By, Faux John Madden (Special to OddsUSA.com)
Jacksonville Jaguars 2020 Team Preview
January 21, 2018 may feel like it was an eternity ago as we wrap up the summer of 2020.
In January 2018, the air was crisp as winter had set in. You could hang out with friends, you could go to a movie, a concert, even a football game.
And back in 2018? The Jacksonville Jaguars… were a game away from the Super Bowl!
Blake Bortles .. was a quarter of football away from leading a team to the Super Bowl!
Alas, 2018 B.C. (before COVID-19) was a simpler time.
Now a year and a half later, the Jaguars enter the 2020 season as the consensus short favorite to have the 1st overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
This kind of “rags to riches, back to rags” story doesn’t happen overnight, but for the Jaguars it certainly feels like it did.
One moment the Jaguars defense was calling themselves ‘Sacksonville’ and fielding one of the best groups in the last decade. The next, they are blowing a 4th quarter lead to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, and are never able to recover again the following two seasons after that.
What’s transpired in the 32 games since that fateful defeat has been shocking, to say the least. The Jaguars went from a roster stacked with young talent on both sides of the ball to a team that will have 39 new members in 2020.
It’s the type of roster churning, with a head coach that appears to be the living definition of the phrase “lame duck coach,” that have the Jaguars closer to winning the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes than the division itself.
Jaguars 2019 Season Review
As short-lived as the Jaguars’ status as a Super Bowl contender was, the Nick Foles Jaguars’ era was even shorter.
The 2019 season began with hope that merely swapping Blake Bortles for Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles would be the trick to returning the Jaguars back to their 2017/18 form.
That hope evaporated roughly 10 minutes into the first quarter of the opening week game against Kansas City, when Foles would suffer a broken collarbone on a touchdown pass to second-year WR D.J. Chark.
The injury would not end Foles season, though it would knock him out of action until Week 11, but Foles never looked like a good fit in the Jaguars offense and struggled mightily even when he was healthy. The Napoleon Dynamite stunt double would be benched for the lone highlight of the Jaguars 2019 season, rookie QB Gardner Minshew.
The 6th round pick by way of Washington State went 6-6 as a starter last year with a very respectable 21 touchdown passes and just six interceptions in his rookie season. In several of their wins, he was the difference maker.
It wasn’t just Minshew’s play on the field that drew the most attention though, as the eccentric quarterback would prove to be one of the most entertaining rookies the league has seen in quite some time.
“Minshew Mania” came to Duval at the right time, because outside of Minshew’s impressive and unexpected debut campaign, the Jaguars had a lot of other internal issues to contend with in 2019.
That infamous Jaguars defense was a shell of its 2017 self, and would go on to struggle all season, and the team would eventually trade All-Pro CB Jalen Ramsey to the Rams after Ramsey demanded to be traded from the team throughout the season.
Jags 2017 4th overall pick RB Leonard Fournette would again struggle mightily behind a paltry Jaguars offensive line that would be unable to open up holes for the former LSU star, but it was the type of performance that became even more magnified considering the Jaguars drafted Fournette over the likes of Christian McCaffrey, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.
It’s hard to blame Fournette for much of the issues with the Jaguars roster, but this selection paired with the Jags picking up Bortles fifth-year option in 2018 really summarizes the fall from grace for Doug Marrone’s group.
Willingly Moved to Duval County for Reasons Unknown
LB Joe Schobert (Browns)
DL Rodney Gunter (Cardinals)
TE Tyler Eifert (Bengals)
QB Mike Glennon (Raiders)
CB Rashaan Melvin (Lions) COVID-19 opt-out*
DT Al Woods (Seahawks) COVID-19 opt-out*
Wanted the Jaguars as Much as London Does
T Cedric Ogbuehi (Seahawks)
WR Marqise Lee (Patriots) COVID-19 opt-out*
LB Jake Ryan (Ravens)
TE Nick O’Leary (Raiders)
TE Seth Devalve (Panthers)
Jaguars 2020 Offensive Preview
If there’s anything positive to carryover from the 2019 season it’s that the Jaguars appear to at least have their answer at quarterback in the short term with Gardner Minshew. Even if Minshew should regress a bit and be a low-end starter/high-end back-up, that would still be incredible value for where he was drafted by the team a year ago.
The Jaguars will bring over a lot of the same offense from 2019, with Minshew, Fournette and 2019 breakout player WR D.J. Chark headlining the Duval attack.
The biggest change to come to Jacksonville on the offensive side of the ball will be with the man calling plays. Former Washington head-coach Jay Gruden joins Marrone’s staff to be the teams new offensive coordinator, leaving one inept franchise for another. Gruden did have a nice run of success in Cincinnati as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator once upon a time, so the Jags are hopeful he can repeat the feat here.
On the offensive line, Jacksonville intends to return the same group from a season ago, but will need much better play from the left side of their offensive line with Cam Robinson and Andrew Norvell, as each player has underperformed massively in their roles with the Jaguars. Right tackle Jawaan Taylor has shown promise for becoming a high-quality right tackle, but was a penalty machine in 2019 as he lead all players with 15 penalties called against him.
Gruden’s scheme is less likely to rely so heavily on Fournette, who was on the field for 83% of the Jaguars offensive snaps and had over 330 touches on the year, and more on the arms of Minshew and their young WR corps of D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley.
Free agent addition Tyler Eifert will also look to add a missing link from the tight-end position, but Eifert has spent more time on the injured list than in the end zone the past several seasons, so it’s hard to expect a whole lot of production there.
Jaguars 2020 Defensive Preview
We’ve mentioned it a few times already, but the majority of the roster churn on the Jaguars has come on the defensive side of the football, where the 2017/18 Jaguars defense is nothing more than a footnote in history now.
Gone from that Jaguars defense are the likes of Jalen Ramsey, Calais Campbell, Dante Fowler, A.J. Bouye, and Marcell Dareus.
Jacksonville finished the 2019 season with one of the worst defensive units in football, particularly against the run where they would surrender over 5 yards per carry, good for 31st overall in football.
The Jags are taking apart their defense and trying to rebuild it into another formidable unit to vault them back to the top of the AFC South standings. In 2019, they used their first-round pick on the highly touted pass rushing specialist Josh Allen, who had a standout rookie season with 10.5 sacks in his debut campaign.
In 2020, Jacksonville went out and got Allen some more help, drafting K’Lavon Chaisson 20th overall to be the pass-rushing edge opposite of him, as the Jaguars defense plans to play more of 3-4 scheme than they have in recent seasons.
In addition to revamping the front 7, Doug Marrone is looking to replenish a secondary that saw their top two corners both get traded in the last year, and used the 9th overall pick on CB C.J. Henderson from the nearby Florida Gators.
Henderson will pair with corner, and former Raiders first-round pick, D.J. Hayden in the Jags secondary, after plans to pair up their rookie with FA addition Rashaan Melvin had to be sidelined after Melvin voluntary opted out of the 2020 season.
While the front seven looks to be in position to be above league average, the Jaguars secondary is in for a potentially long season as there are still a lot of holes outside of their 2020 Top 10 pick.
Then there’s the yet to be resolved offseason drama with their franchise-tagged star defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.
Ngakoue was visibly frustrated all offseason, taking to social media on more than one occasion to ask the team to trade him if they didn’t want to give him the long-term deal he was seeking. It remains to be seen if this relationship can be salvaged at all, or if the team will use Ngakoue to fetch more draft compensation for their continuing rebuild.
If Ngakoue plays and buys-in to what the Jags are selling, the Jacksonville defensive line has a lot of potential. But if Yannick continues to be a problem inside the locker room and is not productive as he once was, a running theme for the hold overs from the AFC Championship losing squad, look for Jacksonville to try to remedy this issue as quickly as possible.
Jaguars 2020 Outlook & Prediction
It’s pretty apparent upon looking over the Jaguars roster, that this is a team that is not going to compete in too many games this season, and they may be perfectly fine with that as they seem to be approaching their rebuild in the exact same manner as their in-state AFC chums Miami are doing.
If there’s a silver lining to playing the 2020 NFL season in what will likely be fanless venues, the Jags will no longer have to travel to London this year for two home games, which is good not only for the team but for relations between the United States and United Kingdom, as continually sending the Jaguars over to play there is a borderline cause of war.
The Jags are going to be quite bad this year, and Doug Marrone likely won’t survive the season, but there are some really good young pieces here to at least give their fans hope that they’ll be back to their Sacksonville days in no time.
The Trevor Lawrence watch officially begins.
Jaguars 2020 Projection: 3-13, 4th place AFC South
Jaguars 2020 Betting Preview
There aren’t many reasons to watch the Jacksonville Jaguars, but let these futures bets be an excuse to catch a game or two.
- Jacksonville Jaguars UNDER 4.5 wins — (+103) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Gardner Minshew is about as fun as a sixth-round rookie can get, and we’re still not entirely sure he’s the answer at QB for the Jags, but even ‘Minshew Mania’ won’t be enough to get the Jags to a 5+ win season. Their schedule is absolutely brutal, with only a handful of truly winnable games. Shad Khan’s ultimate goal for this franchise is to land a player that will fill the many empty seats in Duval County for years to come — is that player Trevor Lawrence? We shall wait and see, but in the meantime, plus-money on the Jags being 4-12 or worse is outstanding value.
- C.J. Henderson to win DROTY — (+3300) at DraftKings Sportsbook
There aren’t many things to get excited about with the 2020
LondonJacksonville Jaguars, but C.J. Henderson is the exception. This is nothing more than a dart throw on a Top 10 pick with 33-to-1 odds. Why not?