With all the hype surrounding this season for the Jacksonville Jaguars finally starting to dissipate, we have a clear look at what's been working and what hasn't. I'll be going over how the offense and defense has looked so far, how rookies and free agent pickups are performing and where we need to improve.
Offensively everyone is wondering what happened to Blake Bortles and this prolific passing attack from a year ago. Through the first four games, Bortles has disappointed. With a passer rating of 79.4, and completing 98 of 160 passes (61%) for 1050 yards 7 touchdowns to 6 interceptions, add in 12 sacks to the mix, and he just hasn't looked sharp. Maybe due in part to the line giving up 3 sacks a game despite only allowing 19 pressures has something to do with it. Having a down year is one thing but reverting back to rookie mistakes in the pocket and making careless throws is really hurting not only his team but his own development as well. With that being said, the offensive line hasn't been all that bad this year. With Luke Joeckel going down for the remainder of the year, either first year guard Chris Reed or four year pro Patrick Omameh will need to fill the void left by Joeckel. The Allen brothers were also poised to have another great year, and just because the numbers are down now doesn't mean they can't turn it around at anytime. Allen Robinson has been as advertised so far catching 21 passes for 238 yards (11.3 avg.) and 3 touchdowns leading the team in all three statistical categories. Allen Hurns hasn't played bad but we expect a little more than 15 catches for 226 yards (15.1 avg.) and 1 touchdown at this point from him. As far as other receivers having an impact, Marqise Lee is having his best season so far hauling in 16 catches for 169 yards (10.6 avg) but no touchdowns with Rashad Greene having just 3 catches for 24 yards (8. avg.) with 0 touchdowns as well. If Lee and Greene can continue to grow, it should help Robinson and Hurns down the stretch of the season. The tight end duo of Julius Thomas and Mercedes Lewis have played decent but Thomas needs to become the player they thought they were getting a year ago. Thomas on the year has 11 grabs for 148 yards (13.5 avg.) and 1 touchdown as Lewis has hauled in 8 catches for 97 yards (12.1 avg.) and a touchdown as well. Now we come to the atrocity that is the Jaguars running game. Chris Ivory was brought in to be the "bell cow" back but after being sidelined early in the season with an illness and missing the first two games he has compiled only 43 yards on 20 attempts (2.2 avg.) with 0 touchdowns on the year. Ivory along with second year running back TJ Yeldon who has 155 yards on 48 attempts (3.2 avg.) and 1 touchdown have been severely underwhelming. If they can get a rhythm going in the second quarter of the season, at least being somewhat relevant, it would take a huge amount of pressure off of Bortles and the rest of the offense down the stretch.
Jack is just an all around better athlete and is not near the liability in pass coverage that Skuta is, who may have lost his job for good to the rookie linebacker. The secondary of the Jags had many upgrades this offseason and it's showing now. Corner Davon House has continued his solid play from a year ago along with free agent addition Prince Amukamara coming over from the Giants. Both have shown good man to man coverage skills and are prototypical corners for this defense. Rookie first round pick Jalen Ramsey is playing like an all pro and has the highest rookie cornerback coverage grade by Pro Football Focus to go with 18 tackles over the first month. With getting back second year corner Aaron Colvin there is no reason this secondary shouldn't be a Top 10 unit. With that being said, if the Jaguars can remain healthy throughout the remainder of the season I believe they can turn this year around and at least get us back to some relevancy.
1. The Run Game
The running attack has been terrible all year long and needs to improve if the Jaguars have any chance in making a playoff push. I expect Ivory to continue to be the work horse running back and mixing in Yeldon on passing downs etc. Staying consistent with the rushing attack will be vital to the remainder of the year.
2. Play Calling
The play calling through the first four games has been questionable to say the least. Wether being too conservative at times or trying to be the aggressor, the Jags gameplan has looked out of sync for the most part. Greg Olson needs to start by getting Bortles in a rhythm with quick passes and needs to stay aggressive in the running game. Oh, and quit calling so many screen plays.
3. Figure out the O-Line
The offensive line has played well through the first month despite not having a running attack. Now with Joeckel out for the season, either Reed or Omameh need to step up and have at least a decent season replacing Joeckel. Shouldn't be to difficult and we know they can't get much worse.
4. Stick with Jack
It's no secret with Jack playing this defense is remarkably upgraded and not to mention they're 1-0 with him on the field. With his coverage skills and how well he plays against the run he has the ability to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award but the Jags need to make sure his mental is caught up with his physical. When that happens, watch out.
5. Continue Solid Secondary Play
Being ranked 7th against the pass through the first month isn't anything to hang your hat on quite yet but with the NFL turning into a passing league the Jaguars are looking mighty good along the back end. Due in some part to the way they're getting pressure on the opposing QB this year with Ngakoue, Jackson and Fowler this secondary is only going to continue to play better. After cutting fourth year corner Dwayne Gratz to make room for third year corner Aaron Colvin, the Jags now look like they have the depth to compete with anyone.
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