Preseason Power Rankings No. 29: Jacksonville Jaguars

AP

Unlike in recent years, there’s at least reason for hope with the Jaguars in the preseason.

They might be hanging around the bottom of the PFT Preseason Power Rankings, but the arrow is clearly pointing up for them after years of floundering about.

Second-year coach Gus Bradley and General Manager Dave Caldwell have remade the roster rapidly and with a clear plan, and they were willing to not reach last year knowing they couldn’t fix everything at once.

The Jaguars added their quarterback of the future this offseason, but they’re committed to not making him the quarterback of the present until he’s ready.

Along with the steady progress they’ve made building a competitive roster, the Jaguars are more interesting than they’ve been in years.

Strengths.

Bradley made a statement in his first year, getting the Jaguars to a competitive place one side of the ball at a time.

With a solid defense in place, they added parts which should make it even better this offseason.

Bringing in old friends from Seattle such as Chris Clemons and Red Bryant will lend some stability to the defensive line (along with former Steelers first-rounder Ziggy Hood).

They lost a solid starter in linebacker Russell Allen, but with former Buccaneer Dekoda Watson coming aboard, it’s still a fast group.

As their young secondary grows together, it should only get better, and give the Jaguars time to develop on the other side where they need it the most.

Being able to cut a productive veteran like Jason Babin points to the fact the Jaguars think this can be a good group as it stands.

Weaknesses.

For lack of a better word, the Jaguars were painful to watch last year when they had the ball.

And that feels generous.

They’re still in the process of remaking themselves on offense, and kept steady quarterback Chad Henne around to keep a hand on the wheel until Blake Bortles is ready.

The goal is to let Toby Gerhart provide some ballast to the running game. He’s shown enough in glimpses of playing time in Minnesota to make you think he can be a productive every-down player, and that’s what they’re banking on.

They’ll need a productive running game, because their receiving corps is very much a work in progress.

Wide receiver Cecil Shorts has shown game-breaking ability, but he needed help in the worst way. The Jaguars used a pair of second-round picks on wide receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson, and will need both to contribute right off the bat.

With the offense in a bit of a holding pattern until Bortles makes his inevitable rise, it’s hard to know how much to expect.

But at least there’s a plan.

Changes.

As important as anyone the Jaguars brought in this offseason was their decisions on when to let go.

They made the cold, clinical call to let franchise running back Maurice Jones-Drew walk into free agency, when they easy thing would have been to keep around a player who for years was the only reason to watch them.

Then they cut the cord on former first-rounder Blaine Gabbert, trading the guy they thought would be their franchise passer to the 49ers for a sack of beans.

There was also the tacit admission that they’ll never get anything from wide receiver Justin Blackmon by drafting receivers in bulk.

While it’s easier for a new administration to admit the mistakes of a former regime, getting something of value for Gabbert was a coup, and moving on from Jones-Drew before the inevitable decline was probably good business.

We’ll see if staking the running game to Toby Gerhart was the right decision, but drafting Blake Bortles is the clean slate at the position the team so desperately needed.

Camp Battles.

The Jaguars still have some work to do on defense, primarily finding a free safety.

Winston Guy and Josh Evans shared the role last year, and one needs to emerge. The Jaguars have been consistent giving young players chances, but they’ve brought in some depth to push them as well. Former Panthers second-rounder Sherrod Martin is still young enough to be an intriguing prospect, with the kind of range to have a shot.

The Jaguars also need to settle the middle of their offensive line.

With longtime center Brad Meester retiring and stable guard Uche Nwaneri cut, they’re remaking the interior. Former Broncos guard Zane Beadles was a big-ticket free agent addition, and they’re hoping some other young players are ready to step up.

If Mike Brewster is ready to take over at center, and they can find a right guard with the ability to help the run game, they appear to be moving in the right direction up front.

Prospects.

The Jaguars can get better this year, even if their record doesn’t.

Because the only true barometer of this season will be how it helps Bortles develop into the starter.

If he’s not ready to start the opener, they know they can leave Henne in there and be at least acceptable. But if they can use the time to get the third-overall pick up to speed, they’re better off for it in the long run.

Many thought during the draft season that Bortles was the player with the most upside, the classic drop-back passer frame, and the tools to succeed. But there was also a consensus that he needed some time.

The Jaguars appear willing to give him just that.

The way they pursued last season (knowing they didn’t have a long-term quarterback, and not reaching to get one for the sake of having one) indicates a well-thought-out plan.

Now comes the execution part of the plan, and if they can get Bortles ready, they’re set up to be competitive for years to come.

50 responses to “Preseason Power Rankings No. 29: Jacksonville Jaguars

  1. This is a pretty fair analysis. We’re still at least a year away from contending for the playoffs, but, for a change, it seems like we have a solid plan in place and the right people to execute it.

  2. As hard as it is for me, a Titans fan, to say this, I think the Jags should be ranked quite a bit higher, given the best offseason they’ve had in over a decade.

  3. Jags fans should rest assured that Gus helped build the Seahawks into the team that stepped on Denver’s throat in the Superbowl and he learned a ton in his time here. He knows what he’s doing and they will be contenders soon. I’d equate this season for the Jag’s to Pete’s second season here – only 7-9 but with tangible improvements from top to bottom.

  4. Personally, I don’t think Bortles is going to be the answer. But the Jags will go as far as he can carry them in the next 2-5 years. I’m more amazed that Houston hasn’t made an appearance on this list yet. I don’t see how Houston can win a game unless their defense gives up less than 6 points a game.

  5. Also, instead of these power rankings.. You should predict next season either wins/losses for each team or division standings.

  6. wow, could the Jets be…the 28 or 27th best team this year???

    ha, we gonna surprise you all this year guys. trust me

  7. Dang, two of the AFC South already at the bottom of the barrel. Surely the Texans are next so Indy should be the division champs before the season starts…….

  8. I don’t think either the Titans or the Jags are quite as bad as they have been rated here, but no doubt the AFC South is really weak. Even Indy probably doesn’t rate any higher than 15 and they are the cream of that division.

  9. bassplucker says:
    Even Indy probably doesn’t rate any higher than 15 and they are the cream of that division.
    __________________________________
    Indy no higher than 15??
    BWHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

  10. I know I’m biased, but these rankings lost all credibility when you ranked the ‘Phins 31st. I think that they will be improved on the field, although probably not a better record (I only see 3 “gimme’s” [Raider’s, Jags, Vikes]) on their schedule this year).

  11. This ranking must assume Manziel does not start in Cleveland? If we run the numbers under the assumption Johnny Bust does start for the Browns, you can bump Jax, Miami, and Oakland all up a notch.

  12. It’s obvious these power rankings are nothing more than a promotion for Johnny Pigskin and the Browns. There is no way 4 teams are worse than Clevelabd.

  13. It would be interesting to compare these preseason rankings with reality in January. Father Time will come down hard on Peyton and his bionic 40 year old neck and Denver will be competing for #29 in a few months.

  14. Raiders, Dolphins, Titans, Jags we’ll see preseason rankings are something. Every team has a different rb, this upcoming season…MJD to the Raiders Knowshon to the Phins Titans lose CJ and Jags gain Toby I dont know if Toby is the answer but lets hope Jags can pass the ball I say Raiders and Jags swap.

  15. Fair write up of the Jags. Our win – loss count this season is irrelevant. Look for tangible improvements on the field, during the game. In 2016 we can sweat wins/losses after Bortles gets a full on-field season under his belt.

  16. Raiders beat the Jags the last 2 years, and we are FAR better this year…how did they get a better ranking? Chad Henne vs Matt Schaub, and they’re better? We even signed MJD….their starting RB. Really? Baffling….these rankings are a joke!

  17. LOL at AFC

    one more and the will secure rights to the 5 worst teams in the league

    and this after not having any of the top 5 last year…

    no wonder teams like the Pats make the playoffs every year

  18. jjackwagon says:
    Jul 8, 2014 3:08 PM
    Raiders hope to climb this high by seasons end.
    – – – – – – – – – – – –
    maybe someday your team will figure out a way to beat them.

  19. Politicallyincorrect…you’re skins fan…you shouldn’t be commenting on anything. As for the Jags, they need a few more players, but it’s coming together, they may surprise everyone. Very good analysis of the Jags.

  20. Jags will regret passing on Bridgewater (best QB in the draft) for Gabbert 2.0.

    AFC is a complete joke, can’t wait for their 8-8 wild card, its awfulness is a lot worse than NFC Least’s

  21. PoliticallyIncorrect
    Jul 8, 2014 8:26 PM
    LOL at AFC
    one more and the will secure rights to the 5 worst teams in the league
    and this after not having any of the top 5 last year…
    no wonder teams like the Pats make the playoffs every year

    _________________________________
    Pats are 13-6 vs NFC over the last 5 years. Seems to me that if the NFC was so “awesome” the Pats wouldn’t be beating them at a 68% clip.

  22. The jags won 4 out of 5 last year in the 2nd half of the year and finished 4-4.

    They got a lot better in the off season while the Texans and titans got worse (were 1 play away.against the titans from sweeping both last year with nowhere near the players they have now)

    With Joeckel back healthy and adding beadles a pro bowl guard on the left side they shored up their biggest issue last year.

    This is not the team that was laughed at when they started 0-8 against KC Seattle Denver Indy San Fran San.Diego while in total rebuild. This is a well coached team that played hard the 2nd half with very little talent and added a bunch in FA and draft.

    Do not check them off as a win, fans of mediocre teams…….setting yourself up for dissapointment. Not ready for the elite teams yet, but will be in 2015 if they were right about Bortles.

  23. Your comment about Jones Drew clearly shows you don’t follow the Jaguars at all.

    Secondly, ‘ballast’ is hardly a term anyone would use positively for a ground game. If you mean gerhart is there to ‘anchor’ the ground game, then it didn’t work.

  24. I’m sorry, the Jags have had a helluva an off season and look like they have a plan for the future, but there is no way they should be ranked higher than the Titans. I could see the Titans being ranked 22-25 and the Jags being 28. Both these teams will be better in the coming years and give the Colts a challenge for the division.

    Being a Titans fan, I am a little biased, but this Titans team has legitimate pieces to make a run for the playoffs. Granted, it all depends on the health of Locker, but he looked great last year before he sustained the hip and knee injuries. Here’s to hoping he stays healthy all season.

  25. Man I really hope this PLAN works out because all this hype and propaganda has set the Jag fans up for some serious disappointment if it doesn’t.

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