The Jacksonville Jaguars once again won the offseason. Once again, they have gotten high marks for their draft picks. And once again, there is plenty of hope in North Florida that this team will break through and make the playoffs.
Yes, 2017 is no different, except NFL executives are singing the team’s praises. Per a story on blackandteal.com, Mike Sando over at ESPN spoke to some NFL executives – an Insider story – to discuss each team’s offseason moves. He managed to get grades as well, and apparently NFL executives thing the Jaguars had a solid offseason.
The Jaguars will eventually have to decide whether to stick with Blake Bortles at quarterback. In the meantime, they’ve made moves to diminish their reliance upon him. Offseason commitments to the ground game do not get much stronger than hiring Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone before using a top-five pick on Leonard Fournette. Meanwhile, Calais Campbell‘s addition could put the defense over the top. All signs point to fewer pass attempts per game for Bortles.
That might be the best thing for the fourth-year pro. Last season was a regression, one the organization wants him to build on. According to Executive Vice-President Tom Coughlin, the reason why the team did not draft a quarterback or looked to sign one in free agency is based on Bortles’ commitment this offseason.
As Kevin Patra wrote on NFL.com, When asked on The Rich Eisen Show what he saw in Bortles that led the team to pick up the fifth-year option on the quarterback, Coughlin cited improved mechanics as part of the equation.
"Two years ago, he had an outstanding year, had a lot of yards, over 4,000 yards. I won't say outstanding because the team didn't do outstanding, but he certainly was much more productive." Coughlin said. "This past year, a lack of production, if you will, turnovers, too many. And, so, he's a talented young man. Had some flaws in his throwing motion that he did a nice job of working on in the offseason and pretty much correcting. So, we've seen some good things there."
Sando’s conversation with NFL executives didn’t just end there. The belief the team has established a solid foundation for the future.
“They made progress in getting an identity,” an exec said. “Are they better? I’m not saying they are, but one of these years they are going to go like 10-6. I don’t think it’s this year. I think it’s when they get great play out of the quarterback.”
Campbell was the consensus best defensive player available in free agency. He also cost $15 million annually.
“Jacksonville spent the most guaranteed money over the last five years and they have the worst record,” an analytics director said. “They keep doing the same thing over and over. I do love Calais Campbell.”
In years past, the Jaguars had a blueprint for a team of youth as opposed to veterans with aging contracts. Now, the team has a healthy mix throughout the roster. Essentially the method of madness by both then head coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell has been scrapped.
Still, even with the changes, there is still plenty to do to break out of this doldrum where the team has not been to the playoffs in a decade.
As the last executive said, it’s hard to really have a lot of confidence in the Jaguars when they have done this for a few off seasons now. Maybe this year is the year it all finally comes together.