This year will be a year of transition for the Jaguars. Important figure heads of the side have gone and have been replaced with either holdovers or new players/coaches who will be leaned on by the Jaguars. The most notable changes the Jaguars will experience in 2020 will be on the field. Just compared to the first snap of Week 1 last year, the Jaguars already look like a dramatically different team.
Gone are Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Marcell Dareus and Marqise Lee (and maybe Yannick Ngakoue?), and in are new players like CJ Henderson, Laviska Shenault, K’Lavon Chaisson and Tyler Eifert. Many of Jacksonville’s past top players are now elsewhere, opening the door for a new generation.
2020 will also feature the official transition to Gardner Minshew II as the team’s starting quarterback. Minshew will now be looked to as the team’s leader one year after replacing Nick Foles as the de-facto top quarterback on the roster.
The sense of stability the Jaguars will have will be on the side-lines, with head coach Doug Marrone returning to the side-lines for a fourth year. Meanwhile, general manager Dave Caldwell will be entering his eighth year in the role.
The primary focus on Jacksonville’s offense will be on second-year quarterback Minshew, who is one year removed from an impressive rookie season in which he went 6-6 as a starter while completing over 60% of his passes for 3,271 yards and 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Now Minshew will be expected to take a step forward in his development, as the rookie and backup quarterback labels no longer pertain to him.
The offense will also now be spearheaded by new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Gruden’s play-action passing offense will be fuelled by Minshew and running back Leonard Fournette, who is expected to be Jacksonville’s lead back once again despite trade rumours. Fournette is coming off a 2019 where he posted career-highs in rushing yards (1,152), yards per carry average (4.3), receptions (76), and receiving yards (522 yards). The Jaguars did decline his fifth-year option, however, making it a crucial contract year for the former number four pick.
Jacksonville opted not to address its offensive line in the offseason aside from adding fourth-round guard Ben Bartch. They will return all five starters from 2019, with the group needing to improve due following 2019 that saw them pave the way for just three rushing touchdowns all season.
But while major attention will be paid to Fournnete and the offensive line’s effort to improve the run game, the Jaguars’ passing game will have to evolve so the offense can improve from being ranked 26th in scoring last season. The most important piece of Jacksonville’s passing game will be DJ Chark, who is joined by Laviska Shenault, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, Tyler Eifert and Keelan Cole. Chark is an ascending talent after a Pro Bowl year in 2019, but he will need the rest of the receiving core to up their game around him.
The once-elite “Sacksonville” defence was one the cornerstone of the Jaguars franchise, but the defensive side of the roster has seen major changes entering 2020.
The most pressing matter is the strained relationship between the team and DE Yannick Ngakoue, who is second in franchise history in sacks (37.5) after just four seasons. Ngakoue has yet to report to training camp or sign his franchise tag tender and has publicly requested to be traded. Add in the fact that the Jaguars traded Calais Campbell to the Baltimore Ravens in March, and it is fair to wonder whether Jacksonville’s pass rush can maintain its reputation.
The leader of Jacksonville’s new look defence will be DE Josh Allen, who led all rookies in sacks with 10.5 last season. After a Pro Bowl rookie year, Allen will now be asked to be Jacksonville’s top pass-rusher, and the expectations are for the former number seven overall pick to continue to add to his game despite to loss of Campbell and potentially Ngakoue. Allen will be flanked by 2020 first-round pick K’Lavon Chaisson, 2018 first-round pick Taven Bryan, Abry Jones, rookie DaVon Hamilton and recent free agent addition Timmy Jernigan, who could be a difference-maker for a radically overhauled defensive front.
Also leading Jacksonville’s defence will be ILB Joe Schobert, the team’s major free agent signing of 2020. Schobert, who is now one of the highest-paid players at his position, will be joined by Myles Jack in the middle of Jacksonville’s defence. Schobert was one of the biggest investments Jacksonville made in its defence, but the largest was undoubtedly cornerback CJ Henderson, who Jacksonville drafted with the number nine overall pick in April. Henderson will replace former star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and the hope in Jacksonville is that he will quickly become a number one cornerback.
Predicted Record: 2-14
While the Jaguars brass has been given win-now mandates by owner Shad Khan, it is hard to see the Jaguars improving upon last year’s record despite exciting additions made on both sides of the ball. The Jaguars still lack blue-chip talent due to the mass exodus of top-tier players in recent years, and the young roster still has plenty of questions facing it ahead of its Week 1 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. The Jaguars have enough good players, such as Chark, Allen, Schobert and others, to not be a truly bad team. But can they be a team that contends for the postseason? Only time will tell, but the odds could be stacked against them.