Jacksonville Jaguars 2021 Team Previewby Brady Podloski August 3, 2021 0 comments
The Jacksonville Jaguars went 1-15 in what was a historically bad 2020 season. Perception wise, they are considered a bad team by many analysts. However, the reality of their situation is more complex. There were six games in which they lost by fewer than a touchdown, including an overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Moreover, the main success was the losses accumulated after Week 1, where the team clenched generational prospect, Trevor Lawrence, over the New York Jets. Along with Lawrence, the team managed to sign ex-coach of Ohio State, Urban Meyer, whose win-loss record is 187-32. In short, Meyer is a winner and has the intelligence and pedigree to change and instill a winning culture.
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As previously mentioned, the headlining additions were Lawrence and Meyer, who can change the fortunes of the franchise for the next decade. Yet, the team was relatively quiet compared to previous offseasons where they’ve been known to be one of the highest spenders in free agency. The most notable names the team brought in being, Shaquill Griffin, Roy Robertson-Harris, Marvin Jones Jr, and Rayshawn Jenkins. The draft was mirrored with the acquisition of surprisingly high upside rookies including Travis Etienne Jr., Tyson Campbell, Andre Cisco, Walker Little, Jay Tufele, Jalen Camp, Dylan Moses, and Josh Imatorbhebhe. The picks and draft class all echo a similar sentiment, unique athletes of which have size, speed, burst, and quickness.
What you believe about Lawrence and Meyer will likely reflect what you believe the offense can be. In reality, Meyer has brought in Darrell Bevell, who had experience working with young quarterbacks and creating a supporting structure for them to succeed. Namely and most notably, Russell Wilson, where the run game should take off pressure from Lawrence, and make it less likely he’ll have to pass the ball 40 plus times a game. The offense should look unique relative to NFL standards, with Meyer’s offenses including lots of screens and personnel. Most notably, Etienne will be the slasher, who will likely get lots of carries and catches from the slot receiver position. He’ll also be a homerun threat to pair with James Robinson who should lead the team in carries.
Currently, the defense is individuals pieces that should gain chemistry throughout the season. The expectation should be lots of man coverage with a single high safety and some exotic zone schemes where rushers come from different and unique positions. New defensive coordinator Joe Cullen, preached the idea of disruption, where stunts and pocket collapsing will take priority over total sacks. This move to disrupt the play bodes well for players like K’Lavon Chaisson and Josh Allen, both of which could see more total pressures from strong interior pressure. Overall, this team may not start out strong, and will likely see growing pains, but by year’s end, it could be a force to be reckoned with.
Predicting the 53 Man Roster
Lawrence will start, but Minshew competing with him will keep a flame lit under him. Expect the team to ship away Minshew when a starter goes down. While lots has been said about Lawrence (a generational prospect, with great accuracy, reading of the game, and mobility), many forget Minshew is still an ascending player who could be a starter in the league. Minshew’s moxie, the intelligence of his game, and scoring mentality make him a threat to win any play.
As mentioned above, expect Robinson to have more carries as a highly effective two-down back, but for Etienne to have more total touches. It shouldn’t surprise fans to see both on the field for a significant number of snaps. Etienne will see some backfield carries but will be extremely effective on jet sweeps and motions where he threatens to take carries side to side, a difficult feat for defenses to cover. Robinson and Hyde will see their carries from the backfield. Hyde will likely spell coverage for Robinson in the late facets of the game.
The story of this season will revolve around health and if the receivers can stay healthy. Shenault will be the star after this season largely due to his natural talent and development over the course of the year. Chark and Jones make an interesting duo, as they have similar skill sets, but both of them should have the chance to have 1,000-yard seasons. Johnson and Camp are high upside development guys still, who have the opportunity to become capable starters one day, but with so much talent in this receiver room, it may be tough to get them on the field.
Meanwhile, Treadwell makes the team as long as Imatorbhebhe remains on the sidelines. Imatorbhebhe will be on PUP to start as he has an undisclosed injury. However, once healthy, expect him to take Treadwell’s job on the roster. As an undrafted free agent, he has some of the best fluidity and contested catchability for his size.
Sorry other teams fans, but Tim Tebow is likely not making the roster. Manhertz and O’Shaughnessy will likely be the leaders, but in truth, don’t expect the team to have lots of sets with a tight end on the field. Look for speed with two running back and three-wide receiver sets, where the box is lighter. The lack of tight-end reps will likely be because all three are below-average players. Manhertz and Farrell will excel in blocking but lack pass catching. O’Shaughnessy hasn’t been able to develop as Jaguars fans have hoped.
All five starters are returning which is significant for the run game, and for continuity in the passing game. Something the team got better at late last year was picking up stunts. With that said, this could be one of the best pass-blocking units we’ve seen in a long time. Look for Robinson to get traded if the team likes Little. For Little, he hasn’t played in two and a half years but showed excellent balance and foot speed in 2018. He was a projected top 10 pick until the ACL injury.
Robinson and Taylor have somewhat of an easier first-half schedule compared to the second half. Taylor has lots to prove this year and needs to take a jump if he wants to secure a long-term job. Cann, Norwell, and Linder are solid in the interior and have the power to open lanes and become a good run blocking line. Overall, this group should surprise some folks.
Taven Bryan and Adam Gotsis are two other names to keep an eye on if the team decides to roster seven or eight defensive linemen. Costin gets the nod over Byran as he showed more last year as an undrafted free agent. The team will push ‘pressure over the sacks’ mantra where stunts, batted passes, and interior pressure will be a huge factor. Don’t expect any of these interior defensive linemen to have outrageous stats, except for Robertson-Harris who has the length, power, and quickness to be an impact maker. That aside, the rest of this defense line is solid and with a deep rotation, should be fresh for 17 games.
Chaisson’s ascension is here, and we could see a new dominant player. The buy-in is from his last six games where he was dominant and showed clinic pass-rushing moves. Chaisson isn’t much of a run defender, but with a 3-4 defense and the quickness of the linebackers it should be okay. Chaisson aside, Allen is the headliner and after a down year due to a bad team and some nagging injuries, his return could be the difference-maker. Look for this pass-rushing duo to be an impactful game in and game out. Smoot and Smith offer nice versatility and depth, with similar larger body types. Overall, this is an extremely underrated unit and has massive potential.
Jack and Williams will be great sideline to sideline options, where they can run and chase, and cover. Jack is regarded as a top seven linebacker by most for good reason, his instincts and playmaking ability are second to none. Schobert is not great coverage, but as a box linebacker offers good tackle to tackle movement and tackling. Wilson is going to provide depth at both positions. Moses was placed on injured reserve and should remain there all year. He’s an exciting player worth mentioning and could be a long-term option over Schobert. This unit is really good for the Jaguars and has nice long-term options going forward.
Henderson ended the year on the injured reserve. The development is somewhat nerve-wracking where he played extremely well in two games but then had an difficult season. Henderson will play in the slot until Campbell can take over that role. Griffin will likely be the best corner this year, even though he largely played zone scheme in Seattle. Jones has been excellent, and has revitalized his career in Jacksonville, playing extremely well, even when the defense was bad last year. Herndon and Claybrooks offer excellent depth in case of any injuries. This unit, like the edge rushers, has the potential to be great.
The Week 1 starters will likely be Cisco and Jenkins. Jenkins played a box safety role with impressive man coverage reps last year with the Los Angeles Chargers. He was serviceable but not anything special. Cisco is the one to watch out for, being a rangy ball-hawking-free safety. With a lower leg injury, he should be fully healthy for the season and needs to be the best safety for the Jaguars to have a complete and well-rounded secondary. The team should play more single-high, a Cisco special, where he’s ultra-aggressive and can generate turnovers. Thomas and Wilson are also serviceable players as safeties. As it stands however, this unit is below average overall, and Cisco will need to develop into a difference-maker.
Lambo enters this year as one of the best kickers in the league. He’s got the ability to maintain his calmness in high-pressure situations. Cooke is an underrated punter and is one of the best young special teamers in the league. Matiscik is reliable as a long snapper. Agnew is one of the best returners in the league. The team is willing to put more money into special teams with the Agnew signing.
One Player to Add
Top-end talent could be the play here, where the team not only wants to build for this year but also the next year. Look for edge rusher Chandler Jones from Arizona to be a target, as he could be a mentor to Allen and Chaisson and adds significant depth. He would be relatively expensive though, compared to others. There aren’t any free agents the Jaguars will consider as the team likes the youth they have.
2021 Outlook & Odds
It is highly unlikely that the team makes the playoffs with how strong the conference is. The only real chance would be winning the division. That will only happen if the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts both implode. In short, this season could be full of ups and downs where one injury/bad performance could put any team at the top.
The over-under for the team is 6.5, which is fair for a team with a rookie quarterback, and that went 1-15 last year. However, this team will be competitive and should be able to hit the over. Aside from the division, the team is still very young and forming chemistry. With a rookie quarterback and a team that hasn’t played alongside each other for long, there will be close losses. That said, there is underrated talent littered throughout the team.
Season Prediction: 7-10 and Miss the Playoffs
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