Jacksonville Jaguars 2020 Season Preview
The Jacksonville Jaguars will be hoping that 2020 goes a lot better than 2019. A combination of injury and poor performance ended the Nick Foles experiment prematurely. The Superbowl 52 MVP and perennial back-up did not justify his four year, $88m contract. The Jags lost all four games in which Foles started, scoring just two passing touchdowns in that time. Trading Foles to the Chicago Bears has cost the organisation nearly $19m in dead money.
As one quarterback fails, an opportunity arises for another. Sixth round draft pick Gardner Minshew II showed the potential to be a long-term starter in Jacksonville. His 21 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions in 14 outings had the NFL reeling from “Minshew Mania”. The hype surrounding their rookie QB was an exciting twist to an otherwise disappointing 6-10 season.
Jacksonville didn’t replace Foles in the off-season, signalling that Minshew will be their guy for 2020 at least. This could well be because the Jaguars had more pressing issues to address in the off-season. However, if rumours are to be believed, Jacksonville made a play for Dallas’ current backup QB Andy Dalton after his release from Cincinnati. If this is so, it seems as though Jacksonville still aren’t sold on last year’s 6th round draft pick.
Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye, who had formed a fearsome duo in the infamous 2017 defense, have now both left the franchise. Drafting CJ Henderson with their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft was an obvious decision after those moves. Although they may have reached somewhat to get him, Henderson fills an immediate need in the secondary.
To add to their other high profile departures, defensive lineman and locker room leader Calais Campbell left for Baltimore. Joe Schobert brings more options at linebacker, where Myles Jack may be asked to move outside. K’Lavon Chaisson, the team’s second of two first round draft picks, has considerable potential to be a leader in this team in years to come.
The Jaguars are a team in flux. Minshew may or may not be the quarterback of the future and Leonard Fournette’s time in Duval County seems limited. If the Jaguars had a more competitive backfield, they may have severed ties with him before now. A mid-season trade is not off the cards, and expect Jacksonville to become increasingly desperate for draft capital as he appears more likely to depart.
Second round draft pick Laviska Shenault adds a new dimension to an already decent WR room. His versatility in the run and pass game should be enough to get Jaguars fans excited. However, his recent injury history might be a cause for concern.
This wasn’t a good offense to watch on 2019 and in the end, it ranked 20th in the NFL. Although the team averaged 235 yards passing per game, Doug Marrone had Gardner Minshew throwing mostly short and intermediate passes. When Minshew’s deep throws were called upon, it was often when games were already out of sight. Minshew demonstrated some ability to run with the ball, and expect that to be utilised again in 2020. The team averaged 18.8 points per game last year, and Minshew will need that to improve if he wants to keep the starting job long term.
Long gone are the days of Sacksonville. The defense of 2017 seems a lifetime away from this current outfit. The departures of Jalen Ramsey, Calais Campbell and AJ Bouye are a sign that this is a unit under reconstruction. The expected holdout or departure of pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue is further evidence of the dismantling of the most feared defense in the NFL from three years ago.
The Jaguars prioritised defense in the Draft, selecting cornerback CJ Henderson and linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson in the first round. The addition of these two highly touted youngsters is a necessary step towards rebuilding the Jacksonville defense. Joe Schobert was a good piece of business in an otherwise quiet free agent period for the Jaguars, and it may lead to Myles Jack moving into an outside linebacker position.
The Jaguars were 24th in total defense in the NFL in 2019, conceding 375.4 yards and 24.8 points per game. In terms of points, this was notably better than the play-off bound Seattle Seahawks, but also the worst in the AFC South.
In a division with Derrick Henry, Deshaun Watson and Phillip Rivers, expect Jacksonville to struggle on the defensive side of the ball once again in 2020.
The Jaguars will almost certainly sit at the foot of the AFC South next season, and if you’re going to be bad in the NFL, be awful.
If the Jaguars have a poor season in 2020, it’s likely that the Gardner Minshew experiment has come to an end. Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields will be at the top of the draft board in 2021, meaning that a full-on tank wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen to Jacksonville.
The worst case scenario is that the Jaguars are simply average in 2020. This would leave them potentially without a long-term solution at quarterback, and lacking the draft capital to get one. With Minshew enjoying chemistry with DJ Chark and hopefully able to develop it with rookie Laviska Shenault, the Jaguars might not be terrible enough to get a franchise transforming rookie under centre.
Jacksonville Jaguars 2020 record prediction
3-13 (4th in AFC South)
TOM WATCHED HIS FIRST EVER NFL GAME AT AN EX’S HOME IN NORTH CAROLINA IN 2013 AND “ENCOURAGED” TO SUPPORT THE INDIANAPOLIS COLTS. ONE BREAK-UP AND FOUR YEARS LATER, HE SWITCHED ALLEGIANCE TO THE JETS AND HAS BEEN OBSESSED WITH THE GAME EVER SINCE. TOM CAN BE FOUND ON TWITTER AT @DOWNTHEMANNYRD
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