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PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 30: Jacksonville Jaguars

Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne AP

There’s no use sugar-coating it: The Jaguars were awful last year.

They might not be much better this year.

But you can’t say that they’re not willing to change everything, in an effort to change the product on the field.

Shad Khan has employed an impressive display of out-with-the-old in his short time owning the team, willing to embrace change to create a market as well as a football team.

They’ve changed uniforms, hired a new General Manager (David Caldwell) and coach (Gus Bradley) to preside over the reclamation, and tweaked their stadium to try to create something new.

They needed to. After years of chasing random success under Jack Del Rio, the Jaguars had devolved into a big mess, and only a clean start was going to give them a chance to fix things.

This is Year One of the process, and it’s not necessarily going to be a short one.

But the Jaguars are hoping their short-term pain pays off in years to come.

Strengths.

Considering how porous it’s been in recent years, the Jaguars offensive line should be solid, at least around the edges.

There’s nothing wrong with left tackle Eugene Monroe, and using the second overall pick on Luke Joeckel to play right tackle gives them a solid pair to begin with.

They’ve been decimated by injuries up front in recent years, but if they can keep those two on the field along with a smart veteran center in Brad Meester, they have what could be a good group.

That’s progress, and that’s what they need.

They also have an utterly serviceable group of linebackers, who should have opportunities to make a high number of tackles five yards downfield.

Beyond that, you have point to things like good specialists (kicker Josh Scobee and punter Bryan Anger), which tells you more about the roster than those specialists in particular.

Weaknesses.

Aside from the obvious and most deficient position on the roster, the Jaguars lack playmakers on offense.

They can’t know at the moment what they’re going to get from running back Maurice Jones-Drew coming off last year’s foot surgery, and 2012 first-round wideout Justin Blackmon will miss the first month of the season coming off a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Cecil Shorts has shown signs of being a legitimate NFL wide receiver, but that moves the total to one on the roster.

They have high hopes for offensive weapon Denard Robinson and fellow rookie wideout/return man Ace Sanders, but until they prove something, it’s hard to see how the Jaguars are going to score points.

There’s also not the impact pass-rusher they desperately need to play the “Leo” position in Bradley’s defense, and that is going to keep them from making much progress defensively.

The line as a whole is a hash, and the odds that every Patriots castoff ends up here at some point (such as defensive tackles Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick) points to the rebuilding they’re in the middle of.

Changes.

Where to begin? At the top is probably as good a place as any.

The razing and rebuilding began a year into owner Khan taking over, with hiring Caldwell and Bradley.

Their challenge is simply to hit reset on a franchise grown stale after an early run of success.

Knowing they can’t fix it all in one season, they didn’t opt for a bold strategy of signing name free agents. Frankly, they’re in the mess they’re in because the previous regime did a bit too much of that, in an effort to keep the team at a mediocre level.

The clear-out of the secondary is a good example of what they’re trying to do. They could have easily hung onto players such as Rashean Mathis, Dawan Landry and Aaron Ross. Instead, they drafted at least half a starting secondary in safety Johnathan Cyprien and cornerback Dwayne Gratz, and will let those guys grow this year.

Camp Battles.

The most important, obviously is the quarterback battle between Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. Or maybe Mike Kafka. Or maybe even Matt Scott and Jordan Rodgers.

For all the progress they’ve made in other areas, trying to figure out which one of these guys gets to (has to?) start will be the first defining decision of a rebuilding year.

Even though Caldwell and Bradley had nothing to do with drafting Gabbert, his draft status alone almost forces them to find out once and for all if he can play. The hunch here is that he can’t, but before you blow it up and start over, they have to make sure he has no value before they move on.

Henne’s Henne, and Hennes are available on every street-corner every NFL offseason. Unless Gabbert is so abjectly bad in training camp that playing him would stunt the growth of other parts they intend to keep beyond this year, there’s no real point in starting Henne, even if he’s a bit better.

The fact Kafka’s a factor points to how bad this spot on the depth chart is, and how far the Jaguars have to go to become respectable.

Prospects.

You want optimism? Here’s optimism.

The Jaguars get to start their season against a jury of their peers, opening against the Chiefs and the Raiders.

Of course, that’s followed by a stretch of four games in their next six against playoff teams, which should rapidly bring them back to reality.

But then again, no result of an individual game will matter to the long-term health of the franchise.

What Caldwell and Bradley need to use this season for is sorting — figuring out which parts might help them win in two years, when that’s a reasonable goal.

That begins at quarterback, but extends to finding out which of the young players are worth building around.

The danger is overwhelming the kids in losses, and ruining them before they have a chance to flourish. Hiring the high-energy and well-respected Bradley was a nod to that, as they’ll need his fire when the beatings commence in the fall.

Then comes Caldwell’s next big challenge, to find a quarterback who can turn them around quickly, as has happened in other places.

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18 Responses to “PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 30: Jacksonville Jaguars”
  1. niners816 says: Jul 10, 2013 9:16 AM

    30th? Probably the highest they’ve been ranked in years! You’re moving up, Jacksonville!

  2. blainegabbert says: Jul 10, 2013 9:18 AM

    “But you can’t say that they’re not willing to change everything, in an effort to change the product on the field.”

  3. nesportsfan0428 says: Jul 10, 2013 9:28 AM

    They made a good point: They already did better this off season by not over paying for mediocre talent, like they have the past 3 years.

  4. gloryfromheaven says: Jul 10, 2013 9:31 AM

    Things should get interesting once they get a top QB prospect next year. Running game is starting to build nicely and defensively there are some few holes but that’s why Gus Bradley’s there, fantastic defensive mind…

  5. cannonballdookie says: Jul 10, 2013 9:45 AM

    I feel like they should be ranked lower than the Browns, they really don’t have much going for them this year or any other year really.

  6. 6thsense79 says: Jul 10, 2013 10:07 AM

    Where are all the Blane Gabbert apologists that defended him every step of the way the past two seasons? Gabbert and his famous 12 step drop back will never be a good starting QB. I’ve watched enough Jags games to see that. The one year MJD lead the league in rushing which was supposed to open the passing game a little told me all I needed to know about the great Gabbert.

  7. razzlejag says: Jul 10, 2013 10:07 AM

    There’s a good vibe around the Jaguars after many down years. There’s some hope the new GM and HC seem perfectly suited for the jobs and the draft appeared to be decent.

    IF Gabbert can actually play and Blackmon and Shorts are legit WRs, they could win 4-5 games.

    Another decent draft, stadium enhancements, excited fans and they could rise to .500 next year.

    The Jaguars were 20th in NFL attendance last year, drew more than the Steelers and haven’t had a blackout in years (I think ’08).

  8. boknowsvt says: Jul 10, 2013 10:15 AM

    There is no way the Raiders have a worse roster than Jacksonville.

  9. donth8thehorns says: Jul 10, 2013 10:16 AM

    I was disappointed the Jags took Gabbert before Ponder! One could Argue, there is not a ton separating the two, except I think Gabbert was way Dreamy! Seriously though, if you give him more time and he is not getting annihilated, he actually looks like a QB! With shorts, Blackmon & Laurent Robinson(is he back this year?) he has no excuses

  10. jaxasc84 says: Jul 10, 2013 10:18 AM

    “Cecil Shorts has shown signs of being a legitimate NFL wide receiver…”

    Legitimate? The man was a concussion away from being a 1,000 receiver. Cecil Shorts is going to be a star in this league and I just hope Blackmon learns something from him.

  11. jbaxt says: Jul 10, 2013 10:44 AM

    You know your team sucks when Jacksonville is ranked ahead of you.

  12. johnnyjagfan says: Jul 10, 2013 10:50 AM

    This analysis was solid. I do think, though that it gave short shrift to MJD. His foot will be healed and he will be back. I don’t think anyone expects MJD’s talent to recede or his drive. He’s in a contract year after a failed holdout. He HAS to play well.

    Also, no mention of Jason Babin is a little odd. He’s going to play on the end and rush the QB. It’s going to be Kampman 2.0 for the Jags or he’s going to have a double-digit sack total. Feast or famine.

    This analysis was great on the lines, on both sides as well as for the secondary. Also about the free agent dump, which was perfectly described. The free agents signed in the last 2 seasons didn’t come close but were a last-ditch effort for Gene to save his bacon. Giving Laurent Robinson a $31M deal should have given Gene Smith a pink slip immediately.

    Lastly, the QB situation was also perfectly described, but I think the mess that it is will enhance competition in camp. Without a competition, Russell Wilson doesn’t emerge as a starter for a playoff team. Who knows what will happen at QB? I’m hoping for a reboot for Gabbert, as Caldwell points out would be in his rookie year if he stayed in school. And I don’t think there are Hennes on every corner in the offseason. He did throw for 400 at Houston last year.

    All-in-all, a good summary. The team has a long road ahead.

  13. u4iadman says: Jul 10, 2013 11:31 AM

    Whoever loses between Jags/Raids game is going to deservedly earn the 32nd spot in NFL, and the best QB. Both teams need a new QB star, and possibly RB.
    Hard to argue which of the two teams has a better roster.
    I give Henne an edge at QB, MJD at RB, Oline and DB’s to Raiders.
    Man, we’re quibbling over scraps!
    Lets hope both return to top 10 in 2yrs.

  14. therillest says: Jul 10, 2013 12:20 PM

    Great analysis, but I have one concern. Gus Bradley is extremely “RAH RAH” and I like the guy, but if this YOUNG team doesn’t start winning soon….it wont take long for him to lose his message. As a defensive coach, I think Lovie Smith would have been a more viable option.

    There will be growing pains with a first time head coach and GM. I just don’t think Jacksonville is the kind of town that will distracted young millionaires long enough to not be annoyed by them.

  15. gromit45 says: Jul 10, 2013 1:32 PM

    So already in week 2 we might have the game to decide the #1 draft pick. Awesome!

  16. ilovefoolsball says: Jul 10, 2013 1:54 PM

    At least they’ll be the #1 NFL team overseas soon.

  17. ruthlssjag says: Jul 10, 2013 4:47 PM

    Hater’s gonna hate, so be it! Every team in this league, I mean “EVERY TEAM” has went through losing season(s). The Jags are no different. It’s bottom’s up from here on out. Be it 2 or 3 more years, the fans will continue to show support & cheer on because we “know” we’re rebuilding a 53-man roster. As soon as we achieve what we envision to be, watch the hater’s jump the bandwagon… It NEVER fails!!!
    GO JAGS #StandUnited

  18. thegreatgabbert says: Jul 10, 2013 4:49 PM

    Caldwell and Bradley have taken ownership of Gabbert and quite happily. There were a ton of veteran QBs changing teams after the season, the Jags didn’t even take a sniff at any of them. There were a handful of QBs available in the draft and they didn’t waste a pick on a single one. Even though THEY ALL FELL LOWER THAN EXPECTED in the draft.

    Gabbert is their guy just as surely as if they used the #2 overall pick on him this season. Dave Caldwell was head of college scouting the whole time Blaine was in college. He was head of pro scouting since Blaine became a pro. He knows exactly what he has on his hands and hasn’t done a single thing to indicate that he isn’t happy with the situation. The whole “camp battle” is for P.R. purposes. The suggestion that Mike Kafka is somehow relevent is just silly.

    Blaine was better his first two seasons in the league than Stafford was, with far less to work with. Lions just handed Fatt Matt $40 mil.

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