JACKSONVILLE – Eight Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Frank Frangie, Jeff Lageman, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton, J.P. Shadrick and Ashlyn Sullivan – are breaking down the Jaguars as the 2020 NFL season approaches; today: the key to contending in 2020
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The key to contending in 2020: Fast starts. The Jaguars have averaged just over seven first-half points a game over the past two seasons. This puts way too much pressure on the defense. They must become a faster-starting team and become more successful in the red zone.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The key to contending in 2020: Staying healthy. I like the first 25 players or so on this roster; I think it is much better than others do. I think this team believes it is better than others believe. But I don't know that it is a particularly deep roster. Guys who have had injuries in the past — tight end Tyler Eifert, wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., etc. — must stay healthy. Left tackle Cam Robinson must return to full health. They can't lose key guys. But if everyone of significance plays most of the games, they have a chance.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The key to contending in 2020: Starting the season fast. The Jaguars start out with five games against AFC opponents, and three of those five games are in the division. The other two are against Cincinnati and Miami, who both may be playing highly drafted rookie quarterbacks. Having early success with a young team will breed confidence that they belong in the race.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The key to contending in 2020: The key to contending in 2020 for the Jaguars and being the surprise of the league will be a fast start. Despite an unusual offseason and a young team, Head Coach Doug Marrone must get this team off to a quick start. The schedule gets much harder as it goes along, and a quick start will allow for a young team to gain confidence. The opposite could make all the national prognosticators right.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The key to contending in 2020: An improved run defense and Gardner Minshew II showing he is the quarterback of the future. The Jaguars, remember, were contending at 4-4 last season before the run defense's collapse contributed mightily to a five-game, season-crushing losing streak. If the Jaguars stop the run better – and if Minshew cuts out the inconsistent moments that plagued the offense at times last season – this team could be much better than many observers expect.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The key to contending in 2020: The Jaguars must win the AFC South to contend in a stacked AFC this season. The Ravens, Steelers, Bills, Texans, Colts, Titans, Chiefs, Chargers and maybe the Browns all would seem to be ahead of them as we get close to the opening of training camp. The one way the Jaguars can assure themselves of contending for a playoff spot is to win their division. They nearly beat the Texans in Week 2 last season and split with the Titans and Colts. Those three teams have a stronger claim to the division before the season begins but I don't think they're so far ahead of the Jaguars that the Jaguars couldn't find a way into the mix. It's really the only way I can see them playing in January 2021.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The key to contending in 2020: Winning games early, finding confidence and building momentum. Facing the AFC North and NFC North this season, there are possibly very difficult games in the second half of the season. If the Jaguars can find a groove early and get some wins under their belt, then it makes the second half more manageable. If they lose early, then they play catch-up all season.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Digital reporter and host
The key to contending in 2020: Stopping the run. If the Jaguars cannot improve their run defense from last season, they have no shot of even thinking of contending for the playoffs. In 2019, they gave up over 2,200 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns, many times losing games because they had no shot to stop the run. The additions of defensive tackles Davon Hamilton and Al Woods should help; they are both mammoth run stuffers who will fit into the rotation to replace Marcell Dareus.