The Jaguars haven’t played a football game in over a month, but there were many lessons to be learned throughout the playoffs.
The need for a star QB is the most blatantly obvious teaching point, but the Jaguars won’t have to worry about that much longer (we’ll get to that in a minute).
It’s an old adage, but it still rings true in these days of modern football — you win in the trenches. That’s precisely what the Buccaneers did on Super Bowl Sunday. The Chiefs depleted offensive line didn’t stand a chance against the Bucs. And their defensive front wasn’t stout enough to keep the Buccaneers from running the football and draining the clock in the second half.
Leonard Fournette or “Playoff Lenny” lived up to his nickname, rushing for 89 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and catching four passes for an additional 46 yards. The Jaguars should have no regrets: both parties needed a fresh start, and James Robinson is a star in the making at running back, but that doesn’t change the fact that Leonard Fournette was an integral part of what Tampa Bay did in 2020, especially in the playoffs.
Back to the lessons learned — outside of needing an elite QB and winning in the trenches, we also saw the importance of game planning and in-game adjustments. Due to injuries at offensive tackle, Kansas City could not protect Pat Mahomes with a five-man protection. They should have at least been prepared to attempt to keep more blockers back to protect their franchise quarterback. But the Chiefs weren’t ready to do so, and suffered the consequences. The Buccaneers coordinators, Byron Leftwich on offense and Todd Bowles on defense, thoroughly out-coached their counterparts on the KC sideline. Of course, the Bucs received some help from the officials in the first half, but it would’ve been difficult for the Chiefs to win this one — especially with some of the unforced errors their stars were committing — even if the officiating in the first half wasn’t painfully lopsided.
There are no games left to be played. How can the Jaguars take these lessons from the Super Bowl and use them to their advantage?
Well, for one, Urban Meyer and Trent Baalke can select their franchise QB with the first pick in the draft. And they’re now officially on the clock. Don’t overthink the injury to his non-throwing shoulder, folks.
But before that, the Jaguars should spend big money in free agency on the offensive line and some weapons for Trevor Lawrence. The Salary cap is expected to land right around $180 million, which would give the Jaguars $77.5 million(ish) in spending money (according to Spotrac). Meyer and Baalke should try to land Trent Williams to protect Lawrence’s blindside, but they could also target Russell Okung, Alejandro Villanueva, or bring Cam Robinson back into the fold. I’d do my best to secure the best left tackle in football, but hey, what do I know?
I’d also prioritize landing a top receiver, whether it be Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay, or even Will Fuller (yes, I know he has an injury history). Robinson is the top target and would be worth the money, giving a young QB a bonafide number one receiver. Landing a top-flight interior defender and/or safety should be on Urban Meyer’s radar too. Leonard Williams is set to hit the market, and so is his running mate Dalvin Tomlinson. There’s a plethora of excellent players set to become unrestricted free agents on the back end at safety, including Justin Simmons and Marcus Maye.
If the Jaguars can land a starting left tackle, receiver, interior defensive lineman, and a top tier safety in free agency, they’ll enter the draft with the ability to employ a best player available/positional value approach.
And on the subject of the draft, if the Jaguars are able to have the type of free agency haul that I believe they should, landing some trench players after selecting their QB at one overall could be the play. At 25, if Alijah Vera-Tucker or Teven Jenkins is still on the board, they could really help sure up the offensive line. The Jaguars could then add a talented interior pass rusher like Levi Onwuzurike or Daviyon Nixon with their next pick. Alternatively, the Jags might be able to land Christian Barmore with their second pick and then add an offensive tackle with their third or fourth pick. Sam Cosmi and Dillon Radunz could make sense in that range.
Whoever the Jaguars pick on the first two days of the draft, they'll need to hit on the vast majority of those picks.
Next up for the Jaguars is officially finalizing the coaching staff. I'm sure Urban Meyer and company are now hard at work evaluating the Jaguars' current roster. They'll then need to prepare for free agency which is officially set to begin on March 17th, but the legal tampering window will open on March 15th. The 2021 NFL Draft will begin just over a month after the start of free agency, on April 29th.
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