After a 2017 campaign that saw the Jaguars come within minutes of the first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, 2018 has been, in reality, the most disappointing season in franchise history. Injuries, poor QB play, inconsistent defensive performances and a litany of other issues have ruined a once promising season.
Now, with three games left in the 2018, the Jaguars season is all but over. Mathematically eliminated from the playoffs the Jaguars must begin to focus on the 2019 offseason. In doing they'll have to answer some big questions when it comes to the roster, coaching staff, and front office. The biggest question, without a doubt, will be how to address the QB position. But the Jaguars also need to figure out what priority position number two is. What position needs the most work, outside of QB, on the Jaguars roster heading into 2019?
There a few spots that come to mind.
The Jaguars tight end position was decimated by injuries in 2018, but even at full health, it's not a group that strikes fear into opposing defenses. One of the most difficult players to stop in the modern NFL is a physically dominant tight end. The Jaguars top tight end, Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ASJ for short) doesn't exactly fit that mold, but he is a gifted dual threat tight end who showed, prior to being placed on IR, (he's eligible to return in week 15) that he can block with the best of them. Still, adding a tight end who could be a big time receiving threat down the middle could help turn this offense around in a hurry.
Then there's the right guard spot. AJ Cann has been highly inconsistent throughout his four year career in Jacksonville and his contract is set to expire after 2018. He hasn't earned a second contract, at least not as a starter, and should be replaced in the starting lineup next season. Could the Jaguars prioritize the right guard spot heading into 2019? It would make a lot of sense. Going from left to right the Jaguars have ascending left tackle Cam Robinson, who is expected to develop into a quality starter at the very least. Next to him is Andrew Norwell at left guard, who had a disappointing first year with the Jaguars, but is expected to ramp things up in year two with the team. At center Brandon Linder has been the Jaguars best offensive lineman since the day he stepped foot in the building. He's a top five center in the NFL, but has struggled with injuries throughout his career. Still, he's a safe bet when healthy. We've already discussed the situation at right guard and at right tackle the Jaguars have the aging Jermey Parnell and what they hope is his eventual replacement in 2018 rookie Will Richardson. So, it would make sense for the Jaguars to prioritize right guard heading into their next campaign.
Still, there's a position that needs even more work on this roster.
That position? Wide Receiver.
The Jaguars wide receiver position has been a train wreck in 2018. The group as a whole, outside of Dede Westbrook, has been hard to watch. There are three receivers that I believe should be locks to make the roster next year.
One is the aforementioned Dede Westbrook. He hasn't received the volume of targets that I would have liked this year, but when he has been heavily targeted he's gotten the job done. On the year he's hauled in 53 of his 81 targets for 35 first downs and found the end zone five times. Westbrook has also shown the ability to make things happen on screens and reverses. He's carried the ball seven times for 69 yards.
DJ Chark, the team's 2018 second round pick is also a lock to make the roster. As a rookie he's been a special team dynamo, but has struggled to make an impact as a receiver. A recent quad injury has held him out for the last three games. It's an unfortunate time for the rookie to miss because he likely would have been targeted more often with the playoffs out of reach. He's hauled in less than half of his 30 targets this year and fumbled one of his 14 catches away. Chark has a long way to go, but he's not in any danger of losing his roster spot, especially with his impact on the third phase of the game.
Finally, Marqise Lee is also a lock to make the team, assuming he can stay healthy. Lee has struggled with injuries throughout his career, the most recent being a knee injury that kept him out for the entirety of the 2018 regular season. His contract runs through 2021 and the team out isn't until after the 2019 season, so Lee isn't going anywhere. Teams aren't likely to want to take on Lee's contract in a trade prior to the season either, so in all likelihood he'll enter the regular season as a Jaguar.
While all three of these players will be on the Jaguars roster it's unclear if any of them should be considered long term starters for the Jaguars. Many of the best teams in the NFL have truly elite receivers and playmakers. At this point Westbrook, Chark, and Lee do not fall into that category.
The Jaguars should look to bolster their receiving corp at every opportunity this year. There will be several big name receivers available in free agency including Golden Tate, who would make for a perfect safety blanket in the slot for a new QB.
Tom Coughlin and company should also look to add elite talent to the position in the upcoming draft. There will be a bevy of talented receivers available in the first three rounds and the Jaguars should not hesitate to add one early on and one on the final day of the draft. Keep an eye on names like N'Keal Harry (Arizona State), Marquise Brown (Oklahoma), Kelvin Harmon (NC State), Collin Johnson (Texas), and AJ Brown (Ole Miss).
Do you agree that the Jaguars WR position needs an overhaul in 2019? Let me know in the comments below.
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