There has been some debate whether or not the Jacksonville Jaguars are building their roster correctly.
There is an example in Super Bowl 50 that says they are, and that’s the Carolina Panthers.
When former general manager Marty Hurney and current GM Dave Gettleman built their team, they did it by first securing the franchise quarterback and filling in around him.
Jacksonville has followed suit.
“Just look at Carolina,” Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said to JagsInsider.com in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. “First they got the quarterback and then they were able to build up the defense.”
Getting the franchise quarterback seems to be the most difficult part of the equation and Carolina has endured the trials and tribulations and growing pains of Cam Newton, only to now in Year 5 have the league’s Most Valuable Player who helped them to a 17-1 record.
It’s difficult to imagine Blake Bortles turning into Cam Newton, but his 35 touchdowns in Year 2 gave the team exactly what they needed. Hope.
Assuming that Bortles is indeed a franchise quarterback, and he more than looks the part, the Jaguars are actually ahead of the curve thanks to the 2014 NFL Draft. Aside from Bortles, they were able to grab Allen Robinson and also find Allen Hurns in undrafted free agency. Add in former Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas and a solid offensive tackle in Jermey Parnell and the principals are there for Jacksonville to have an explosive offense for years to come.
So what happens on the other side of the ball?
Where the team started in their rebuild it simply wasn’t possible to fill all of the holes in two years of free agency and the draft, while still building an explosive offense that can compete in the pass happy NFL.
Now it’s on general manager Dave Caldwell to iron out the wrinkles in the defense.
“We built the offense and now it’s our turn to address the defense,” Bradley explained. “The Panthers started with Cam (Newton), and then they got (Luke) Kuechly and Star Loteleilei Shaq (Thompson). We can do the same thing.”
That was certainly the initial plan, but it experienced a bit of a road bump when 2015 first-round pick Dante Fowler, Jr. tore his ACL in rookie minicamp. The good news is that the team will get Fowler back for his de facto rookie season along with the “best available defensive player” in the 2016 NFL Draft, possibly in each round.
“We have eight draft picks and Dante (Fowler) coming back,” a Jaguars team source said. “We have a lot of work to do but we can get there pretty quickly. We also have a ton of money to spend.”
This is where the Panthers comparison becomes a bit skewed. Carolina had pieces in place and a defensive head coach in Ron Rivera (who at this point appears better than Bradley). The Panthers weren’t building from the 31st ranked scoring defense as the Jaguars are. In the three seasons preceding the 2015 breakout campaign, the Panthers ranked 10th overall, 2nd overall and 10th overall in defense.
The Jaguars are asking a bunch of new pieces (presumably) to make a meteoric rise, something that’s been very rare on that side of the football.
The good news for Jacksonville is that if the offense can get better in 2016, which is not too much to ask with the pieces they have, their defense doesn’t have to be a Top 10 unit to win games. In the AFC South where mediocrity can be crowned king, the Jaguars only need to be mediocre next season.
That is a stretch from where they have been recently, but then again who predicted the Panthers to be the best team in football in 2015?