Jaguars season preview 2016: Predictions and analysis

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 6: Allen Robinson #15 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs the ball during a game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on December 6, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans defeated the Jaguars 42-39. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 6: Allen Robinson #15 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs the ball during a game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on December 6, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Titans defeated the Jaguars 42-39. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The Jaguars have not made the playoffs since 2007. For the first time this decade, they have a real chance to change that statistic.

Jacksonville has struggled in recent years, not posting a winning season since Jack Del Rio was the head coach with quarterback David Garrard under center back in that aforementioned 2007 campaign. Under the leadership of current head coach Gus Bradley, Jacksonville has chalked a rather underwhelming record of 12-36.

However, Bradley is finally getting some real help from general manager David Caldwell. With both on very hot seats, Caldwell was aggressive in free agency, landing a litany of contributors. After finishing 24th in team defense and 29th against the pass, Caldwell signed safety Tashaun Gipson, corner Prince Amukamara, and defensive end Malik Jackson.

Make no mistake, the fortunes of this team rest on the defense, not the offense. Gipson gives Jacksonville a safety who can both play in the box and provide good range in the deep third. Amukamara has been hurt throughout large swathes of his career, only playing 16 games in one of five seasons. When healthy, though, Amukamara could slot in as a nice option on the outside.

Jackson is arguably the second-best 3-4 defensive end in football behind J.J. Watt, competing for that mantle with few beyond perhaps Muhammad Wilkerson. Adding Jackson will free up the linebackers behind him, as the $90 million man takes on two linemen almost every snap.

Caldwell provided more help to the defense with Jacksonville’s first two picks of the 2016 NFL Draft, Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack. Ramsey can play either corner or safety and projects to be in the mold of a Patrick Peterson, who, like Ramsey, is a big, speedy presence. Jack fell to the second round because of a badly torn ACL, but if he can regain his form, he might be the best player of the class. Jack has tremendous speed and can both cover tight ends and blitz off the edge.

Add in the return of second-year defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., and the Jaguars have one of the more talented defenses in the league. How that potential translates on the field is the big question mark hovering over Duval.

The offense has only weak spot, but it could be fatal. The offensive line has been a sieve in recent years, allowing a league-high 71 sacks in 2014 before improving to 51 in 2015, fourth-worst in the NFL. If the Jaguars and third-year quarterback Blake Bortles are to make the leap many expect, the big uglies have to step up and keep sack numbers manageable.

The addition of Kelvin Beachum should help, but he’s also coming off a torn ACL. The rest of the line remains a massive question, with Luke Joeckel, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Jermey Parnell, and others providing an express lane to Bortles far too often.

If Bortles is given the time to throw, he will find Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, a pair of young, 1,000-yard receivers. Factor in tight end Julius Thomas and running back Chris Ivory in the red zone, and a good line would mean a top-10 offense in Jacksonville.

While the Jaguars are no sure thing to reach the playoffs, there is real reason for optimism.


Week 1 – Green Bay Packers
Week 2 – at San Diego Chargers
Week 3 – Baltimore Ravens
Week 4 – Indianapolis Colts (London)
Week 5 – BYE
Week 6 – at Chicago Bears
Week 7 – Oakland Raiders
Week 8 – at Tennessee Titans
Week 9 – at Kansas City Chiefs
Week 10 – Houston Texans
Week 11 – at Detroit Lions
Week 12 – at Buffalo Bills
Week 13 – Denver Broncos
Week 14 – Minnesota Vikings
Week 15 – at Houston Texans
Week 16 – Tennessee Titans
Week 17 – at Indianapolis Colts

The Jaguars are the hot pick of many to win the AFC South and finally become a team that is long on results and short on potential, rather than the other way around. If that’s going to happen, we need to see Bortles and Co. shine in the first four games.

Green Bay at home to start the season is a huge measuring stick for this young team. After that, it’s a trip across the country and then a trek to London two weeks later. Can Jacksonville beat some of the best quarterbacks in the game, or is this offseason a big tease?

Draft class

Round 1 (5) – Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State
Round 2 (36) – Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA
Round 3 (69) – Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Maryland
Round 4 (103) – Sheldon Day, DT, Notre Dame
Round 6 (181) – Tyrone Holmes, OLB, Montana
Round 6 (201) – Brandon Allen, QB, Arkansas
Round 7 (226) – Jonathan Woodard, DE, Central Arkansas

No team had a better draft than Jacksonville, which might have knocked it out of the park like the Buccaneers did back in the day with consecutive picks Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. The Jaguars stood pat and took Ramsey in the first before moving up to select Jack in the second.

Jack is a huge risk because of his knees, but if he stays healthy, he’s the best athlete from the 2016 class. Meanwhile, Ramsey is the safest player of the bunch and should become a quality NFL player right away.

Offseason moves


Malik Jackson, DE (6 years, $90 million)
Chris Ivory, RB (5 years, $32.5 million)
Prince Amukamara, CB (1 year, $5.5 million)
Tashaun Gipson, S (5 years, $35.5 million)
Kelvin Beachum, OT (1 year, $4.5 million)


Stefen Wisniewski, C (PHI – 1 year, $1.5 million)


How quickly does the defense come together? The Jaguars added a ton of new pieces to this unit with Jackson, Gipson, Amukamara, Jack, Fowler Jr., and Ramsey all coming in. While the talent is significantly upgraded, it takes time to gel.

The offense may have to carry the Jaguars through the first half of the season while this defense finds its rhythm. If that can happen, Jacksonville suddenly becomes a team that could, and should, be playing meaningful football in December.

Bottom Line

Bradley needs to win at least eight games, or it’s time to make a change. The Jags coach has won 12 games through his first three seasons but deserved a pass because the roster was awful. That is no longer the case for this Jacksonville team.

Should this season become a flop, Bradley will be vacating a post that will have ample big names lining up at the gates. Considering the youth, talent and geography, Jacksonville would have its pick of the litter. Bradley has to be feeling the heat.