The big wave of NFL Free Agency has come and gone. The NFL Draft has come and gone. Now, teams are, for the most part, as they will be come September. Now that most big player acquisitions have happened we can begin to analyze and break down the Jaguars roster. Here we'll take a look at the offensive side of the ball and project every opening day starter.
QB: Blake Bortles - After the Jaguars elected not to draft a QB high in the draft, it became a foregone conclusion that Blake Bortles would be the Jaguars opening day starter. Then, in a surprising move, the team elected to pick up the 5th year option of Blake Bortles, which showed the team's confidence in their young embattled QB. Bortles will still be the starter, but if the team has it's way it'll be in a much different role. In 2016 the team depended on Blake Bortles' arm to get them down the field and score (we all saw how that worked out). Bortles regularly eclipsed 40 throws in a game and was just plain pathetic at times. In 2017 the Jags will look to go to a run heavy offense with a slightly improved offensive line and the additions of running Leonard Fournette and fullback Marquez Williams. If all goes well Bortles will be asked to throw the ball significantly less. If he can develop into a decent game manager at QB, with the Jaguars weapons on offense, they could become a very effective offensive team.
RB: Leonard Fournette - Fournette was the Jaguars fourth overall pick and will be asked to perform like a top five player from the get go. He'll be the Jaguars featured offensive weapon and will likely eclipse 20 touches on a regular basis in 2017. He's got speed, he's got power, and despite what many may have you think, he has excellent hands out of the backfield. He'll push the former two headed monster (lol) of Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon down the depth chart. Even if Fournette isn't magnificent in 2017 he could put up very big numbers as a rookie. He's going to be asked to carry the load and if he can do just that then the rest of the AFC South is going to be in for a rude awakening.
FB: Marquez Williams - The return of the fullback to the Jaguars offense! Williams was a bowling ball at Miami, but he did lose weight in the off season to become a slightly more athletic player. He is a traditional blocking fullback that will pave the way for Leonard Fournette. His level of play will directly impact the effectiveness of Fournette in 2017 and will be key for the Jaguars offensive drives and thus controlling time of possession.
TE: Marcedes Lewis - Lewis, like Williams, will be asked to play a more traditional role. He'll be the Jaguars starting tight end and will provide best in position blocking ability combined with sneaky effectiveness in the pass game. He won't wow anyone at this point in his career, but the Jaguars don't need a true field stretching tight end to start. The Jags want to run the ball and Lewis will help them do it. You'll also likely see a lot of Ben Koyack and Mychal Rivera here with a sprinkle of Neal Sterling when the Jaguars want to stretch the field.
WR: Allen Robinson - Robinson has flashed superstar potential throughout his three year career with the Jaguars, but he regressed a great deal from a production and efficiency stand point in 2016. He struggled to separate from defenders at times and also struggled to bring in the 50/50 balls that made him a popular breakout player in 2015. If he can play anywhere close to the level that he achieved in 2015 this season then Jaguars fans will be in for a treat when AR-15 is targeted down the field. Robinson has Pro Bowl potential, but earning his second trip to the NFL's annual All-Star game in 2017 could be difficult with the Jaguars new emphasis on the running game and a talented group of receivers behind him.
WR: Allen Hurns - Hurns is as dependable as they come - that's what we were all saying after his stellar first two years in the NFL. Like his partner in crime Allen Robinson, Hurns had a difficult season in 2016. He struggled with injuries, missing five contests. He put up career lows in TDs, receptions, targets, and yards. He'll need to have a bounce back year in 2017 to prove that the $10 million a year he's being paid isn't a waste of money.
WR: Marqise Lee - Lee could be the Jaguars most talented receiver. He's not a true slot type of player, but he can get the job done in the slot with his speed and route running ability, even if he doesn't have the extreme quickness possessed by most effective slot receivers. He'll hold off Dede Westbrook for playing time to a certain extent in 2017, but either Lee or Robinson may be wearing different colors in 2018 as they both enter the final year of their rookie contract.
NOTE: Obviously the Jaguars won't have three wide receivers, a tight end, and a fullback in the game all at once, but all of these positions will be featured heavily and should be considered starters with how this team is constituted.
LT: Branden Albert - Albert is currently holding out and avoiding any contact with the team. An odd situation for a player that team just traded for, but he believes he should be paid more than he is being paid, where the Jaguars do not. Still, not communicating with the team at all is an odd way to negotiate. Regardless of his early offseason hold out Albert still projects as the Jaguars starting left tackle. He'll have to beat out rookie Cam Robinson for the job, but he should be able to hold off the rookie in 2017. Albert may not be the player he once was, but he is a prototype left tackle from a height/weight standpoint that should help in the run game.
LG: Cam Robinson - The Jaguars have claimed that Cam Robinson will compete at left tackle, but if and when he loses out to Branden Albert the Jaguars will still want to get the young rookie on the field. His 6'6'', 320 pound frame immediately makes the Jaguars a more physical offensive line. He excels at run blocking and will step in and upgrade the Jaguars run game from day one. Robinson could also see time at right tackle.
C: Brandon Linder - Perhaps the most impressive player on the offensive side of the ball, Brandon Linder was a steal in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He's been as consistent as they come and transitioned from guard to center heading into 2016. He didn't skip a beat and was the team's best offensive lineman. He is the cornerstone of the Jaguars offensive line and needs to play like it in 2017 for the Jaguars to improve running the football.
RG: AJ Cann - Despite Cann's poor play in 2016, Dave Caldwell has shown nothing but love to his 2015 3rd round selection. In an offseason interview on Jaguars.com he said Cann can still be an "elite" player at this level. He's clearly more confident in Cann than the outside world, but it appears Cann will be the starter for the team once again. If he improves to anywhere close to the "elite" level that Dave Caldwell believes he can reach then the Jaguars offensive line will be in much better shape this year.
RT: Jermey Parnell - Parnell is another player that the Jaguars brass seems to be higher on than is the rest of the world. Parnell played through injury in 2016 and once he became fully healthy he did seem improved. But he put some of the worst right tackle tape on that I've ever seen, especially against Chiefs pass rusher Dee Ford. Parnell isn't getting any younger, but for now he's still the starting right tackle for the Jaguars.
It looks like the Jaguars will have a minimum of four to five new starters on offense. They'll focus on the run this year, but will need much better play from the right side of the offensive line to achieve their goals in 2017. Still, it's all on the shoulders of Blake Bortles. Even if his role is greatly reduced in 2017 he'll be asked to throw the ball around 25 times a game. The Jaguars need him to limit the turnovers, Period. If Bortles turns it over less this could be an effective offense this season.
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