Last week, we took a look at the Jaguars' roster weaknesses heading into the draft. I identified tight end, safety, outside pass rush, and offensive tackle (particularly on the right side and in terms of depth) as the most significant holes on the roster. Today, I'm going to take a look at Jacksonville's greatest strengths. And I'll grade their best positions as well.
Trevor Lawrence is on his way to Duval. How long it takes him to acclimate to the offensive scheme, players around him, and step up in competition remains to be seen, but he's one of the best QB prospects in recent memory. The Jaguars currently have two quality backups in Gardner Minshew and CJ Beathard.
This grade is a bit tricky. Trevor Lawrence has not taken a snap in the NFL, but with his consistency and dynamic playmaking ability, paired with an offensive staff and head coach that tend to get the most out of their quarterbacks, a B- feels like it could be Lawrence's floor in year one.
James Robinson burst on to the scene in 2020 as an undrafted free agent, but his vision, contact balance, and versatility make him an excellent workhorse back. Behind Robinson, the Jaguars have added Carlos Hyde. Despite his curiously short stint in Duval during the 2018 campaign, he played well in Houston and Seattle over the last two seasons. He's a high-quality backup that has a long history with several members of the Jaguars' coaching staff and front office. He played for Urban Meyer and Ohio State and was drafted by Trent Baalke in San Francisco. The Jaguars also have Devine Ozigbo, Dare Ogunbowale, Ryquell Armstead (missed 2020 due to COVID complications), and Nathan Cotrell. It wouldn't hurt to add a young playmaker to the backfield, but the current group is more than capable of carrying the load.
James Robinson is one of the most balanced backs in the league, providing value on all three downs. His ability to always grind out tough yards is key. Sans a couple of poorly timed holding penalties that had no effect on the play's outcome, Robinson's 2021 stat line would have been even more impressive. And Carlos Hyde brings consistency, experience, and familiarity to Urban Meyer's backfield. The rest of the bunch have all shown flashes. This group could use a home run threat.
The Jaguars have three legitimate starting receivers in DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, and Marvin Jones. There aren't more than a handful of teams with a more talented three deep at WR. And all three have the ability to line up outside or in the slot. Collin Johnson showed promise as a rookie in 2020, and Jamal Agnew provides playmaking ability and might be the best return man in the NFL. Phillip Dorsett adds more speed and experience to the room. Youngsters Jon'Vea Johnson, Terry Godwin, and Josh Hammond all have speed to burn. I wouldn't mind seeing a WR added to the mix on the first day or two of the draft, but this is another room with more than enough talent to compete and win right now.
Marvin Jones might be the most underrated receiver of the last half-decade, and the fact that he'll likely be the second or third target shows just how talented this group is. DJ Chark is ready to take the next step with what should be improved QB play, and Laviska Shenault should be unlocked down the field in 2021. Add in Collin Johnson's impressive late-season showing, and you've got a special group.
Interior Offensive Line
The Jaguars interior features Brandon Linder at center, Andrew Norwell at left guard, and AJ Cann at right guard. Linder is one of the best overall centers in football, and Norwell is one of the best interior pass protectors. Cann has had an up and down career but played very well under OL coach George Warhop, who the team retained this offseason, in 2020. The depth here is impressive as well. Tyler Shatley is one of the best backup interior guys in the league, and 2020 rookie Ben Bartch still has a high ceiling. Fourth-year offensive lineman Will Richardson also has experience at guard.
Had the Jaguars pulled the trigger on one of the many talented offensive guards that were available in free agency, this grade could have been higher. But with AJ Cann in the starting lineup, the ceiling is somewhat capped for this group. Still, Linder is an elite center while Norwell is solid, especially in pass pro. The depth feels strong.
Interior Defensive Line
Adding Malcom Brown to the interior of the Jaguars' defensive line was one of the most critical moves of the offseason. He's a space-eater that also has the ability to shoot gaps and make plays in the backfield. DaVon Hamilton was coming into his own as a rookie in 2020 before a season-ending knee injury (not a long-term issue). Doug Costin played very well as an undrafted free agent for a depleted Jaguars' front last season. He should be a quality early-down player moving forward. Roy Robertson-Harris is technically listed as a DE, but he'll play on the interior plenty and will be another boon to the Jaguars' run defense. Adam Gotsis and Jihad Ward and be viewed in the same light. Daniel Ekuale also had some nice flashes for the Jaguars in 2020. Taven Bryan's run in Jacksonville might be coming to an end. The Jaguars don't appear to have a dominant pocket pusher along the interior, but they'll be able to stop the run and free up space for edge rushers and linebackers to operate. Adding a young defensive tackle with the potential to start and penetrate in passing situations wouldn't hurt.
This is another spot that has substantial depth, but they lack a dominant force. This group will be able to stop the run, but will they provide a consistent enough push on third down to allow the edge rushers to feast?
Off Ball Linebacker
Myles Jack headlines the group and is one of the best playmaking linebackers in the entire NFL. Joe Schobert is also a playmaker, having registered three interceptions, two forced fumbles, ten quarterback pressures, six tackles for loss, 141 tackles, and a defensive touchdown in 2020. He has some bad reps, but having a linebacker that can make game-changing plays AND get everyone else lined up properly is an advantage for the Jaguars' defense. When it comes to depth, Dakota Allen, Leon Jacobs, Joe Giles-Harris, Shaq Quarterman, Nate Evans, and Quincy Williams give you a little bit of everything.
Myles Jack played at a Pro Bowl level in 2020, and Joe Schobert turned it on in a big way down the stretch. With a new scheme under defensive coordinator Joe Cullen that should allow these two to attack the ball more regularly, they should be even better in 2021.
Perhaps even more so than the interior of the defensive line, this is the group that received the most attention during free agency. The Jaguars signed Shaquill Griffin, who has dominated in press-man coverage throughout his career, and re-signed both Sidney Jones and Tre Herndon. With Griffin and 2020 first-round pick CJ Henderson on the outside and Sidney Jones and Tre Herndon as the third and fourth cornerbacks, the Jaguars are in great shape here. Chris Claybrooks, Josiah Scott, and Luq Barcoo were all rookies in 2020 and appear to have some upside. Brandon Rusnak has also earned some playing time throughout his career and has versatility with the ability to play inside, outside, or even at safety.
This grade could end up being low. If the Jaguars play a lot of press-man, Griffin and Henderson, thanks to their length and athleticism, could turn into one of the best cornerback duos in football. Jones and Herndon provide a quality third and fourth option.
Josh Lambo has been the most accurate kicker in football since arriving in Jacksonville during the 2017 season. Punter Logan Cooke just earned a contract extension and is among the best field flippers in football. Jamal Agnew solidified the Jaguars return game. He, Rudy Ford, and Andrew Wingard all have sterling resumes in the kick coverage department. Urban Meyer has emphasized special teams throughout his career as a head coach, and that won't change in Jacksonville.
The only question here is Lambo's health. As long as he's healthy come the start of the season, the Jaguars should be elite when it comes to the third phase of the game.
As with any team, the right blend of development, scheme, talent, and work ethic are needed for a group to reach its full potential. The Jaguars' staff is loaded with coaches who have helped developed some of the game's top players and position groups today, both at the college and NFL level. Will they be able to replicate that same success in Jacksonville, with a team coming off a franchise-worst 1-15 season?
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