JACKSONVILLE – This quiet won’t last.
But until it does – until the Jaguars finish their search for a general manager and begin the chain of events that will set the tone for the franchise’s foreseeable future – we’ll start taking a look at what that general manager candidate will inherit.
Today, that means a look at the state of the roster on offense.
Before we do, let’s review the weekend’s events:
It was mainly a time of speculation and reports, with Jaguars Owner Shad Khan reportedly narrowing the search to Atlanta Falcons Director of Player Personnel David Caldwell and Arizona Cardinals Vice President of Player Personnel Steve Keim.
The team reportedly interviewed two other candidates last week, San Francisco 49ers Director of Player Personnel Tom Gamble and New York Giants Director of College Scouting Marc Ross.
The future of Head Coach Mike Mularkey and the coaching staff remains uncertain, though according to reports Mularkey informed the staff on Friday they may speak with other teams. There has been no official indication from the Jaguars about what that means for the future of Mularkey or the assistants, though because the coaches are under contract Khan can determine on an individual basis if coaches may leave.
So, as of early Monday afternoon, we wait, and as we do, we’ll begin taking a position-by-position look at the roster the new general manager will inherit.
We’ll start today with a look at the Jaguars’ offense:
Quarterback (3 on roster and/or injured reserve)
Season synopsis: Gabbert started the first 10 games and Henne started the last six, and while both showed flashes, both were inconsistent enough that neither is ahead of the other. They finished similarly statistically, with Gabbert throwing nine touchdown passes and six interceptions and Henne throwing 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Each won one game.
Where they stand: Gabbert, who finished the season on injured reserve, has two years remaining on his contract; Henne, one. Gabbert was enough of a prospect to merit a No. 10 overall selection in the NFL Draft in 2011, so a new general manager must decide if he gets more time to develop. Henne played well early in his time as a starter this past season and could be a short-term answer if another isn’t found. There also is the specter of Tim Tebow, with Khan having asked then-General Manager Gene Smith to try to trade for the quarterback last March and widespread reports recently that Tebow – still under contract with the New York Jets – is a “virtual certainty” to be with the Jaguars next season. This is the position the new general manager must fix, but how? While a new general manager may seek a different direction, options may be limited. There has been talk from observers of pursuing veterans such as Alex Smith or Michael Vick, but it’s tough to build a franchise around veterans. Many observers also don’t believe there’s a franchise quarterback in the 2013 NFL Draft. Tebow remains the great unknown. He is expected to be available in the offseason if the Jaguars want him, but it’s unknown how the general manager will impact that situation.
Running back (8)
Synopsis: The numbers here are higher than they will be in training camp. That’s because the Jaguars sustained a rash of injuries at the spot, with Jones-Drew, Jennings and Parmele finishing the season on injured reserve after starting at least one game. Jones-Drew, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, led the team in rushing despite starting just five games, and Jennings struggled during much of his time starting after being impressive in the preseason. Toston played well in the regular-season finale.
Where they stand: Jones-Drew has one year remaining on his contract and said during the season he will participate in off-season activities. That could avert the holdout that kept him out of training camp and preseason last year. Aside from Jones-Drew, this is a position of unknowns. Jennings is a free agent, which could mean a backup role for Owens, a two-time Pro Bowl selection who produced in his first career starts at running back late in the season. Elsewhere, the new general manager will sift through a group of rookies/veterans with minimal experience to determine if any fit into the future. Jones-Drew performed well when healthy this season, and Owens played well enough to merit consideration as a backup. Beyond that, nothing’s certain here.
Synopsis: Shorts and Blackmon solidified themselves as one of the top young receiving tandems in the NFL. Shorts came within 21 yards of becoming the first Jaguars player with 1,000 yards receiving since Jimmy Smith in 2005, and Blackmon overcame a slow start to finish his rookie season with 865 yards receiving. Robinson missed nine games with four concussion-related incidents after signing as a free agent last offseason, and while Shipley played well after signing as a free agent in November, none of the other receivers played a significant regular-season role.
Where they stand: Shorts and Blackmon make this an area of strength moving forward, and Shipley played well enough to merit a spot entering training camp. A major question remains Robinson, who has yet to discuss his status moving forward. The Jaguars need to add depth here, but Shorts and Blackmon are core players.
Tight end (6)
Synopsis: Lewis, a 2010 Pro Bowl selection, improved last season after struggling in 2011, catching 52 passes for 540 yards and four touchdowns after not catching a touchdown pass the previous year. He also remained one of the NFL’s best blocking tight ends. Overall, the Jaguars didn’t get much receiving from this position, with Zach Miller – long projected as a potential contributor as a receiver – having gone on injured reserve before the season and later being released.
Where they stand: This is a position in need of an upgrade. Lewis remains a premier blocker and can be effective in the passing game, but overall, the Jaguars continue to need a receiving tight end who can stretch the field and beat linebackers and safeties consistently. That figures to be a focus of the new general manager.
Synopsis: Jones carried just five times for eight yards, but remained one of the NFL’s best blocking fullbacks. When Jones missed four games in November, the running game struggled in his absence.
Where they stand: Jones is a free agent and because he is a nine-year veteran, he will be more expensive than some general managers like for a fullback. He still is elite and key to the Jaguars’ running game, but it remains to be seen how he’ll fit into the new general manager’s plans.
Offensive line (13)
Synopsis: This group underperformed much of the season, allowing 50 sacks – third-most in the NFL – and also allowing the running game to slip from 2011. Meester was consistent through much of his 13th season, but starters Monroe and Nwaneri were not, and rookie Bradfield was benched late in the season for veteran Whimper. Injuries took a toll, beginning with Rackley, Spitz and Estes being placed on injured reserve in training camp. Left guard was uncertain much of the season, with veteran Britton losing his job to Brewster, a rookie who performed well at times before being placed on injured reserve late in the season. Vallos and Pasztor got starts late in the season after signing from the practice squad.
Where they stand: This area must improve. The question the general manager must ask is, “Does the position need a coaching change, does it need tweaking or is an overhaul needed?” Monroe has elite ability, and Meester has expressed interest in returning. Nwaneri struggled with injuries, but is capable of elite play. Rackley’s return from injury also could solidify a tackle or guard position, but overall, the line needs depth, some of which could come from the roster and much of which could come from the draft and free agency.