Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone believes this is a team that can be “special” this coming season.
I’m sure after reading those comments, many fans here in Jacksonville spit out their favorite beverage. But it’s not as if the Jaguars are void of talent this season. And while change may do this organization good, finding the right combination on both offense and defense that can lead to a special season is still the hope and mantra of this franchise.
“I don’t have the opportunity to go through a rebuild,” Marrone said via Jaguars.com. “We all know that. That’s being realistic. We’ve got to go out there and win games, and I’m confident this football team will be able to do that.”
If I might share, back in 2017, I was sitting in the press room before the start of a training camp practice, having a conversation with two national sports writers. It was as casual a chat one could have until a question was asked which caught me by surprise.
“What if they know something we don’t know? What if this team is better than we think?”
I sat there for a moment stunned. Free agents were added to the roster. The Draft brought in the best running back in the country. The defense had playmakers. The offensive line was in better shape than it is today. All the components for a worst-to-first scenario.
And then it happened. A 10-6 record, a division crown, and a run to the AFC Title game. It was lightning in a bottle and the fan base here in Jacksonville eat it up like it was cotton candy at the fair.
Is there another chance of that happening this season? We all shall see. In the meantime, here are three bold predictions for the 2020 seasons.
Gardner Minshew Snubbed for the Pro Bowl
This is going to happen to Jaguars players, so we had better get used to it. The Jaguars may have a losing record and they may be in line to claim the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but this won’t have anything to do with the way Gardner Minshew plays this season.
This is a football team that could notch two or three wins in spite of his performance this season.
After throwing for over 3,200 yards last season and 21 touchdowns, the former sixth-round pick takes another step forward as a legitimate starter in this league, but because of other quarterbacks who have “been there before” or “have been in the NFL longer” Minshew gets the snub.
I can see him throwing for over 4,500 yards in Jay Gruden’s offense with 25-28 touchdowns, which surely demands attention. He’s is going to once again surprise a few people this coming season.
The Defense Rises Once Again
No Jalen Ramsey. No Calais Campbell. No A.J. Bouye. No Marcell Dareus. No problem?
There is plenty of reasons to see what the Jaguars front office has done to this roster and scream from a lack of talent. But the objective was to get younger, faster and more athletic. Hopefully, that comes to fruition.
The Jaguars have the makings of a defense that may take a year or two to become elite again. And with more draft picks on the way in 2021, the foundation Dave Caldwell and his staff build will determine how fast this defense can gel and improve.
Even with all the changes to the roster, the run defense should be better this season. Taven Bryan will finally play like he is worth a first-round draft pick. Joe Schobert will become a Paul Posluszny-type of linebacker. The secondary will need to readjust and find its way.
But this could be a solid pass-rushing defense with more beef upfront. I for one can’t wait to see what happens.
James Robinson Becomes a Hero
I am not as upset with the move to release Leonard Fournette as I was a few days ago, but I do consider his release a big blow to the team’s offense.
That said, there is plenty of work to do here. James Robinson inherits the starting job and should pick up the running attack with ease. He could also become the next Jaguars cult hero like Minshew before him. If there was a position on this roster where having little depth won’t mean as much to the offense, it’s at the running back position.
Robinson, who reminds me a little of MJD in his prime, is the next man up.
Since offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is committed to throwing the football, Robinson and Chris Thompson will be instrumental out of the backfield. A 20-carry performance in the first week for Robinson is not out of the question.
If the Illinois State star scores more touchdowns this season than Fournette did last year (3), then Jaguars fans will be very pleased.