Preseason Power Rankings No. 30: Jacksonville Jaguars


There’s a sense of renewal in Jacksonville, which is needed.

New owner Shad Khan offers a high-energy, engaged presence, but hasn’t shown himself to be a meddler yet. Also, he has the best mustache in the NFL by a wide margin.

But the fact he was willing to stick with an in-place general manager in Gene Smith and hire a coach in Mike Mularkey that wasn’t a flashy name is evidence he’s willing to let his football people work on football, while he worries about tarps and the like.

That’s a good thing, because fixing the Jaguars will take more than a year, and wouldn’t benefit from a rich guy standing over the process every day.

For a team with three winning seasons and two playoff berths in 12 seasons, the institutional shakeup can’t hurt, and may be exactly what they needed.


They have a solid if not spectacular group of personnel on defense, particularly the secondary, and Mel Tucker was retained as coordinator because the work he’s done on that side has been good.

They were sixth in the league in yards allowed last year, despite a raft of injuries and an offense which was no help whatsoever.

Hiring Mike Mularkey to replace Jack Del Rio as head coach wasn’t the popular choice in some corners, but he could be the perfect fit.

While his run in Buffalo wasn’t a rousing success (two years, 14-18), he still brings a set of credentials that dovetails nicely with what the Jaguars offer at the moment.

As an assistant, his record is successful, particularly recently. He was given a rookie quarterback in Matt Ryan, and they helped Atlanta to four straight winning seasons with a franchise that had never gone back-to-back.

Plus, Mularkey has a young quarterback’s best friend in running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who led the league with 1,606 rushing yards last year.

Throw in fifth-overall pick Justin Blackmon and free agent pickup Laurent Robinson at wide receiver, and there’s the potential for a solid set of personnel on the offense. Tight end Marcedes Lewis can’t be as bad as he looked last year, and gives them a mid-range target that should help the quarterback feel more comfortable.


The Jaguars’ biggest problem at the moment may be that their weaknesses lie so close to their strengths.

Jones-Drew’s great to have, but is currently grouchy about his contract and who knows if he’s showing up to camp on time.

Blackmon has limitless potential, but his offseason drunk driving arrest raises legitimate questions about his maturity given what’s expected of him. Marcedes Lewis, without a rebound to his previous form, is an expensive drag on the system.

But mostly, it’s quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who simply looked lost as a rookie.

Gabbert has all the tangibles you want in a passer, but looked, for lack of a better word, scared last year. Perhaps that’s the fault of a makeshift offensive line (which hasn’t improved dramatically), but Gabbert himself looked unsteady on his feet, which is far worse than if it can be solely blamed on the tackles and guards.

For him to raise the Jaguars a level, or to be anything other than a failed draft choice, he’s going to have to step into the pocket in the face of pressure and deliver the ball. He has some weapons on the outside, so that excuse is gone. Now he’s going to have to become more secure as a player and a leader and make the team his own.


Mularkey’s upbeat style and offensive prowess stand in stark relief to his predecessor, but that’s usually the case in coaching searches.

Jack Del Rio made his name on defense, and helped the Jaguars there for a while, before his act wore thin.

Having someone new and focused on the task at hand will doubtless help, as it wasn’t hard to see Del Rio and management weren’t even singing the same kind of music, much less the same song.

The tweaks they made this offseason were subtle, personnel-wise.

Laurent Robinson was given a five-year, $32.5 million contract in free agency based on his potential as a deep threat (15.9 yards per catch for the Cowboys last year), but the fact remains he’s only started 24 games in his career, nearly half of those for a really bad Rams team in 2010.

Bringing in veterans such as cornerback Aaron Ross and wide receiver Lee Evans wasn’t as splashy, but they hope adding some stability to a young group helps.

Also, signing a capable backup quarterback in Chad Henne was wise in case Blaine Gabbert goes off the rails. And based on last year, that’s entirely possible.

Camp battles.

The Jags have a problem other teams envy.

Their competition at cornerback opposite Derek Cox is between two completely able veterans, rather than a casting call of kids with no experience.

Between Rashean Mathis (coming back from a knee injury) and former Giant Aaron Ross, the Jags have a solid 1-2, and even the loser of the competition will play prominently.

Otherwise, they better hope that their quarterback situation doesn’t become a competition, because Blaine Gabbert needs a sense of stability if he’s going to have any chance to succeed this year.


There are reasons to think this could work, nearly all of them tied to how Blaine Gabbert develops.

The early returns from the offseason were good, and if he can reverse course, the Jaguars could be a better team in 2012.

They have the benefit of playing in an AFC South with at least one team as bad as they are (the Colts), meaning they won’t simply be swamped in the division. And opening at Minnesota gives them an opportunity to steal a road win against another bottom-dweller with reasonable questions about their young quarterback.

Solid-to-respectable would be the upper limit here.

Although the defense might be quite good, it might not be able to withstand the pressure the other side of the ball puts on it.



30 responses to “Preseason Power Rankings No. 30: Jacksonville Jaguars

  1. Gabbert will be a bust and I say this as a
    Mizzou fan. He had happy feet in college when he played in shotgun based offense and had played behind a good o-line. He’s big, string, fast and has a strong arm, but he’s not a very good football player.

  2. “Perhaps that’s the fault of a makeshift offensive line (which hasn’t improved dramatically)”

    Overall, I think it was a fair write-up. But I do disagree with the above. It was hardly a makeshift offensive line. The first four line spots were manned by the same guys, all homegrown players. Monroe was very solid at left tackle. Meester at center and Nwaneri at right guard, each had one of their better seasons. Left guard Rackley struggled early on as a rookie but played much better as the season progressed.

    The issue was the right tackle spot once Eben Britton went on IR. They tried veteran Guy Whimper and rookie Cameron Bradfield and neither played well. That position was the only weak spot on the line.

    If Britton can stay healthy, the line could be among the best in the league.

  3. If Blaine Gabbert fails, they will put in Henne. Henne is by no means a superstar, but he can put them in a position to win. The crappy offensive scheme made Henne look worse than he is. That said, Henne is a good backup while Blaine Gabbert is a third stringer at best.

  4. You are right it all comes down to Gabbert. An improvement of 30-40 completed passes for the year will open up the running game. Additionally, if this defense, which added a speed rusher in Andre Branch in round 2, can stay healthy, they have the ability to become a top 5 defense this year.

  5. This team is bad, but not the 30th worst team in the NFL. Probably more like 25 or 26. They play in the AFC South where it’s not unlikely to split games against everyone, even the Texans. They can beat the Dolphins and Vikings and always win at least one or two games they’re aren’t supposed to.

    They’re bad and won’t make the playoffs but don’t be surprised if they pull up to 7 wins out.

  6. Mike Mularkey handcuffed Matt Ryan more than he helped him.

    Mularkey’s football philosophy is stuck in the past. He’d rather get a 4 yards rushing the ball than 20 throught the air.

    He simply won’t make it in the modern NFL era.

    If Khan wants to eventually get this team out of Jacksonville, Mike Mularkey was the perfect hire. His offense will force the team’s way out of the city by boring it’s fans to death.

  7. What was completely missed in this article is the biggest difference between last year and this on the offensive side, the coaching. Jack Del Rio was a lame duck coach and his assistants put little effort in preparing the QB for the game. Also no one thought they would start the QB as early as they did. He would have benefited from some time on the bench without being thrust in the role. That being said, he handled the off the field criticism like a pro, and not like a child. This year will be starkly different than last. Many more offensive weapons and the running game will not be the dominant theme that it was in the past. Give the kid this year. IF there is no difference than last year, he is a bust. IF there is noticeable improvement, the bust talk was false.

  8. Blaine Gabbert will prove to be a bust as I said before the draft in which he was drafted 10th overall in. Chad Henne will be the starter by week 6 or 7 and Henne will be the starter the rest of the way, if not earlier in the season. I am a Titans fan in the same division as the Jaguars of course, I predict a 6-10 record for the Jaguars this season with great improvement in the 2nd half of the season after Henne takes over.

  9. Jags fans, here’s where I would worry:

    You have a 2nd year starting QB, a rookie #1 WR, and Bob Bratkowski as your OC.

    Get used to that name. Bob Bratkowski. Synonymous with many a four letter word in my house.

  10. People forget that Blaine Gabbert came from a college spread offense that played primarily from the shot gun formation and was a quick read offense nothing like the NFL, just like Tebow, just like Alex Smith played in and how many other spread offense quarterbacks in college failed at the NFL much more complicated game where you must be able to read defenses ala Peyton Manning to succeed. I predict Blaine Gabbert will be out of the NFL after 4 to 5 seasons like Joey Harrington is my best comparison. Great college Quarterbacks with gimmicky offenses or that are spread shotgun system quarterbacks rarely make it in the NFL. What team is going to wit 7 seasons to make the transition from the spread shotgun type system to the NFL like the 49ers did with Alex Smith who finally had a successful season after 7 seasons ?!!! Very few NFL teams will wait that long…

  11. I believe they will be a lot better than people give them credit for. They were actually in most games they lost last year. I think four of them they had no chance.
    I think you’ll see improvement in the beginning but will come up short in the first quarter of the season-maybe 1-3 or 2-2 but then they’ll learn how to finish and have a winning record for 2 of 3 of the remaining season quarters. They’ll push the Texans towards the end of November and into December since they play a 3rd place schedule and they a 1st. I’m still not sold on Kubiak as coach and Schaub staying healthy. Plus, they lost a key offensive lineman to FA and that’s big for a chop blocking/zone scheme that relies heavily more on cohesiveness.

  12. How can a team with a 6th ranked defense from last season, even though the team set a record for players going to IR, emerge with a 30th power ranking when they have the league’s rushing title holder? I know I’m a homer, but come on.

  13. “greej1938l says:
    Jul 10, 2012 10:59 AM
    No way there better then any other team in league. Nice start to your rankings.”

    Based on what?

    The team lost 11 games. Not good, right? Throw out the loss at the Jets when Luke McCown started and the two blowout losses under an interim head coach to Atlanta and San Diego.

    In those other 8 losses, they had the ball in final minutes with a chance to win or tie at home against Cincinnati & Houston and on the road against Carolina, Cleveland & Pittsburgh. And they played close games at home against New Orleans and on the road against Houston and Tennessee.

    It sounds crazy, but even with all that was stacked against them: Rookie QB with no offseason, head coach fired, lame duck coaches on offense, worst WR group in the league, record amount of players on IR. The team wasn’t that far from being a .500 team. And they should only be better with a stable coaching staff, better players on offense and entire offseason to work together.

  14. Not that this wasn’t completely expected, but it’s BS. We were 5-11 picking 7th (ranking 25th) in 2011. We have a renovated WR corps and regained 30 players from IR. We are also working with a seasoned, contract-secured coaching staff. No way we are worse this year.

  15. “johnnyjagfan says:
    Jul 10, 2012 11:16 AM
    How can a team with a 6th ranked defense from last season, even though the team set a record for players going to IR, emerge with a 30th power ranking when they have the league’s rushing title holder? I know I’m a homer, but come on.”

    OK and 5-11 too. Only reason that many wins is because of what you stated. I agree with the writeup and would like to add that the WR coach is probably the biggest get this offseason.

    Wimper was pretty good to start last year but got injured and was basically a turnstile after that but don’t let that get in the way of parrots saying he sucks.

  16. Yeah, I don’t get this ranking at all. We were probably about the 27th or so best team last year (based on record) and this is saying we will drop from last year? No way

    After the free agent signings, drafting Blackmon, and a full off-season of prep for Gabbert, a new coach, and the returning rushing leader…there’s nowhere but up to go from last year, honestly.

  17. Two reasons the nags are garbage they got rid of coughlin and shanny and Allen committed felony burglary trading that tenth pick to them for gabbert

  18. Part of the reason the Jags def was ranked so high is because the offense sucked so bad. There was no real urgency for opposing teams to score, just keep possession and score 20 points and drive home safely.

  19. How can people have any confidence in Blaine Gabbert? The guy is an absolute joke, plays scared and eyes down one receiver. You must be extremely bad if you have a 6th ranked defense and the league’s leading rusher and you end up 5-11? Sorry but that’s on you, Blaine.

  20. Generally fair assessment, although I can’t wrap my head around how they could possibly be 30th in the league even on paper. They were tied for the 7th-worst to end last season, and they had the following serious weaknesses: quarterback, receivers, coaching, and punting. In every weakness the team has improved, and perhaps dramatically in all areas.

    QUARTERBACK: Even if one assumed Gabbert were a bust, which I personally doubt he will be, he’s still almost certainly going to be better than last year simply by virtue of the numerous reasons others have listed above. And here’s a mathematical proof that he already is: everyone seems to agree Chad Henne is both an acceptable quarterback and better than Gabbert was last year. Well all reports are that Gabbert is now appreciably better than Henne is, so Gabbert must be substantially improved, just as intelligent people would expect of any top-10 quarterback entering his second year who faced the various obstacles Gabbert did his first year.

    RECEIVERS: Our #1 WR from last year (Mike Thomas) is now the #3 or #4 WR. Marcedes Lewis will more likely resemble 2010 Marcedes than 2011 Marcedes now that his personal issues are resolved. And the Jags have the highly regarded Jerry Sullivan as WR coach instead of some guy essentially plucked off the street and then fired mid-season.

    COACHING: Mike Mularkey and his staff both care and have talent. Jack Del Rio and his staff certainly did not care, and many lacked talent.

    PUNTER: Matt Turk was responsible for at least one (Panthers) and arguably two (Bengals) losses last year. Bryan Anger is supposedly a special punter, and even if he isn’t special, he’s likely to be at least average, which is an improvement.

    So every weakness has improved, maybe dramatically. And there’s no reason to believe that the Jaguars’ 2011 strengths in rushing and defense won’t carry over to 2012. How does a team under these circumstances then drop from 7th-worst to 3rd-worst?

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