the road for the second straight year), with this five-game opener: at Philadelphia, at Washington, Indianapolis, at San Diego, Pittsburgh. It’s realistic to think the Jags will be touchdown-plus underdogs in every one of those games. So the league hasn’t done Jacksonville any favors with the schedule, and that tough start could make 4-12 quite possible.

Now, from fantasyland …

The Jaguars will feature a heavy dose of Gerhart. (Phelan M. Ebenhack)
The Jaguars will feature a heavy dose of Gerhart. (Phelan M. Ebenhack)

1. Gus Bradley’s a big power-running fan, and for that reason, I’m bullish on Toby Gerhart’s chances to be a 1,000-yard rusher with some goal-line touchdowns.

2. I keep thinking one of these years Marcedes Lewis, incredible physical force that he is, is going to have a 70-catch, eight-TD season. The Jags know Chad Henne will need intermediate targets because he’s going to be pressured a lot, and Lewis, if healthy, would be a good late-round flyer.

3. There will be better defenses to pick, but I do know this about the Jaguars: They will pressure the quarter significantly better—Chris Clemons, who will most likely be a nickel rusher, had 33.5 sacks in three seasons under Bradley in Seattle—and will have some productive fantasy Sundays on defense.

The starters

How I project the lineup, with competitive spots in bold:

  OFFENSE   DEFENSE
WR Cecil Shorts III LDE Tyson Alualu
LT Luke Joeckel DT Sen’Derrick Marks
LG Zane Beadles NT Roy Miller/Ziggy Hood
C Mike Brewster RDE Red Bryant
RG Brandon Linder/Jacques McClendon OLB Dekoda Watson/Chris Smith
RT Austin Pasztor MLB Paul Posluszny
TE Marcedes Lewis OLB Geno Hayes
WR Marqise Lee CB Dwayne Gratz
3rd WR Denard Robinson/Ace Sanders/Allen Robinson CB Alan Ball/Mike Harris
QB Chad Henne 3rd CB Will Blackmon/Mike Harris
RB Toby Gerhart FS Josh Evans
FB Will Ta’ufo’ou SS Johnathan Cyprien
K Josh Scobee P Bryan Anger
 

Linder, the third-round pick from Miami, has shown strength and power in one-on-one drills and is ahead for the right guard spot … Ace Sanders would be the top third receiving option but for his four-game suspension to start the season. He had 51 catches as a poor man’s Tavon Austin as a rookie … Robinson could beat Lee for the starting spot opposite Shorts … Look for Chris Clemons to be a 400-snap player, minimum, as the nickel rusher replacing Alualu … Will Blackmon has had an impressive early camp and will be a valuable extra corner.

Follow The MMQB on Twitter and Instagram @TheMMQB and check in on our training camp tour at #themmqbtour.

Best new player in camp

Pass-rusher Chris Clemons. He turns 33 this year, but he’s been consistently productive for the Seahawks, and he gives Jacksonville the kind of threatening edge rusher the team has lacked for several years. Jacksonville had only 31 sacks last year, and that had to make Bradley ill because he’s a big pressure guy. We’ll see how much Clemons has left, but his arrival has encouraged the defensive coaches.

Strong opinion that I may regret by November

Breaking Down the Jaguars

Andy Benoit's in-depth breakdown of the 2014 Jaguars. FULL STORY

Chad Henne will hold off Blake Bortles for most, if not all, of the 2014 season. The fact is, the Jags don’t want to play Bortles this year. They want this to be a redshirt, learning year for the rookie. And the decision of whether to stick with Henne won’t be based as much on how Henne plays but rather when Bradley and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch think the kid’s ready. Early read in camp: Bortles has a long way to go. His ball still comes out slightly wobbly (he’s working on some minor mechanics of throwing) and his decision-making isn’t fast enough yet.

Something I’ve never seen before

A pair of three-foot swimming/wading pools on an upper deck in the end zone, with eight cabanas and comfy beach chairs. A fan can stand in the pool, drink in hand, and look down on the field with a good end-zone view of the game. A wealthy fan. Because each of the cabanas—with tickets and food and beverage for 50—costs $12,500 per game ($250 per person for the 50 fans). “We’re about 60% sold,’’ said club president Mark Lamping. On a level above the pools are 12 more cabanas—no pool access for them—at $3,500 per cabana per game, with 20 tickets included. Those are sold out for the season. The lengths to which the Jags are going to flourish. Amazing.

What I thought when I walked out of camp

First thing: This is the first of the nine teams I’ve seen that I don’t think has a realistic chance to make the playoffs. But I was bullish on the progress GM Dave Caldwell and Bradley are making. Have patience, Jacksonville. Enjoy your “new” home stadium. And dream of challenging Indianapolis in 2015.

 

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2 comments
RosaNosabe
RosaNosabe

Yeah probably not a playoff team this year but 7-9 or even 8-8 is not inconceivable. Tremendous improvement will be visible especially on defense. Now if they can only have better luck with their receivers (injuries/off-field issues) and they hit the jackpot with Bortles, then who knows? Sky's the limit for this team

paulghiottojr
paulghiottojr

Thanks for the realistic overview of the state of the Jaguars' roster that didn't include references to a) Los Angeles; b) London; c) Skynyrd or d) Gene Smith and the awful previous regime.  Jacksonville is a small-market team that has enough loyal, local fans to keep the team in place -- but the team needed the relatively low-cost stadium renovations to lure the casual fans back and increase local revenue while the roster slowly improves.


In the days of billion-dollar-plus stadiums, think about this: the taxpayers have helped renovate Everbank Field on three occasions since 1994.  The stadium now boasts the two largest stadium scoreboards in the world, unique Florida-related amenities (pools and cabanas), and total stadium renovations have cost less than one-third of the construction costs of Jerry World.  Total!


My family goes back four generations in Jacksonville, and we all hope better days are coming.

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