After winning the AFC South by going 10-6 in 2017, can a revamped Jacksonville team return to the playoffs? It was widely expected around the league that the team would return last year but for various reasons the team just flat out struggled to win games. They ended the year 5-11 with an even larger blaring hole at the quarterback position that they essentially ignored in years past. Bortles let them down for the last time and this offseason they released Blake Bortles to welcome in former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. I don’t think it is emphasized enough how big of an upgrade this move is. Nick Foles has proven that he can win at the biggest of stages.I am by no means saying Nick Foles is a top 10 quarterback in the NFL, but he is a middle of the pack quarterback that can win in the right situation. You may ask, well what is the right situation?
Well, let’s look at what worked for him in Philadelphia. He had a great offensive line, a good running game, a stellar defense, and tons of weapons to work with. He also had great coaching in HC Doug Pederson, and OC Frank Reich. Now let’s look at Jacksonville, now Jacksonville doesn’t have all of what I just explained but that Eagles team again was a Super Bowl champion.
Jacksonville this offseason, in my opinion, has salvaged a dumpster fire rebuild into a potential contending team. Let’s look at free agency, a very conservative one with Nick Foles being primarily the biggest signing. This was largely due to the team’s salary cap situation. The rest of the signings were WR Chris Conley, OT Cedric Ogbuehi, OG A.J Cann, and TE Geoff Swaim. These are all mostly depth pieces with no one except Foles having a definite starting spot. The Jaguars also addressed the coaching staff, they decided to keep DC Todd Walsh and HC Doug Marrone. But they did fire OC Nathaniel Hackett after a lackluster offensive effort in 2018. Then they decided to bring in John DeFlippo, who was the Vikings OC in 2018. Before that he was the QBs coach in 2017, the year Nick Foles and the Eagles won the Super Bowl. This connection with Foles will be crucial in implementing a new offensive system.
Now we look at what they did in the draft. With the draft having the usual surprises, one surprise landed right in the Jaguars lap. With QBs being taken and it being a stacked defensive draft class, Josh Allen falls to 7 for the Jags to pick him up. Josh Allen is a stud edge rusher out of Kentucky that was a projected top five pick in every mock draft.
Standing at 6 foot 5 inches, 240 pounds, Josh Allen is a freak athlete that has drawn comparisons to Von Miller. I think Josh Allen will be an immediate impact for this already stacked defense. Then in the second round number 35 overall, they select Jawaan Taylor, OT Florida. This is another steal because they address a need while getting a value pick. Jawaan Taylor was a projected top 15 pick but due to bad knee rumors, he dropped in the draft. If he can stay healthy, Jacksonville will have a good looking offensive line with Taylor and Cam Robinson as a solid tackle duo, Andrew Norwell and AJ Cann as the guards and Brandon Linder as the center. If this group stays healthy, they will have no problem protecting Nick Foles and opening up holes for Fournette. Those two picks I really liked, and there was 1 more pick that I thought provided much needed depth for this jaguars team. 5th round pick Ryquell Armstead, will likely serve as a backup to Fournette and is much needed due to Fournette injury past.
Overall, I think they have given Foles the situation that he has thrived in before. I believe they will have an efficient running game. Fournette if healthy has shown he is a beast and behind this revamped offensive line, he will be hard to be stopped. Next their weapons are very overlooked, with Dede Westbrook, DJ Chalk, Keelan Cole, and Chris Conley, you have guys who are young and talented but just haven’t had the opportunity to showcase it yet. I am not expecting the offense to finish top 10 in scoring, I am expecting around top 15-23 finishes in scoring offense. The defense will definitely be top 5 and very well might be the best defensive team in the league. They are stacked on defense with Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye leading the secondary, Myles Jack and Josh Allen leading the linebacker corps, and lastly the studded defensive line including Calais Campbell, Marcell Dareus, and Yannick Ngakoue. The defense will keep the opposing teams under 20 points a lot of the time and that will give Nick Foles an easy opportunity to win games for this team. I am predicting a 10-6, 9-7 finish for the Jacksonville Jaguars as that will most likely allow them to make it back into the playoffs. I think president Mark Lampton, GM David Caldwell, and Vice President Tom Coughlin have done an excellent job this offseason reloading instead of rebuilding like a lot of teams would do after a 5-11 year.