The Jaguars weren't expected to make the playoffs in 2021. A rookie quarterback, a head coach with ZERO NFL experience, and a ton of turnover on the staff and the depth chart isn't exactly a recipe for early success. Still, many, including myself, expected the Jaguars to be much more competitive in 2021. There's a vast array of reasons for Jacksonville's struggles and their 1-6 start to the season. Coaching has been, let's say, questionable, both in-game and during the week. Personnel decisions — outside of the selection of Trevor Lawrence —have been a bit shaky (I'm being nice, aren't I?). It wouldn't be a reach to say the Jaguars have been the laughing stock of the NFL on multiple occasions since Urban Meyer's arrival.
While the Jaguars will likely need to make adjustments throughout their organization, I'm a believer that Jimmys and Jos are more important than Xs and Os. Don't get me wrong, the best play-callers and thinkers in this game unequivocally give their teams a leg-up, and the Jags don't have that luxury. The Jaguars' coaching staff hasn't maximized the talent on the field, but even if they had, how many games would this roster have won to this point? Two? Three?
Unfortunately, the Jaguars 53-man roster lacks talent in many areas. And that leads me to the crux of this piece: the Jaguars' top three roster needs. Why did I decide to roll with just three? Because I honestly believe this team would be instantly competitive if they had these three pieces in place. I'm not saying they'd be competing for a division crown or a playoff spot, but they'd be in every game. They wouldn't have lost five of seven contests by double digits.
Let's get to it!
No, this is not me bashing Shaquill Griffin, who, despite dropping every opportunity he's had at an interception in Jacksonville, has played very well since signing with the Jaguars this past offseason. Griffin has been asked to shadow receivers like DeAndre Hopkins and DK Metcalf this season and has done an admirable job, but it's clear that he's outmatched by the league's top talents at receiver. If the Jaguars had a true alpha outside cornerback, or even someone else closer to Griffin's talent level to play opposite him, this defense would be immensely better. Unfortunately, it hasn't mattered who has lined up on the opposite side of the field from Griffin for the Jaguars this year; they've all been torched.
Most disappointing? The 33rd overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, cornerback Tyson Campbell, has struggled mightily. The issues that plagued him in college — an inability to locate and make plays on the ball — have followed him to Duval, and there's no sign of impending improvement. Campbell possesses the speed, length, and feet to get the job done, which makes his struggles that much more frustrating. The Jaguars will need to ride out the season with Campbell because they've got to try to get something out of him after drafting him at the top of the second round, but if he can't rapidly improve over the next ten games, the Jaguar will need to go hunting for another outside cornerback to pair with Griffin.
The Jaguars don't have a single receiver that scares opposing defenses. Perhaps DJ Chark could have been that if he stayed healthy. But that "if he stayed healthy" has been a common refrain when talking about DJ. He's out for the year, and his contract will expire at the end of the season.
The Jaguars signed 31-year-old receiver Marvin Jones this offseason, and he's been pretty darn good for them. But Jones is a classic number two. He knows how to fight for the ball and make contested catches, but he's not creating separation and lacks the elite physical tools to really be a team's top option out wide.
Laviska Shenault has been a massive disappointment filling in for DJ Chark. His hands have been inconsistent, and he struggles to get open.
Jamal Agnew has been a revelation, but he'll likely never be more than a third receiver option on a good offense. The former cornerback is a natural, but his lack of size limits his potential. He's got the moves, but to be his size and be a top wideout, you need to have Tyreek level skill and athleticism, and Agnew simply doesn't have that.
The Jaguars must find a legit number one receiver for Trevor Lawrence. The young quarterback needs someone who can not only be a field stretcher and game-breaker but a safety valve with reliable hands as well.
Yep, two of the top three needs are cover players. The Jaguars have allowed a league-worst 113 quarterback rating on the defensive side of the ball in 2021. The guys that have been in the slot have gotten obliterated time after time. Tyson Campbell struggled there early, and whether it's been Chris Claybrooks, Tre Herndon, or anyone else, they haven't gotten the job done. 20-30 years ago, a third cornerback wasn't super important, but now, it's one of the most important pieces on defense. They need physicality, speed, quickness, smarts. They need to be able to cover, play the run, and blitz. The Jaguars MUST find a quality slot cornerback if they hope to slow quarterbacks down in the future.
Now, don't get me wrong, there are plenty of other questions on this roster. PLENTY. But if the Jaguars had another quality outside cornerback, a number one receiver, and a slot corner worth a damn, they'd be competing week in and week out. The NFL is a passing league, and while the Jaguars tried to improve their CB and WR rooms prior to the 2021 season, but they failed. They can stop the run and run the ball, but to win in the NFL, you've got to be able to cover on defense and catch passes on offense. The Jaguars have a ton of draft capital and spending money that, in theory, should help them solve these talent issues. But are the right decision-makers in the front office to make that happen?
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