Rivalry Watch: Jacksonville Jaguars

By Adam L'Heureux |
Rivalry Watch: Jacksonville Jaguars

2018 Recap

The Jaguars had very high hopes for the 2018-2019 NFL season.

One season prior, they won the division at 10-6 and made it to the AFC title game on the strength of their fantastic defense. Going into last season, there was a belief that they would once again win the AFC South and be a competitor in the playoffs.

Not only would this not happen, they would finish last place in the AFC South. In two seasons as the Jaguars head coach, Doug Marrone has led them to both the top and the bottom of the division.

The 2018 season was ugly for the Jaguars as former No. 4 overall pick Leonard Fournette played just eight games and averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. Quarterback Blake Bortles, a former No. 4 overall pick, was benched for four games and ultimately released in the off-season.

While their defense is still loaded with talent, their offense is in flux, which makes it hard to guess how the Jaguars will fare moving forward.

 

Key Re-signings

Josh Lambo, Kicker

Josh Lambo has been excellent for the Jaguars over the past two seasons and has been rewarded with a four-year, $15.5 million contract. Over the last two seasons, Lambo has missed just three field goal attempts. He has also missed another three extra points. He made his career-long field goal with the Jaguars last season. Prior to joining the Jaguars, he was a kicker for the San Diego Chargers for two seasons.

Jalen Ramsey, Defensive Back

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Not exactly a re-signing, the Jaguars have chosen to exercise Jalen Ramsey's fifth year option for $13.7 million in 2020. One of the best defensive backs in the league, Ramsey is a likely candidate for a long-term extension in the near future. He is currently under contract for the next two seasons, but I'm sure Jacksonville would love to have him much longer than that. One of the leaders of their elite defense that carried them to the AFC title game in 2017, Ramsey already has nine interceptions and 44 passes defensed in his three-year career.

A.J. Cann, Guard

With all the questions surrounding their offense, they will at least have some stability in A.J. Cann. Cann has started 59 games over four seasons for the Jaguars, and will likely add to that number next year. He signed a three-year, $15.05 million deal this past March to stay in Jacksonville. Cann joined the Jaguars in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft after attending the University of South Carolina.

Key Free Agents

Nick Foles, Quarterback

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One of the biggest names in this free agency cycle, the Jaguars are hoping that Nick Foles will be their answer at quarterback. Foles has had a roller coaster career thus far.

After being drafted in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Foles started six games as a rookie and struggled. In his second year, however, he came in for an injured Michael Vick and never looked back, throwing for 27 touchdowns against just two interceptions.

He struggled again in his third and final season (at the time) in Philadelphia and was traded to the St. Louis Rams. He struggled yet again there, as most quarterbacks did with the Jeff Fisher Rams, and his NFL future looked dim. He made the Chiefs roster as a backup and played a significant role in two games, in which he threw for a total of three touchdowns to no interceptions.

Finally, in 2017, he would return to Philadelphia to back up Carson Wentz. The Eagles were contenders for the first time since Foles' second season in the league. Wentz went down in week 13 and Foles provided solid play in his absence for the rest of the regular season.

Once the playoffs hit, however, he was a completely different player. Over three playoff games, including a Super Bowl victory over the Patriots, Foles threw six touchdowns, one interception, and averaged over 300 passing yards per game.

Due to injuries to Wentz, Foles played another five regular season games and two playoff games this past season. He did pretty solid overall, but throwing ten touchdowns to eight interceptions. He had a very respectable regular season, but he fell off in the playoffs and threw one touchdown to two interceptions in the Eagles' loss to the Saints in the playoffs.

Now, finally, Foles has signed a four-year, $88 million contract to be the next quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Given Foles' up-and-down career, it's almost impossible to guess how this will turn out for him and the team. I will say that I do think he's a significant upgrade over former Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles.

Jake Ryan, Linebacker

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Whether or not Jake Ryan was always a key free agent for Jacksonville, he certainly is now after it was reported that linebacker Telvin Smith will not play this season. Jake Ryan is an experienced linebacker, having played decent time over three seasons for the Green Bay Packers. The former fourth round pick has amassed over 200 total tackles despite not being a 16-game starter once in his career. He did, however, suffer a torn ACL last season so he will be no sure thing next season, especially early. An incredibly talented Jacksonville defense will likely be counting on him when he comes back. Ryan signed a two-year, $7.5 million deal to join the team in March.

Chris Conley, Wide Receiver

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Chris Conley is an exciting athlete and has experience with Nick Foles in Kansas City, but thus far his production has been lackluster. Over four seasons with the Chiefs, Conley has never amassed more than 550 receiving yards in a single season. That being said, the Jaguars receiving group as a whole is an inexperienced, mixed bag so I could see Conley playing a relevant role. He signed a two-year contract that pays him $4.95 million

Draft Acquisitions

Round One: Josh Allen, Edge/Linebacker, Kentucky

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One year after the Buffalo Bills selected quarterback Josh Allen seventh overall, the Jaguars selected edge rusher Josh Allen at the same spot. Like the Josh Allen before him, the Josh Allen from Kentucky has fantastic physical traits.

He ran a 4.63 forty time at 6'5" and 262 lbs. He absolutely has the makeup of an elite edge rusher in the NFL. His production was fantastic as well, taking down the quarterback for a sack 17 times as a senior. He has some hand technique work to do, but the incredibly athletic Allen will allow Jacksonville to continue to be an elite defense, even if they aren't able to bring back Yannick Ngakoue.

Round Two: Jawaan Taylor, Offensive Tackle, Florida

Another pick out of the SEC and another fantastic pick for Jacksonville. In my opinion, Jawaan Taylor should have been a first round pick. The Jaguars trading up with the Raiders to select him at the top of the second was a fantastic move on their part. He solidifies their offensive line for years to come and should be an early starter. You can't ask for much more out of a second round pick. Taylor is 6'5" and weighed in at 312 lbs. at the combine. 

Round Three: Josh Oliver, Tight End, San Jose State

Josh Oliver didn't have much production until his senior season, but last year he put up a very respectable 56 receptions for 709 yards and three touchdowns. He's a very good athlete, recording a 4.63 forty yard dash time. He also has solid size, standing at 6'5" and weighing in at 249 lbs. Nick Foles loves to throw to his tight ends, and Josh Oliver looks like he'll immediately be the primary receiving tight end for the team. I see the third round pick being productive early.

Round Three: Quincy Williams, Linebacker, Murray State

I think the Jaguars really hit on their first three picks. This one, I'm not sure about. The brother of third overall pick and former Alabama player Quinnen Williams, Quincy Williams is not a prospect I heard much of in the pre-draft process. Last season he had 111 tackles at Murray State and had 231 total in his college career. Especially given the Telvin Smith situation the need is there, but this seems to be a reach to me. That being said, only time will tell.

Round Five: Ryquell Arsmtead, Running Back, Temple

Armstead was a productive back in three out of his four seasons at Temple. He went over ten touchdowns and five yards per carry in his sophomore and senior seasons, and finished his college career with 2,812 total rushing yards. He also ran a 4.45 forty yard dash. Given the struggles that Leonard Fournette has faced over the past two seasons, I think investing in a solid running back late in the draft was a good call by the Jaguars.

Round Six: Gardner Minshew, Quarterback, Washington State

A relative unknown at East Carolina, Minshew played his last season at Washington State and was incredibly productive in the Air Raid offense. He threw for just under 4,800 yards and 38 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. While there's no way he starts over Nick Foles, I think he can become a quality backup option for the team. That is valuable, and worth it in the sixth round of the draft.

Round Seven: Dontavius Russell, Defensive Tackle, Auburn

Dontavius Russell was not incredibly productive at Auburn, but he played in 52 games for the team. He's also a big man, weighing in at 319 lbs. and standing tall at 6'3". He could be a nice developmental or depth piece on the team's already strong defensive line. He had 96 total tackles during his four seasons at Auburn.

 

Conclusion:

The Jaguars off-season started off rocky as they released Blake Bortles, who they had once believed was their franchise quarterback. They had to say goodbye to a couple other big names as well, like Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson.

Outside of Nick Foles, they remained quiet in free agency for the most part. Their draft, however, was fantastic. Outside of the Quincy Williams pick, I think they got great value with every pick.

Despite how highly I think of this draft class, this team will truly ride or die with Nick Foles. If they get 2017 playoffs Nick Foles or 2013 regular season Nick Foles this team will be very dangerous. If they get Rams Nick Foles or 2018 playoffs Nick Foles, his contract will blow up in the Jaguars' face.

If he can be so much as solid, their incredibly talented defense should be able to help them become competitive in the division again. 


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