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The Jacksonville Jaguars have opted to go with an entire rebuild. In some ways it almost seems as if they are starting back at square one. Of course, that is the exact place I would be if I had a $141 million dollar payroll with a team that went 2-14. They have brought in a new general manager, Dave Caldwell formerly with the Falcons. They also signed Gus Bradley as the new head coach, formerly the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks.
Caldwell is completely changing the way the team handles personnel. He didn’t resign any of the teams unrestricted free agents and he even released a few starters. He is trying to make the team younger by having a roster full of guys in their mid 20’s. As of mid-April the Jaguars had a league-high $28 million in salary cap space. Caldwell is likely going to save that for the future when the team will be more competitive.
This offense needs Maurice Jones-Drew to step up if it is going to improve this year. Their offense was ranked 29th last year, and the quarterback situation still is considered uncertain, at best. The team is bringing in its third offensive coordinator in three years, and he will be evaluating everybody.
Blaine Gabbert is young at only 23 years old but he is already entering his 3rd season in the league. He has been through two brutally tough seasons in Jacksonville, but if he doesn’t make it this year he might be gone. Its tough when you see a quarterback who had enough talent to warrant a first-round selection only two years ago fail, but it happens. Gabbert still has all the physical tools and he has the chance to keep the starting job but it won’t be easy. He is going to have to earn it. It has been unnecessarily hard on him making the transition to the NFL because he has endured numerous coaching and system changes in his brief tenure.
Jones-Drew is coming off a Lisfranc injury which ended his season last year. Everyone will have their eye on him to see how he bounces back from it. He was the NFL rushing leader only one year ago, can he return to that form? He will want to produce at a high level not only to impress himself upon the new coaching staff, but also to prove he is back to his old self. The team signed Forsett as a good change of pace back to spell Jones-Drew and not make him carry so much of the load. From 2009-2011 Jones-Drew produced 36% of the teams total yardage. If they continue to try to demand that much from him he will likely get injured again.
The team used the first overall pick on offensive tackle Luke Joeckel. He played on the left side in college but the team has a drastic need on the right side and will move him there. He is a solid player who will provide a dramatic upgrade over their former starter.
One of the big improvements everyone expects to see with the new defensive minded coach is a better defense. The team gave up a whooping 380.5 yards per game last season, hard to win a lot of games when you do that. They started by adding two new lineman to the mix via free agency; Miller and Marks. One of the things Bradley has said he is going to do is create competition to see who rises to the top.
The Jaguars parted ways with three starters from its secondary, cornerbacks Dereck Cox and Rashean Mathis and veteran safety Dawan Landry. It was evident they were looking to build the cornerbacks from the ground up when they spent five of their eight draft picks there. Not much can be said other than the position will be rife with competition.
Unfortunately anyone who expects any real change this season is being unrealistic with their expectations. The Jaguars have been going downhill fast ever since 2007 and what took that long to mess up doesn’t get rebuilt in one offseason. They are on the right track by creating cap space, making the roster younger and focusing on competition in camp, but it will take time before the team makes some real noise again. 2014 should be when we see the team start their upswing if Caldwell and Bradley are on the right page.