The sports hiatus continues, and all that we have are the hopes and dreams of the future. As the global pandemic continues to alter life, most NFL teams have begun virtual OTA's. I'm not sure how much one can learn over Zoom meetings, but I do know one thing, Aaron Rodgers has to be pulling his hair out while the Packers teach a rookie quarterback the offense. In case you can't tell, it still baffles me that the Packers thought there wouldn't be another Jordan Love in the next four years before Rodgers' contract is up. Back to the topic at hand, it is never too early to look ahead, and here are my way too early predictions for this year's Jaguars.
Let's start with the offensive side of the ball. I can't see the Jaguars getting worse offensively. I am not sure how Jay Gruden's offense will fit with the current personnel. With potentially altered camps as well, it's not the best time to need to install a new system. With that being said, the team still has much more talent than it did on offense last year. There weren't any splash signings, but with the signing of Eifert, plus Shenault being added through the draft, quarterback Gardner Minshew has a few new weapons to help him progress. Jay Gruden has proven he can formulate a good offense. He undoubtedly got the best out of Andy Dalton during his time with the Bengals and will hopefully be able to help Minshew progress in year two.
I expect Minshew to make that jump. He put up impressive rookie year numbers that have unfortunately been overshadowed by the inability to finish drives, and the defense being unable to keep the team in games whatsoever. As a rookie, he compiled a 6-6 record with 61% completion and only six interceptions. He threw for over 3,000 yards, yet the general notion still seems to be that the Jags don't have a franchise guy. He won more games than Baker, Kyler, and Phillip Rivers.
My expectation for the offense is simple. The Jaguars take a step forward. I don't think it's going to be anything dramatic because of the questions upfront early, but the offense gains some consistency. Minshew's flaws (sense of pressure, decision making) are all coachable. He has the ability to make plays with his legs but a better understanding of the speed of the game will help him get the ball out quicker this year. DJ Chark reprises his role as a thousand yard receiver, and rookie Laviska Shenault becomes a do it all guy, amassing 600+ receiving yards and 200+ rushing. This is all going to be dependent on whether or not he can stay healthy. The most intriguing piece will be Tyler Eifert. If he can stay on the field, Minshew can look to him as a safety valve. He won't ever be the Eifert of 2015, but even if he can put up numbers consistent with his performance last year, he will be the most productive tight end for the Jaguars since Mercedes Lewis in 2010. He will be a big body to cover down on the goal line, and if Collin Johnson can prove to be a redzone receiving threat as well, watch out...
The Jags have been reportedly looking to move Fournette for over a month now. There doesn't seem to be any real interest for a running back coming up on his last year with the team. The Jaguars elected not to pick up Fournette's fifth-year option for 2021. So he will be auditioning for all 32 teams in 2020, and that may give him an extra boost of motivation this year. Fournette had arguably his best all-around year in 2019. He only found the endzone three times but ran for over 1,150 yards and caught 76 passes out of the backfield, both of which are career highs. I expect him to be a focal point of the offense again, and look for him to set another career-high for rushing yards. His role in the passing game could see a slight decrease.
*As I wrap this up, the Jaguars have announced the signing of Chris Thompson. He comes with a career-high of 49 receptions and is a great receiving change of pace options for this offense.
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