THE 2021 SEASON IS OVER FOR THE AFC SOUTH & THE OFFSEASON HAS BEGUN. AS THE COLTS PREPARE FOR THE NEXT SEASON, SO DO THE REST OF THEIR RIVALS. AS THE ANCIENT CHINESE GENERAL SUN TZU ONCE WROTE: “KNOW THY ENEMY AND KNOW YOURSELF, AND IN 100 BATTLES YOU WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED”. WHILE MOST COLTS FANS KNOW THEIR OWN TEAM VERY WELL, IT IS ALSO IMPORTANT TO BE FAMILIAR WITH THEIR ENEMIES. MOST IMPORTANTLY: THE DIVISION RIVALS. SO LET’S EXAMINE EACH ONE.
Continuing with… the Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars season was nothing short of a train wreck in many facets. They entered the year with optimism of a new coach with a history of success (at the Collegiate level) & having the most heralded QB prospect since Andrew Luck on their team. But by the end of the season Urban Meyer’s numerous scandals on & off the field had already gotten him fired before the season finale and Trevor Lawrence was unable to live up to the incredible hype placed upon him as a rookie.
Because of the team’s numerous shortcomings, the Jags became the 6th team in the Super Bowl era to earn the 1st overall pick in back to back drafts, most recent of which was the 2017-2018 Cleveland Browns drafts.
The Jags have one of the most talent barren rosters in the NFL, and the stat sheet reflects it. As a team there were only 2 stats they were in the top half of the league in: Passing attempts (11th) and rushing yards per carry (9th). Attempts only show your total volume not how well you do and the Jags low volume of cumulative rushing stats as well as the injuries to both Travis Ettiene and James Robinson make it hard to list rushing Offense as a definitive strength going forward.
Josh Allen had a solid bounce back year if a bit inconsistent and Dawuane Smoot emerged as a more consistent pass rushing threat and a capable part of their rush rotation. However the pass rush unit as a whole was a weakness for the team (being a below average unit in sacks and pressures) for most of the season and the duo only combined for 13.5 sacks as the leading pass rushers.
Beyond the rushing attack being somewhat decent in their small sample size of rushing volume and their top two pass rushers showing flashes and development, it is hard to quantify any aspect of football as a “Strength”.
It is not hyperbole or over dramatic to say that nearly everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Jags in 2021. While they were able to triple their win total from 2020, getting the 1st overall pick again shows they still have a long way to go to be contending. While the Bengals jumping from picking in the top 5 to appearing in the Super Bowl should give some hope that big leaps can happen, ones that drastic are very rare. The Jags need a lot of work to be a playoff team let alone soar to greater heights.
The issues start at the coaching level, which has undergone a substantial change. Urban Meyer has been kicked to the curb following a disastrous first season as the Jaguars head coach. His time in Jacksonville was grinded to a halt after a 2-11 start to his career, and new head coach Doug Pederson has overhauled the rest of the coaching staff. Pederson is most known for his Super Bowl winning tenure with the Eagles as well as his work for better or worse with current Colts QB Carson Wentz. With noted assistants Press Taylor, Jim Bob Cooter, & Mike McCoy as Offensive Coordinator, Passing Game Coordinator, and QB coach, it is clear that the Jags new coaching hires prioritize one thing above all else: developing talented but struggling QB Trevor Lawrence to live up to his immense potential.
Speaking of Trevor Lawrence, his rookie season was one to forget for the most part. Despite finishing the season with the 3rd most attempts in NFL history for a rookie (602) he only had 12 passing TDs and only 3,641 passing TDs while throwing 17 INTs, under 60% completion percentage, and only 6 yards per attempt.
All these stats were among the worst for starting QBs in 2021. Should the Jags have any hope of becoming a legitimate threat in the AFC, Lawrence needs to improve a lot in year 2 and fulfill his hype as the most heralded prospect since Luck or Elway.
In all fairness to Lawrence’s first year performance, he wasn’t given much to work with. DJ Chark & Travis Ettiene were injured before the season began forcing him to rely on free agent WR Marvin Jones (who was solid but unspectacular for a WR1) as well as Lawson Treadwell and Laviska Shenault as his primary weapons. The pass protection was below average, in part due to Lawrence holding onto the ball for too long but also some personnel concerns. Simply put, the supporting cast was not up to snuff to give him as good of a chance to succeed, leading to their entire offense ranked dead last.
The defense was unable to stop the pass or the run consistently or effectively, giving offenses the opportunity to score 457 points against them, 5th most in the NFL. While the pass rush had its moments it along with the pass coverage was much too inconsistent. Free agent CB Shaq Griffin had some bright spots but more depth is sorely needed on the back end. Myles Jack regressed with arguably his worst season in coverage, while having 0 sacks despite his most blitz heavy year of the last 4 seasons. And he was still the best offball LB on the Jags roster.
The Jags were outscored by 204 points in 2021 the worst point differential in the NFL. Both sides of the ball need heavy work done. Thankfully for the Jags their new HC Doug Pederson and returning GM Trent Baalke have plenty of ammunition to improve.
According to OvertheCap, the Jaguars have $58.3m cap space at this time, so they have the necessary funds to go after several high priced Free Agents. Not only are they flush with cap space, but they also have the most overall draft capital in the NFL & their 1s overall pick could net them a franchise altering player at a key position.
who should own the 2021 NFL Draft?
• which teams have the most or least draft capital
• how it compares to prior years
• what about just the first 3 rounds
• looking ahead at 2022 draft capital using a new formula
• looking back at the last decadehttps://t.co/Mz31QOMuvi pic.twitter.com/UuvozoM5VZ
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) April 10, 2021
The question is if the Jaguars can use these resources effectively. They’ve had tons of cap space as well as high draft picks in many offseasons over the past 2 decades, but rarely have used either well. Many fans are not thrilled withGM Trent Baalke’s decisions in this regard. Should another opportunity to greatly improve his franchise be squandered, he should not keep his position for much longer.
Needs wise you can list almost any position as one in need of upgrade. The only position they are unlikely to invest in a major way are QB because of the hope of Lawrence’s development, and even then getting a veteran QB to help mentor Lawrence and provide depth isn’t out of the question. The most important positions in need of upgrade are Tackle, Wide Receiver, Cornerback, & Edge Rusher. Should the Jags be able to upgrade several of these spots, it would provide a much needed boost for the future of the franchise.