AFC South Offense Preview
It’s likely we’ve seen the last significant snaps from the starting offenses of the AFC South in this year’s preseason, so let’s grade their offenses as we prepare for the start of the 2016 regular season. We’ll start with the Jags.
WR: [A] The Jaguars receiving core is not only the best in the AFC South, but easily earns a spot as one of the greatest in the NFL. Allen Robinson is the best receiver when the ball is in the air in the NFL and is developing the ability to catch every ball thrown his way. Allen Hurns is physically talented and a great route runner that creates a reliable option for Bortles in the passing game. The number three spot in the Jaguars receiving core is a tossup between Marqise Lee and Rashad Greene, and will presumably be decided by who can remain healthy. Lee provides more athleticism, but because Lee has missed so much time due to injuries, Greene has shown himself to be the more consistent option. With that said, Lee has looked impressive during the 2016 preseason.
TE: [B] The Jaguars need talented tight ends in their offensive system. Julius Thomas and Marcedes Lewis have proved they are equipped to handle the load. Lewis has evolved into more of a blocking tight end, whereas Thomas is in charge of a majority of the receiving. However, Thomas needs to mesh better within the system and can do so if Bortles found safer ways of getting him the ball. This preseason, Thomas dropped a nice pass in the end zone and Bortles came close to throwing a third down interception forcing the ball to Thomas. Although this group has room for improvement, I think they will do just that with added reps.
RB: [B-] The Jaguars quickly improved their running back stable in the off season with the addition of Chris Ivory. We saw improvement in limited action through the first two preseason games, but against the Bengals talented and physical defensive line, our run blocking faltered and we reverted to mistakes commonly made by a youthful football team. Our total offensive efficiency improved when our offensive line was consistently creating holes for our power backs to run through. In order for the Jaguars to be consistent scorers we need to get the run game going. In terms of running backs, the Jaguars have less of a talent problem and more of an offensive line depth problem.
QB: [B-] Blake Bortles is obviously the future of the Jaguars franchise. My notes on Bortles begin with his most prominent improvements in this year’s offseason. It is clear to viewers that he has a firmer grasp and understanding of our offense. He was seen reading the defense before the play and even changing plays to combat the scheme that he sees in his brief preseason appearances. He consistently finds running backs in check downs and does not force the ball down field as much. Unfortunately there were some obvious negative plays, especially during his primetime debut against the Bengals this past Sunday. At times Bortles seemed flustered, making errant throws and had one embarrassing false start penalty. Fortunately, he was able to calm his young offense down and stop the bleeding before halftime.
OL: [C-] Frankly, our offensive line is a liability, even after off season additions. Kelvin Beachum may still improve with frequent reps with the first team but it is becoming more and more apparent that the Joeckel experiment has failed. He was embarrassed twice by Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson and seems to lack the kind of physicality needed to succeed. Issues of depth and talent will affect our ability to develop a consistent run game and consequently our ability to pass down field effectively. AJ Cann and Brandon Linder are much improved, especially in the run game, and are promising members of the future of our offensive line. Jeremy Parnell seems to be a place holder and can be exposed in the pass blocking as made obvious by Dante Fowler in training camp. I would recommend the Jaguars make steps in next year’s off season to add talent and depth to our offensive line because that, combined with the improvement of our skill positions, would help us take the next steps to becoming an elite team.
Tomorrow I will release the grades for the Tennessee Titans offense.
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