Offseason Primers: Jacksonville Jaguars
Gus Bradley hopes to be the man that fixes the Jaguars' woes after years of mediocrity.
The team hasn't had a winning season since 2007 and have failed to rank among the Top 10 in total offense or scoring in that time. The defense has barely fared better, owning one Top 10 ranking in yards allowed.
Defense is Bradley's specialty after coordinating Seattle's attacking unit. But he's going from a team rich in talent to a team poor in just about everything on his side of the ball. The team's leader in sacks in 2012 was defensive tackle Tyson Alualu with 3.5. Of the 12 interceptions, only eight were made by members of the secondary. And speaking of that secondary, three quarters of the starters along with the nickelback have already left the team either via free agency or release. And by the way the Jaguars have not made a splash in free agency so far -- their biggest signings have been Cowboys and Texans outcast corner Alan Ball and defensive tackles Roy Miller and Sen'Derrick Marks -- Bradley will have his work cut out for him.
|Rashad Jennings||120 (101 car., 19 rec.)||17.5%|
|Maurice Jones-Drew||100 (86 car., 14 rec.)||14.6%|
|Justin Blackmon||66 (64 rec., 2 car.)||9.6%|
|Cecil Shorts||56 (55 rec., 1 car.)||8.2%|
|Marcedes Lewis||52 rec.||7.6%|
|Montell Owens||50 (42 car., 8 rec.)||7.3%|
|Jalen Parmele||47 (40 car., 7 rec.)||6.8%|
Things are better on the offensive side of the ball ... well, except at the most important position. The Jaguars are seemingly going to give Blaine Gabbert a chance to earn the starting quarterback job in camp despite completing 58.3 percent of his passes for an average of 5.98 yards per attempt with nine touchdowns and six interceptions last season (nine games). Chad Henne replaced Gabbert after he got hurt two passes into a start at Houston and totaled 11 touchdowns and averaged 267.0 pass yards per game over the Jags' final seven matchups. And it was Henne who got rookie Justin Blackmon going, not Gabbert.
Fellow receiver Cecil Shorts also blossomed with Henne after some great catches with Gabbert. It's those receivers along with running back Maurice Jones-Drew and tight end Marcedes Lewis (who new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch seems to love) that will give the starter some opportunities to put up some numbers in 2013. The only issue is that no one will trust them for Fantasy purposes.
The Jaguars are in a tough spot: They got lapped in the division by the Colts, who appear to be a perennial playoff contender with Andrew Luck under center, the Texans remain a serious threat and the Titans have added talent this offseason in hopes of a playoff push. Tack on a tough schedule that includes a trip to London and challenging matchups at Denver and at Seattle, and it's tough to expect a winning season in Bradley's first year.
Maurice Jones-Drew -- High risk, high reward
Those who have played Fantasy Football for years know just how good MJD is. Before last season he averaged over 110 total yards per game over the three years he worked as a high-touch running back. Last year was different -- he held out of training camp and got off to a slow start (only 83.3 total yards per game) before suffering a Lisfranc fracture in Week 7 and missing the rest of the year. Jones-Drew is taking a back-to-basics approach as he enters the last year on his current deal: He's planning to come to training camp on-time, zip his lips about money and show he's recovered from the injury after rehabbing it this offseason (he didn't get out of his walking boot until late March). It sounds like a great plan for the 28-year-old but the track record of players coming back from a Lisfranc isn't great. Coming into a new offense with a new zone-blocking scheme could further impact Jones-Drew. But he's also been a true professional and a productive player with the exception of last season. Every Fantasy owner is going to have to decide whether or not they want to take a chance on Jones-Drew on Draft Day, though we suspect most people should be happy to snare him with a third-round pick knowing he could deliver like a first rounder.
Cecil Shorts , Justin Blackmon -- Contingent on QBs
Both of the Jaguars' breakout receivers from 2012 will be on the minds of Fantasy owners on Draft Day, but their success might be directly tied to who's throwing them the football. With Gabbert, the Jaguars' receivers totaled five games with 10 or more Fantasy points -- all by Shorts -- including two early-season games where he caught long passes for touchdowns. With Henne, the Jaguars' receivers totaled nine games with 10 or more Fantasy points including four by Shorts and four by Blackmon (and one by Jordan Shipley in Week 17). Henne let loose more than Gabbert did as evidenced by his better passing averages per attempt and per game as well as his superior completions of 20- and 40-plus yards. Both had an affinity for Shorts but Henne connected immediately with Blackmon whereas Gabbert rarely did. Fantasy owners might be more comfortable drafting Shorts and Blackmon with anyone other than Gabbert or Henne under center for the Jaguars, but as it stands now, there's plenty to feel good about drafting Shorts as a middle- to low-end No. 2 option and Blackmon as a solid No. 3 wideout.
Marcedes Lewis -- Keep on the radar
|Maurice Jones-Drew||25-35 overall|
|Cecil Shorts||60-70 overall|
|Justin Blackmon||70-80 overall|
Everyone is on the lookout for the next great tight end, but what if it's one that previously broke out? The new coaching staff have both spoken highly of Lewis, which is sort of strange since he has just four touchdowns in his last two seasons after getting 10 in 2010. But Lewis is a big, rangy target who can serve as a short-area target for Jacksonville. The sooner the Jaguars' receivers re-acquaint themselves to the rest of the NFL, the sooner Lewis will see coverage he can take advantage of. Lewis had two of his three 10-plus-point Fantasy games in the final seven weeks of the season when Blackmon broke out. There isn't a great track record of tight ends doing amazing things under Fisch's play calling, but maybe he'll get off to a hot start and be worth picking up off waivers. In deeper leagues maybe he'll be worth a late pick.