The Jags are 0-3 after losing to the Ravens today at Everbank. Blake Bortles was unimpressive, Gus Bradley is feeling the heat, and the defense gave up a game winning drive. Overall, if you're a part of the Teal & Black family or fan base you'd probably say you had a bad day. Jacksonville GM Dave Caldwell on the other hand, has quite a bit to celebrate.
The Fountain of Youth: Jalen Ramsey is every bit of what the Jags expected him to be when they drafted him 5th overall in last year's draft. The former Florida State standout has shut his side of the field down through the first 3 weeks of the season. Brash but able to back it up, Ramsey was fearless facing Packers Aaron Rodgers to start the year and once again, didn't back down from an NFL veteran when Baltimore WR Steve Smith lined up against him today. Perhaps the most athletic play from either team on the field this afternoon came from Ramsey on a leaping pass deflection that tipped the ball into the hands of the Jaguars secondary for a clutch, interception. Yannick Ngakoue continues to steal the show, after recording another sack/fumble for his second consecutive game. Dante Fowler was all over the field, Sheldon Day had some success up front, and Myles Jack continues to wait in the wings for an extended workload. The inexperienced defense in Jacksonville has a lot to learn but there's no denying the abundance of talent on that side of the ball. Jason Myers booted another long FG today at 49 yards and can't really be blamed for the blocked kick at the end of the game; plus he was perfect on extra points. Offensively, Allen Robinson got back to Probowl form, Allen Hurns continued to be reliable, and Marqise Lee kept expanding his role as a deep ball threat. Blake Bortles had a bad day but there's no denying his abilities just because of one game; he has what it takes to be a starting quarterback in the League. All the players I mentioned above are either 25 years old or younger... let that sink in. That's 3 VERY strong draft classes in a row.
Return on Investment: After spending more than any other NFL team in Free Agency this off season, Caldwell expected the Jags to be better on the field. Malik Jackson received the biggest pay check of all the players landing in Duval, and started to earn his $90 million today by recording his first sack in Jacksonville. Tashaun Gipson was brought in to strengthen a previously weak secondary; consider it in full flex mode after Gip snagged his first interception as a Jag. It was a bit odd when punter Bryan Anger couldn't come to terms for a new contract with the front office in Jacksonville this past summer, but it seems that Caldwell will have the last laugh. The Jags new leg Brad Nortman is kicking the ball ridiculously good as he constantly puts the ball in the perfect place, erasing any hope opponents have of favorable field position. Kelvin Beachum, Prince Amukamara, & Chris Ivory have been banged up, so it's tough to really judge those players contributions so far. Looking at 2015's FA Class, Jared Odrick has recorded sacks in the first two games before being scratched from today's match up and Julius Thomas has been a huge weapon now that he's fully healthy. You're not going to nail every acquisition you make as a GM but collectively you have to feel good about where you spend your money. I find it hard to believe Caldwell isn't happy with the checks he's been writing for the past two years.
Simple Solution: The glaring questions from today's loss are all tied to one answer. Bortles had one of his worst games since coming into the league, the rushing attack was non-existent, and the patchwork offensive line has been far from a brick wall. Bortles and the running backs will improve immensely behind a strong front. 5 months from now when Caldwell sits down with his front office brass to evaluate draft talent, circle key free agent targets, and talk about an overall game plan on how to improve the Jaguars - it will no doubt center on the offensive line. If you fix the o-line, Bortles gets protection and the running backs get openings. Three problems, one solution. Honestly, as bad as you might feel about your beloved Jags, they don't have a lot to work on from a personnel standpoint. There has to be some solace in that. I expect the Jags to draft at least three lineman in 2017 and entertain a couple of high profile big bodies that can lock down the trenches on game day. Dave Caldwell has done a great job to piece together this team here in Duval, and despite a loss leading the Jaguars to a disappointing 0-3, the GM deserves a tip of the cap.