Jacksonville Jaguars 2020 Season Recapby Brady Podloski January 23, 2021 1 comment
The Jaguars had their worst statistical season ever, with only one win and fifteen losses. Interestingly, it’s the franchise’s first time since its inception in 1995, that it will have the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. Before the season started, the Jaguars were written off by most analysts and were the team most likely to “Tank for Trevor”, a trope that exemplified the possibility of a 0-16 season.
After a Week 1 win against the Indianapolis Colts made it seem impossible to get Trevor Lawrence. The team wouldn’t put up a good performance for a number of weeks. For most of the season, Jaguar fans experience maximum disappointment as the New York Jets didn’t win a game, guaranteeing their spot as the number one pick in the NFL draft or getting a shot at Trevor Lawrence. However, all of the pain from Jaguar fans from the past 10 years helped propel the New York Jets to a win against the Los Angeles Rams, moving them to the second overall pick.
While the season really was about playing for the future – Trevor Lawrence, and this is really highlighted by the Jaguar’s defense having the most snaps by rookies, as well as several trades which saw key players depart the team. Overall, the pinnacle point of the season was the Jets winning one game, as that win had cascading effects on the Jaguars organization – including the unlikely hiring of Urban Meyers and the ability to dictate free agency with the first overall pick. Overall, – as a fan myself – it was one of the best years.
What Went Right
What went right? Well, the butterfly effect. What’s that? It’s where a butterfly in the small town of Hakone, Japan fluttered its wings which then cascaded into lifetimes of events occurring, ultimately all ending in the single act of Jet’s defensive tackle Quinnen Williams dominating the pass rush in one game. This was during the Jets’ historical win over ex-Jaguar Jalen Ramsey’s Los Angeles Rams ha, ha, ha. While that game will become Jaguars legend, what isn’t talked about enough is the development of several young players. While many are featured throughout the award below, some had their season cut short, or began playing well through parts of the season. There are three players which deserve a highlight:
Collin Johnson, a wide receiver out of Texas University was a fifth-round pick in the 2020 draft. At 6’6” Johnson was never going to be a separator, so the question was if he could use his frame to box out defenders and make tough contested catches. There were limited snaps for Johnson, but there were highlight-reel catches that showed some promise going forward. While Jaguars fans shouldn’t hold their breath, it is encouraging to find a player like this in the fifth round.
C.J. Henderson, the ninth overall pick in the draft, was a bright spot throughout the first half of the season. His highlights included covering Davante Adams where he was only really faulted with giving up a touchdown in the red zone. Overall, it was impressive to see high-end reps from a rookie.
The last player to highlight is Jaguars’ third-round pick, DaVon Hamilton, who upgraded the defensive interior as a rookie. Hamilton is a true run stuffer – which is what all the analysts knew. However, the question was always around his limited pass-rushing ability which let him drop to the third round. In Week 7, against the Los Angeles Chargers, he showed the potential to be a disruptive pass rusher having several pressures and QB hits. Overall, while it was a short season for Hamilton as he was placed on the injured reserve list after Week 12, his play was very encouraging for a young player.
What Went Wrong
The team was 1-15, so there were obviously big problems. Two problems stand out though and might be barriers to success in the future if they are not corrected.
Inability to Find a Defensive Scheme That Fit Players
Call this the Todd Wash effect, where poor coaching puts the team in the wrong position to match up against an opponent. For the Jaguars it was mainly the defense, which has the personnel to play more of a 3-4 defense but stayed with a base 4-3 defense. The idea of switching to a 3-4 defense is somewhat overblown, as most times defensive alignment in “base defense” (or what the standard alignment is) only happens 40-60% of the game. However, it matters for developing players, one being K’Lavon Chaisson who had limited snaps rushing the passer with his hands in the ground. Overall, with the recent hiring of Joe Cullen, this should be fixed.
Nagging injuries on all sides of the ball
Don’t hear what I’m not saying, injuries are a part of the game. However, soft tissue injuries that reoccur can be concerning for an athlete’s longevity. Laviska Shenault has a history of nagging leg injuries which were apparent throughout the year. The reality of injuries is concerning if you want a super bowl contending team, there is an additional month of practice and three extra games to get to the Super Bowl. How confident are you that Jaguar players can hold up?
Team Award Winners
MVP – Myles Jack, Linebacker
Usually, the standard MVP of the Jaguars is running back James Robinson, and with good reason, he took the league by storm, showing the potential to be a great back. However, Jack may have had one of his best years yet. Jack showed speed and intelligence similar to his 2017 tape. He was noticeably better than last year while stopping the run, having 53 run stops this year. In the pass he excelled in zone coverage, and in man coverage was adequate. With all that said, Jack’s consistency on a poor defense is astounding and is a bright star year after year.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – James Robinson
Shouldn’t be surprised, as Robinson was the offensive MVP. And If you sat through any of the offensive plays this year, you would have noticed he was dominant game in, game out. The young man broke 1,000 rushing yards after only14 games. He also broke multiple undrafted rookie records including most yards from scrimmage. Really there isn’t much more to say, he’s dynamic and could be a top-three running back next year if he continues this production.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Doug Costin
This was a toss-up, as there were three candidates – C.J. Henderson (who received a B+ on my year-end rookie grades), DaVon Hamilton, and Doug Costin. This award is a season-long one, and fans were unable to see both Hamilton and Henderson for the last part of the season.
Costin gets the nod for his performance as an undrafted rookie who constantly disrupted plays in the run and the passing game. While he was inconsistent to start the season, no game stood out more than Week 9 against the Houston Texans. Costin had four QB hurries and disrupted (ex-Texan?) Deshaun Watson. Moreover, he was a menace in the run game throughout the season. There was a noticeable difference in run defense when he wasn’t on the field. Overall, this defensive award isn’t a slight on the other rookies. It is praise for someone who was consistently good (as a rookie) all year. The Jaguars may have found another undrafted gem in Costin.
Biggest Surprise – K’Lavon Chaisson
The surprise comes from performing at the end of the year. Chaisson was billed as a developmental player who wouldn’t see fruition until year two or even three. Yet, die-hard fans who watched from Week 13 to Week 17 know that Chaisson was in the backfield snap after snap. The improvement fans saw during those last weeks, simply does not happen for most players. For this author, there were two noticeable differences in his play that might explain some of his development.
He rushed with a plan – fans could see Chaisson use his bend and speed to go outside. When the offensive tackles overstepped, he would counter with an inside move. In a word, Chaisson thought about how to affect his opponent mentally – which doesn’t happen for rookie rushers.
He was comfortable in his own frame, something that hasn’t happened since his time at LSU. If you didn’t know, Chaisson suffered a significant knee injury in the 2018/2019 season which hindered his movement and agility. It wasn’t until the late 2019 college film that Chaisson showed highlights of his elite potential. Thus he was billed as a project edge rusher. This comfortability, scouts saw late in his college career, didn’t reappear until late this season. Perhaps the speed of the NFL or the shortened offseason hindered his early play. But, even with all the barriers, Chaisson faced – along with early bust labels from fans who saw a poor stat line, Chaisson is easily the biggest surprise and the most encouraging defender for the Jaguars defense going forward.
Biggest Disappointment – Shad Khan
Why isn’t it a player you inquisitively ask? 100 losses. To let this franchise and fan base suffer to this point is simply unacceptable. As well, you let your family member get in an open Twitter fight with a disgruntled player, unacceptable.
One Burning Question
Can the offense have the pieces in place to be a top-five unit?
This is an offensive driven league. Where the rules and pace of the game now favor the offense significantly over the defense. Additionally, the objective of Meyers and Khan should not be beating teams in the AFC South, but to build a team and offense that can match Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs. Trevor Lawrence has the potential to be one of the best offensive players in the league, but without a supporting cast all fans will see is reminiscent of a broken Andrew Luck and a disgruntled Deshaun Watson.
The Jaguars’ front office cannot let this happen and must provide Lawrence with the quality starter and depth in backups. It starts with free agency and the draft. The team must hit on key offensive pieces including finding a quality tight end, a separating wide receiver, a speed wide receiver, a franchise left tackle, a right guard, and depth to assist the rest of the offensive line. These things along with quality coaching should provide a foundation for Lawrence to succeed.