NFL training camp gets going in three weeks, and that means the NFL regular season is only two months away. I imagine most of us will be focusing on our San Francisco 49ers during training camp, but it will help to know a little bit about the rest of the league. SB Nation’s 32 NFL sites are putting together basic rundowns of what their team has been up to this offseason.
Each explainer includes free agent additions and departures, trades, draft picks expected to contribute as rookies, biggest offseason addition, biggest storyline, underrated storyline, and notable injuries. The idea is to give you a quick but thorough background on each team. We’ll use these to look at 49ers opponents, but if we have time, I want to try and use all 32 to give us a nice look around the league.
Today, we move on to the Jacksonville Jaguars, courtesy of our friends at Big Cat Country. The two teams square off in Week 16. Expectations are fairly low for the 49ers, but will the Jaguars finally be competing for a playoff spot, or will it be another year in a perpetual cycle of big offseason moves followed by bad football?
The Jaguars will continue to try and figure out what the deal is with Blake Bortles, but they are in a position where they are hoping the offense won’t be reliant upon him. spending the fourth overall pick on Leonard Fournette will do that for you. If the running back meets expectations, the pressure will lessen on Blake Bortles to some degree. His career prospects will continue to have plenty of pressure, but for purposes of the 2017 Jaguars competitive chances, pressure would lessen.
Notable free agent additions: A.J. Bouye (CB), Calais Campbell (DL), Barry Church (SS), Stefan Charles (DL), Audie Cole (LB), Lerentee McCray (LB), Earl Watford (OL)
Notable free agent departures: Tyson Alualu (DL), Prince Amukamara (CB), Kelvin Beachum (OL), Johnathan Cyprien (SS), Luke Joeckel (OL),
Trades: Branden Albert (OL)
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies:
Leonard Fournette (Round 1, Pick 4)
If Fournette isn’t the impact player on this Jaguars offense, this team is screwed. Fourth-year quarterback Blake Bortles hasn’t shown anything that would make you think he can be the guy and with Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin at the helm they’re going to give the running game every opportunity to carry this team. A baseline expectation should be about 1,200 total yards from scrimmage and double-digit touchdowns. Anything less than that on either front is subpar, in my opinion.
Cam Robinson (Round 2, Pick 34)
For a guy touted as an early first round prospect, Robinson fell fast last April. Now his rookie season is in jeopardy because of the newly traded Branden Albert. Will he play left tackle from the start? Will he slide over to guard? Will he ride the bench? It’s an interesting place to be and Robinson is right at the heart of a good bad good problem for the Jaguars coaching staff to have.
Dawuane Smoot (Round 3, Pick 68)
I have high hopes for Smoot and I can’t really put my finger on why. Most of it probably has to do with the fact that he’s competing with an underwhelming Dante Fowler, Jr. at the defensive end position opposite Yannick Ngakoue. I think another part of it is that he looks the part. He’s a physical, balanced lineman who can stop the run (Fowler’s shining strength) but also has the speed to fill gaps and get in the backfield. He was picked as a fringe first rounder before last season but disappointed with only five sacks in 2016.
Biggest offseason addition:
Calais Campbell. I know A.J. Bouye signed a contract with $26 million guaranteed and that he and Jalen Ramsey are being touted as one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL. But the weak link on this Jaguars defense since, well, Tony Brackens retired is our pass rush. We can’t get to the quarterback with any sort of consistency and I believe (pray) that Campbell is a part of improving our pass rush this year.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp:
Is Blake Bortles good enough? Bortles was bad last year. Very bad. It’s surprising the Jaguars gave him his fifth-year option headed into a contract year. But he’s the guy going forward -- for now. Doug Marrone has said that if Bortles continues to throw interceptions he won’t be the guy under center. And even with Chad Henne and Brandon Allen as the only other options, I believe Marrone. This is a make-or-break year for Bortles’ career in Jacksonville and it all starts in camp.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp:
Who’s the starting five on the offensive line? Pro Football Focus ranked the Jaguars offensive line at No. 13 in the league and while that’s a bit higher than I’d have them ranked, I don’t think they’re as terrible as some make them out to be. Brandon Linder is a very good interior guy, A.J. Cann is fine, and Jermey Parnell isn’t going to lose you games. If they can somehow figure out how Branden Albert, Cam Robinson, and Patrick Omameh fit along the left side, it could be a line that’s just good enough to not be a liability in the run game with Leonard Fournette leading the charge. Their ability to pass protect has never been an issue.
Notable injuries heading into training camp:
Tashaun Gipson and Jalen Ramsey are a little banged up from last season, but it’s nothing major. Barry Church missed enough time to give the backup safeties reps with the starters in OTAs and mini camp.