I may be a bit too optimistic about this squad, but I think this is the year they finally turn it around. This is the year they do not have a top 5 pick and actually sniff at bringing their record to a reasonable 7-9 in a hard fought year. I know I bashed Blake Bortles in my last article, but I think he has been dealt a tough hand playing for such an unorganized team. Not to be one to call for people's jobs or anything, but I think Gus Bradley should have been fired even before last season. As a defensive coordinator at heart his defense never panned out down in Jacksonville even after being given some quality free agents and draft choices. Plus, Bortles needs an offensive coach to help his development and work on his mechanics which eroded over the years. Being one of the most sacked quarterbacks too is never helpful for a young quarterbacks development. Bringing in some better quality blockers in Branden Albert and rookie Cam Robinson can help him out a lot, but another year of acquiring talent may be needed before he is properly protected. Having an actual running threat from Leonard Fournette however, will take the ball out of his hand after how poorly Ivory and Yeldon have played behind him.
The big key for this team is getting their highly paid defense to finally show up and play up to their talents. Mostly, Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson who are not bad players. Maybe, it was Bradley and his inability to get through to them or maybe they got paid and now feel like they can just relax. I hope with the introduction of Tom Coughlin and his no nonsense stance changes that mentality. Overall, with the young players like Myles Jack, Jalen Ramsey, Telvin Smith, and Yannick Ngakoue to go along with free agent pick ups of A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell the key is consistency. If they can consistently stop offenses and allow Fournette to pound the rock on offense and let Bortles toss the ball to the two Allens this team can be actually interesting.
Overall, their schedule is pretty easy overall with match ups against the Rams, Bengals, Chargers, Browns, and 49ers being possible easy wins. Plus, I do not think the Texans or the Colts will be as good as people expect. If they can play consistently and show growth with their young players this can be a sneaky good team and one who can follow in the Titans footsteps as a future contender. This may just be me being too optimistic for one of the worst franchises in the league.
1 (4) - Leonard Fournette RB - I will be honest I can see Fournette becoming a bust or just not performing to the hype that surrounds him. For one he is not as dynamic or versatile as Ezekiel Elliot that allowed him to be great right away. Nor does Fournette have the blockers to help him out right away. Plus, Fournette's mail it in attitude disappointed me during his last year at LSU. What if the Jags play bad again this year will he just hang it up again and wait for next year? Also, his running style is not one that holds up well in the NFL. To me there were better options for the Jags to get, but he is an upgrade over Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon, but not a huge one.
2 (2) - Cam Robinson OL - I loved this selection and especially since they got him in the 2nd round. To me his versatility and high quality play allowed him to be a top 20 pick, but teams nitpicked him. For the Jags he can be an immediate starter anywhere they want to put him whether it be right tackle or guard. I can even see him developing into a quality left tackle as he gains better technique.
3 (4) - Dawuane Smoot DE/LB - I was not a huge fan of Smoot being considered a first rounder due to his lack of production, size, and overall good game tape. Yes, there's talent here, but he did not even play well for defensive guru Lovie Smith at Illinois so how did people see him getting that much better in the NFL. In the wake of Dante Fowler's latest off field incident Smoot may see the field sooner than he should and maybe he proves he is better than I expected. I doubt it though at best he can be a rotational pass rusher.
4 (3) - Dede Westbrook WR - As mentioned in my assessment of Caleb Brantley I see no reason why Westbrook is allowed to play with all the allegations that surround him. Playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right and if we continue to show younger players that even if you do hit a woman you can still be an NFL player it will just continue to perpetuate their thought of being invincible to the law. Plus, the NFL likes to perpetuate that their a family in all their commercials, well I would rather not have a guy like Westbrook who hits women be apart of anyone's family. As a player, I think he is undersized and played great in a wide open Big 12 where defenses are terrible and all they care about is points. Plus, the Jags have a deep receiver pool that will most likely bury him on the depth chart.
5 (4) - Blair Brown LB - Late in the draft process Brown exploded up draft boards due to his active play style and great instincts that allow him to be a consistent tackler. If he can out play Paul Posluszny for a starting job that would be great because he has not aged well at all and I am tired of trying to spell his name all the time. Brown can be the brain of the defense to allow the more athletic Myles Jack and Telvin Smith to just do their thing.
7 (4) - Jalen Myrick DB - As 7th round draft picks go this one is not too terrible. In any other draft he would be a mid round pick, but in this deep defensive back class he slides down to the 7th round. He is a speed demon with a ton of athletic traits who can develop into a quality slot corner or dime option. If not he can be just a quality special teams stud.
7 (22) - Marquez Williams FB - This is a Coughlin pick who loves an old school smash mouth offense. This could be a great pick to pair with Fournette to allow him to get more space behind a bad o-line. If not he is just a 7th rounder so not much worry here if it does not pan out.
If Bortles has another poor season than I cannot fault Coughlin wanting to go out and find a better option. I doubt he plays that poorly with the receiving options and better talent around him. It will be interesting to see if the retain Allen Robinson who in my opinion is a bit overrated and is a glorified number two option who gets a ton of targets. If I were them I would use the cap space to find better blockers instead since Allen Hurns is already a quality number two option with a long term contract. They should take a page out of their rivals the Titans rebuild model and bulk up the o-line to give Bortles a fair shake at developing this next off season. Also, if Malik Jackson and other high priced free agents faulter I would find a way to cut them since they are doing nothing, but taint the locker room with their bad attitudes.
1 (10) - Christian Kirk WR Texas A&M
2 (9) - Cameron Smith LB USC