Five bold predictions for the Jaguars season: Nick Foles leads Jacksonville back to AFC Championship Game
The addition of Nick Foles will do wonders for Jacksonville
A disappointing 2018 season was all the Jacksonville Jaguars needed to embrace change, just one year removed from making the AFC Championship Game and 14:58 away from a monumental upset of the New England Patriots. Jacksonville took a nosedive last season, falling to a 5-11 record and last place in the AFC South.
Out went the Blake Bortles experiment as the franchise quarterback after five seasons. In comes Nick Foles, the MVP of Super Bowl 52 that had a postseason for the ages in leading the Philadelphia Eagles to their first championship in 57 years. The Jaguars gave Foles $50.125 million in guaranteed money to be their next franchise quarterback, a second opportunity to prove he can have success outside of Philadelphia.
With the Eagles, Foles has completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 58 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and a 93.2 passer rating (21-11 record). He has completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 1,133 yards, 11 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 98.8 passer rating in the postseason, winning Super Bowl MVP honors. Outside of Philadelphia, Foles is just 5-7 outside of Philadelphia, completing 57.7% of his passes for 2,462 yards, 10 touchdowns, 10 interceptions for a 74.2 passer rating.
Jacksonville gave Foles the coaching he needs to succeed in making John DeFilippo the offensive coordinator and play-caller of the offense. Foles and DeFilippo had success in Philadelphia as he was the quarterback coach during Foles's historic postseason fun. DeFilippo's system will benefit Foles and his style of a quick release.
The Jaguars are expected to be better with Foles on board as he has plenty to prove for his new organization. Jacksonville is set for a return trip to the playoffs and much more.
1. Jacksonville will reach the AFC Championship Game ... again
The Jaguars reached the AFC Championship Game two years ago behind a few good games from Blake Bortles and a dominant defense that put constant pressure on the quarterback. Jacksonville will still have the "Sacksonville" defense, but Foles will be a huge catalyst in getting them back to the AFC Title game.
Not only is Foles comfortable in DeFilippo's system, but he's cool under pressure. Foles has completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 98.8 passer rating in six postseason starts (4-2 record), all with Philadelphia.
Foles will continue that magic in the playoffs, playing at a high level and leading Jacksonville back toward the NFL's best teams. His postseason history speaks for himself, leaving one game with the lead and completing 72.6 percent of his passes for 971 yards, six touchdowns, one interception, and a 115.7 passer rating in the Super Bowl run.
Jacksonville will be a dangerous team in the playoffs.
2. Nick Foles throws for 30 touchdowns in his first season in Jacksonville
Throwing 30 touchdowns doesn't seem like much in today's pass-happy NFL, but it will be with the Jaguars core of receivers. Jacksonville has Dede Westbrook and Marquise Lee, who is coming off a torn ACL, as its first-team receivers with former second-round pick DJ Chark and Chris Conley backing them up. James O'Shaughnessy is listed as the first-team tight end. In total, no Jaguars receiver had more than 717 yards last season.
The Jaguars' receivers will perform better with Foles at the helm, as the Super Bowl MVP will find matchups at the line of scrimmage and get the ball to them quick, allowing them to make plays. The offense will open up as Foles prefers to spread the ball around and find the open receiver.
Not far-fetched to see Foles reach 30 touchdowns in a season for the first time in his career.
3. Jacksonville crosses the 50-sack plateau
When Jacksonville's defense had the name "Sacksonville," the Jaguars finished second in the league with 55 sacks in 2017. The Jaguars took a huge dip in the sack department last year, finishing tied for 22nd in the league with 37 sacks. Calais Campbell finished with 10.5 sacks and Yannick Ngakoue had 9.5, but no player in Jacksonville had more than 3.5.
Even though the Jaguars moved on from Malik Jackson, they still have Ngakoue and Campbell at defensive end, arguably the best pass-rushing combination of defensive ends in the AFC. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus isn't the same pass rusher that was a first team All-Pro in 2014 (10 sacks), but can still get after the quarterback without being the focal point of the defensive line.
There's also first-round pick Josh Allen, who was arguably the best defensive player in the 2019 NFL draft (17 sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss for Kentucky last season). Adding Allen to the pass-rushing equation gives the Jaguars an added dimension at defensive end.
The Jaguars can reach 50 sacks with that defensive end group leading the way.
4. Leonard Fournette plays all 16 games
Injuries have hindered Fournette's potential to be great in the NFL. In his two seasons, Fournette has missed a total of 11 games due to a right ankle sprain, quad bruise and a Grade 2 thigh hamstring strain. The ankle injury stemmed from his senior season at LSU, Fournette aggravated a high ankle sprain three times and suffered a bone bruise.
The results have Fournette averaging 3.7 yards per carry in his brief NFL career, rushing for 1,479 yards and 14 touchdowns in 21 games. If Fournette can stay healthy, the Jaguars run game is much more efficient.
Jacksonville will need Fournette to play all 16 games now that T.J. Yeldon departed in free agency and Alfred Blue is the No. 2 back. Fournette can change a game when he's on the field, as evidenced by his five 100-yard games his rookie year and four touchdowns in three postseason games.
Fournette reportedly has lost weight and has been impressive in training camp. He also is plugged into DeFilippo's offense, a good sign he's ready to return to the 1,000-yard back that carried Jackson's offense two years ago.
5. Josh Allen wins Defensive Rookie of the Year
Allen is in an excellent situation to become the next double-digit sack machine in Jacksonville, rotating behind Ngakoue and Campbell at defensive end. No matter what side Allen plays on, the rookie will be seeing plenty of one-on-one matchups throughout the season. Allen will have plenty of chances to accumulate pressures and get to the quarterback in Jacksonville's system.
Allen is expected to be a catalyst for the re-emergence of the "Sacksonville" defense, already a top-five unit. A double-dight sack season will put him as a favorite for rookie of the year.
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