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2017 offseason: Five (more) numbers to watch

Posted Jul 13, 2017

With 2017 Training Camp two weeks away, senior writer John Oehser examines five (more) numbers that could be key for the Jaguars this season


JACKSONVILLE – This is the second of two looks at the Jaguars’ 2017 season by the numbers.

And taking a look at those two looks, a few things are obvious. One is that a lot of the Jaguars’ 2017 season will depend on quarterback Blake Bortles.

Another is that much of this team’s improvement will depend on reducing mistakes. Turnovers hurt a lot last season. So did special teams errors. Reducing both will be critical.

Still another factor for the Jaguars is the need to dramatically improve their offensive efficiency. That’s an area that hurt them in recent seasons – and an area that should be better with an improved running game and the addition of running back Leonard Fournette.

The Jaguars drafted Fournette to put the ball in the end zone, something Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin told the rookie shortly after the Jaguars made him the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.

The ability of Fournette and the rest of the Jaguars running backs to do just that will be one of the keys this season. It’s also one of five more numbers to watch in 2017, a list that began with Tuesday’s five numbers to watch and continues here:

14. Rushing touchdowns in the season. How much can Fournette help the Jaguars’ offense? By season’s end, this number could be a huge indicator. The Jaguars haven’t rushed for double-digit touchdowns since 2010, when they rushed for 14. Not coincidentally, that’s the last time the Jaguars finished .500 or better. They have averaged just over seven touchdowns rushing per season the last six seasons. Doubling that is a lofty goal, but they need to at least come close.

40 or above. Third-down percentage. The Jaguars finished 29th in the NFL in third-down percentage last season at 35.3. This has been a weakness for far too long, and the result has been far too many games in recent seasons defined by long stretches of offensive three and outs. It’s impossible to control the clock and play championship defense if the offense can’t stay on the field – and it’s just about impossible to stay on the field if you can’t convert third downs. The Jaguars haven’t finished better than 25th in this category since 2010, another reason they haven’t finished .500 since then.

10. Allen Robinson touchdowns. It’s probably not fair to expect the fourth-year wide receiver to reach or pass the career-high of 14 touchdowns he set in 2015. The Jaguars likely won’t throw as much in 2017 as they did that season; even if they did, 14 is a monster number of touchdown receptions in season. Still, even run-oriented offenses need elite red-zone targets and Robinson almost certainly will be the Jaguars’ most capable player in that area. Double-digit touchdowns for Robinson would be a very good season for him – and a very good sign for this offense.

One. Glaring special teams errors. Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis likely will want this number one lower because he’s not a guy who tolerates any game-changing mistakes. It’s probably not realistic to go the entire season without one, but the point here is bigger picture. The Jaguars committed too many glaring special teams errors to accurately count last season, and a run of game-changing plays by opponents’ special teams defined the late-season slide that ended with the departure of Head Coach Gus Bradley. The Jaguars want to be a disciplined team that doesn’t give away games. Those kinds of teams win on special teams.

34. Passes per game. The Jaguars have talked at times of Bortles ideally throwing 20 passes per game. That might happen once or twice, but that’s unrealistically low in today’s NFL. The point the team is trying to make is that Bortles needs to throw less – and specifically, the Jaguars need to throw in better down-and-distance situations, which leads to a better chance of success. Bortles averaged 39 passes per game last season. Anything under 30 would be among the league leaders; that’s the Jaguars’ ideal. Anything in the 30-to-33 range means the Jaguars are playing the offense the way they envision it.

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