Marc and Ben are back with their takes on the NFL on Nickelodeon debut and the first round of playoff football. Also, Marc gives his list of the top head coach candidates.
Schedule: IND, @TEN, MIA, @CIN, @HOU, DET, BYE, @LAC, HOU, @GB, PIT, CLE, @MIN, TEN, @BAL, CHI, @IND
Additions: LB Joe Schobert (FA), TE Tyler Eifert (FA), RB Chris Thompson (FA), EDGE Cassius Marsh (FA), DL Timmy Jernigan (FA), DL Adam Gotsis (FA),
DL Rodney Gunter (FA), EDGE Aaron Lynch (FA), DL Al Woods (FA), CB Rashaan Melvin (FA), CB C.J. Henderson (Draft), EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson (Draft), WR Laviska Shenault (Draft), DL Davon Hamilton (Draft)
Losses: DL Calais Campbell (Trade), EDGE Yannick Ngakoue (Trade), CB A.J. Buoye (Trade), QB Nick Foles (Trade), RB Leonard Fournette (Cut), DL Rodney Gunter (Retired), EDGE Aaron Lynch (Retired), DL Al Woods (Opt-out), CB Rashaan Melvin (Opt-out), TE Seth Devalve (FA), LB Quincy Williams (Injury)
Thank God J comes after H and I in the alphabet. If not, I would’ve wrote this yesterday, when the Jaguars still had Leonard Fournette. The supremely underrated running back is the latest in a mass exodus of talent from Jacksonville. In the last year, they have traded Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Buoye, Calais Campbell, Nick Foles, and Yannick Ngakoue along with releasing Fournette.
On top of that, seemingly every defender they signed either opted-out or retired. What remains of this defense won’t look anything like the 2017 unit that nearly carried Blake Bortles to a Super Bowl. Instead, they could look even worse than the group that got demolished last season.
That defense at least had stars, even if the stats weren’t pretty. Now, the big dog is second-year edge Josh Allen. After tallying 10.5 sacks in a rotational role, his life will become a lot harder with all the attention now on him. With Allen now drawing doubles, K’Lavon Chaisson could follow in his footsteps with a big first year. He’s going to have to if Jacksonville is going to stop anyone.
Run defense is a particularly large worry, with an uninspiring interior d-line. 2018 first-round pick Taven Bryan will have to champion the group after two years as a part-time player. He was a day one pick for a reason and could be the next stud defensive lineman in Sacksonville. Starting next to him, nose tackle will be a position to watch after the Jags allowed 5.1 yards per carry last season. Veteran Abry Jones and rookie Davon Hamilton will both get reps. No matter who starts, this should remain a weakness.Rounding out the rotation are a couple desperation signings after the spree of opt-outs.
While linebacker looks better on paper, I’m not a Joe Schobert guy. I don’t think he’s the type to transform a defense like the Jags need him to be. Myles Jack has the potential to be that guy, but the flashes never persist. He’s way too inconsistent for a guy that talented. In today’s sub package-centric age, the third linebacker doesn’t play a huge role. That’s good for Jacksonville because they lack a complete player at the spot despite some intriguing names.
Cornerback might be the best indicator of the defense’s fall from grace. A couple years ago, they had arguably the two best guys in the league in Ramsey and Buoye. Now, they have Tre Herndon and C.J. Henderson. Herndon made a ton of notable plays—as many bad as good—last year in his first starting opportunity while Henderson is a rookie in a year and position that don’t favor first-year players. There’s a realistic chance these two get lit up next year.
At nickel, D.J. Hayden is one of the few standouts left on the team. Jarrod Wilson and Ronnie Harrison return as an unspectacular starting safety duo. With third and often fourth safeties playing significant roles nowadays, the lackluster depth could be a weakness.
While the defense looks nothing like it did in 2017, the offense is a different story. Granted, Gardner Minshew has already proven to be a better passer than Bortles, but as a whole, it’s a similarly underwhelming group. The quarterback upgrade is offset by the massive drop off in the backfield.
Fournette didn’t post the sexiest stats, but that’s more because defenses had zero respect for the passing game than anything. Neither Chris Thompson nor Ryquell Armstead will come close to replacing his value, though I am excited to watch the 2019 fifth-round pick. Tampa Bay has some competition for worst running back room in the NFL.
The offensive line won’t provide much support, either. A second-round pick last year, Jawaan Taylor led the league in penalties. Staying at right tackle this season, he desperately needs to improve on that. Every other 2019 starter returns as well. Unless something unexpected happens, this group will be below-average once again.
For Jacksonville to avoid the top-five draft slot most are predicting, the Minshew-D.J. Chark connection is going to have to be lethal. It was sometimes last year. In 2020, it’ll have to be a weekly occurrence. Chark might have that kind of potential, but I’m a little more weary of Minshew.
I think some people got a little carried away with the memes and started to overrate him. Let me clear, I think he’s awesome and definitely can be a franchise quarterback. I just think the same people who demand a player proves himself for years are ignoring that principle with the sixth-round pick. With that being said, I hope he succeeds just as much as everyone else. The NFL hasn’t seen many characters as awesome as the Jort King.
Another big worry with the team is the coaching uncertainty. Doug Marrone somehow escaped with his job last year and enters 2020 with an unbelievably short leash. The schedule is in his favor, at least. Jacksonville faces Cincinnati, Miami, and Detroit in the first six weeks. Win two of those with a couple more upsets later on, and he should be safe for the year. Returning in 2021 is a whole other story, though.
What’s your record prediction for the Jaguars? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.