JACKSONVILLE – Daniel Jeremiah believes strongly in the Jaguars.
The NFL Network’s top draft analyst, Jeremiah believes the Jaguars have a “championship-caliber” roster – and believes they absolutely can to return to the postseason in 2019.
“I think the nucleus of a championship roster is right there,” Jeremiah told jaguars.com in Indianapolis last week at the NFL Scouting Combine, which concluded Monday.
Jeremiah spoke early in the combine – before widespread media reports speculating the Jaguars will sign Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles when free agency begins next Wednesday. He outlined a Jaguars roster he believes capable of competing for a second playoff appearance in three seasons.
He said he believes the return of left tackle Cam Robinson from a Week 3, season-ending knee injury will help offensively, and added that it’s key for running back Leonard Fournette to return to his 2017 rookie form.
“You have the foundation in place to be able to run the football offensively,” Jeremiah said.
And while the Jaguars likely will lose defensive tackle Malik Jackson and perhaps other defensive starters in salary-cap moves, Jeremiah said a defense that will still include players such as cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, linebacker Myles Jack and defensive linemen Marcell Dareus, Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue should remain strong.
“I still see all those pieces in the secondary, and you still have impact players at all three levels of the defense,” Jeremiah said. “Adding a safety could help. If you get the quarterback fixed, and now you get a chance to go get one more premiere player? I think they’re right there.”
Count NFL Network Analyst Charles Davis among those believing the Jaguars’ offense can be balanced next season. That’s true despite new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo’s pass-first reputation.
“He can run a varied offense,” Davis told jaguars.com during the combine. “I think people see, ‘He’s going to throw, he’s going to throw, he’s going to throw …’ I know he can run the football, and with the weapons they have in Jacksonville, he’s going to want to run the football.”
DeFilippo, who will enter his 13th NFL season next season, joined the Jaguars in January after having been dismissed as the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator last season 13 games into his first season in the position. He was the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterbacks coach in 2016-2017.
“I have always admired how he has gone about his business,” “You watch how detailed John is about things – and after the disappointment of Minnesota, I think there’s going to be a renewed fire in this guy – not that he really needed much of that.
“It will be interesting to watch him develop whoever is going to play quarterback and develop this offense.”
DeFilippo worked with Foles while with the Eagles in 2017, something Davis discussed last week before reports over the weekend that Foles could join the Jaguars.
“Relationships are what makes the world go around,” Davis said. “Nick Foles would probably be very comfortable, because he has been around John DeFilippo in the quarterback room for a while and had success with him during that time. So, guess what? It cuts down the learning curve.”
QB AT NO. 7?
Speculation about Foles and the Jaguars, though rampant in NFL circles, remains just that – speculation – until something is official. That can’t happen until the March 13 start of the 2019 NFL League Year.
So, what if the Jaguars don’t sign Foles?
Or what if they opt to use the No. 7 overall selection on a quarterback?
Jeremiah called Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray a “perfect fit” in that scenario, and said the Jaguars’ running game could play into a possible early strength for Murray – play-action passing. While Murray’s height – 5-feet-10½ -- figures to make it difficult for him to play from the pocket, Jeremiah said the deeper drops a quarterback can take in an effective play-action passing approach should benefit Murray.
“For someone who maybe doesn’t have ideal size, to be able to see you have to be able to stretch things – horizontally or vertically,” Jeremiah said. “Off play action, there’s so much distance between you and the line of scrimmage that if you have a strong enough arm you can sit back and survey and see.
“Plus, you can boot him and let him get him on the move. You have clear sidelines once you get out there. It marries up perfectly. It’s the same situation Seattle was when they took Russell Wilson.”
ON HASKINS …
Jeremiah called Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins a “totally different” quarterback than Murray. That doesn’t make him less capable in Jeremiah’s view.
“He can fit what they do,” Jeremiah said. “He’s going to be able to stay in the pocket and distribute the football. The way I describe it is Dwayne Haskins can beat you with the play that’s called. Kyler Murray can beat you with the play that’s called. Kyler Murray can beat you with the play that’s called and the second play that emerges.”
Haskins and Murray are widely expected to be the first two quarterbacks selected in the 2019 April 25-27 NFL Draft.