2014 NFL Preview: Jacksonville Jaguars

2014 NFL Preview: Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been trying to rebuild themselves into a contender for the last seven years. Losers of 37 games since 2011, the Jags have endured bust draft picks such as quarterback Blaine Gabbert, and suspended headcases such as wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Their best player and face of the franchise, Maurice Jones-Drew, is gone. Chad Henne is still the starting quarterback. Tossing aside the negativity, there is reason for optimism in Jacksonville. An influx of skilled free agents and draftees brimming with potential have second-year head coach Gus Bradley confident a turnaround is forthcoming. Here’s a preview of the 2014 Jaguars.

Outlook: For all their problems, the roster isn’t devoid of quality players. Linebacker Paul Posluszny is coming off a Pro Bowl season. Tyson Alualu is a solid starting 3-4 defensive end. Wideout Cecil Shorts is a proven playmaker. Jordan Todman and Ace Sanders are both explosive in the return game. Johnathan Cyprien and Dwayne Gratz are ascending in the secondary. Left tackle Luke Joeckel has the talent to be a cornerstone on the offensive line. In other words, Bradley has a lot to work with in 2014. However, the quarterback situation remains unsettled, which is never a good thing.

New arrivals: Number three overall pick Blake Bortles has the size and arm strength to be a franchise signal-caller, but his accuracy and decision-making need to improve. Fellow draftees Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, and Brandon Linder will all contribute as rookies. Ex-Viking Toby Gerhart was signed to be a workhorse back; he brings dual-threat ability and a career 4.7 yards per carry average. Zane Beadles was a Pro Bowl guard in Denver and will instantly upgrade the O-line. Chris Clemons and Red Bryant both excelled under Bradley in Seattle. Former Steeler Ziggy Hood provides experienced depth on the defensive line.

Wave goodbye: Jones-Drew rushed for over 8000 yards and totaled 79 touchdowns during his eight seasons in Jacksonville. Unfortunately, age and injury caught up to him and he’s now a Raider. The future of troubled receiver Justin Blackmon doesn’t look promising. Two drug suspensions and a string of alcohol-related arrests led GM Dave Caldwell to announce back in May that Blackmon’s return to the team was “unlikely.” Similar to Josh Gordon, Blackmon refuses to screw his head on correctly, which will probably cost him a career in the NFL.

Over/Under wins – 4.5: Realistically, the Jags could start 0-5. Barring some early season upsets, they might not be favored until Week 6 or 7, at the earliest. That said, despite a glut of uncertainty on offense, this team seems poised to make a turn for the better. It won’t be easy and growing pains will flare up throughout the season, but reaching 5 or 6 wins is attainable. Lest we forget, the 2013 Jags finished 4-4 with two losses by 7 points or less. It’s too soon for Gus Bradley “Coach of the Year” chants, but Jacksonville shouldn’t be a laughing stock for much longer.

Bet the Over