JACKSONVILLE – The offensive picture is clearer now. A lot clearer.
While the Jaguars felt good about the offensive roster following the first wave of 2018 unrestricted free agency, it didn’t become apparent how much they liked it until last month’s 2018 NFL Draft.
Many observers expected the team to address offense in a major way in the draft. That didn’t happen, with second-round wide receiver DJ Chark from Louisiana State University the only offensive draftee expected to make a significant immediate impact.
The two other offensive players selected – fourth-round offensive tackle Will Richardson of North Carolina State and sixth-round quarterback Tanner Lee of Nebraska – are likely to compete for backup roles this season, with Richardson a possibility to develop into a starter by 2019.
So, where does the Jaguars’ offense stand coming out of the draft and entering the team’s offseason program? Here’s a look:
Projected starter: Blake Bortles.
Projected reserves/others: Cody Kessler, Tanner Lee.
Offseason to date: The Jaguars were active in the offseason here, first reestablishing their belief in Bortles by extending his contract through 2020, then reshaping the depth chart behind him. The Jaguars traded a conditional 2019 seventh-round selection to the Cleveland Browns for Kessler in April, then drafting Lee in Round 6.
About the position: Bortles is the starter. He showed that last season, and the team proved it again in the offseason – and by not selecting quarterback early in the draft. Look for Kessler to likely win the backup job, with General Manager David Caldwell saying following the draft the team was open to keeping three quarterbacks on the active roster.
Running back (7)
Projected starter: Leonard Fournette.
Projected reserves/others: T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant, Tim Cook, Brandon Wilds, Tommy Bohanon (fullback) and Lamar Atkins (fullback).
Offseason to date: The Jaguars released veteran running back Chris Ivory and re-signed Grant – a restricted free agent – to a one-year deal. The Jaguars did not address the position in the draft or collegiate free agency.
About the position: The Jaguars surprised observers with their approach to multiple offensive positions during the draft. Among those positions was running back; instead of using a mid-round selection on a possible backup to Fournette, the Jaguars kept the position the same. That makes Yeldon – a second-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft – the likely backup with Grant likely to get an increased role in the offense. Look for Cook to have a chance to make the roster as the fourth running back with Bohanon earning the fullback job for a second consecutive season.
Wide receiver (12)
Projected starters: Marqise Lee, Donte Moncrief.
Projected reserves/others: Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, DJ Chark, Jaydon Mickens, Rashad Greene Sr., Shane Wynn, Lamar Atkins, Tevaun Smith, Allen Lazard, Dorren Miller.
Offseason to date: The Jaguars allowed Allen Robinson to sign with the Chicago Bears as an unrestricted free agent and released Allen Hurns, who later signed with the Dallas Cowboys. They also re-signed Lee and released veteran special teams ace/receiver Arrelious Benn. They selected Chark in Round 2, signing Lazard and Miller as rookie free agents.
About the position: No Jaguars offensive position underwent as much major offseason change; the result is a much different group than last season. Lee, the lone remaining member of the Hurns/Lee/Robinson trio that joined the team in 2014, likely will start opposite Moncrief. The early guess is Cole will be the third receiver, with Westbrook and Chark the likely fourth and fifth. Mickens was the punt returner last season and likely will need to win that job. This should be a faster group than last season, with Chark’s deep speed and playmaking ability giving him the chance to work into the rotation quickly. This will be a major offseason training/camp area to watch as positions and roles play themselves out.
Tight ends (5)
Projected starters: Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Projected reserves/others: Niles Paul, James O’Shaughnessy, David Grinnage, Ben Koyack.
Offseason to date: The Jaguars underwent major change here, too, releasing longtime veteran Marcedes Lewis – the team’s most-tenured player at the time of his release – and signing Seferian-Jenkins and Paul as unrestricted free agents.
About the position: The Jaguars perhaps surprised here on draft day more than any other offensive position. They considered tight end early, but opted for value elsewhere. They then opted not to address the position after that, feeling their current players tight ends were better than those available later in the draft. The Jaguars hope Seferian-Jenkins can be the downfield playmaker the team needs at the position, and they believe he is a capable blocker. Paul is a special-teams specialist, but could have a role in the offense, and Koyack and Shaughnessy have shown flashes of productivity during their time with the Jaguars. The Jaguars need more downfield production from this spot. If Seferian-Jenkins gives them that, the offseason was a success here.
Offensive line (15)
Projected starters: Tackle Cam Robinson, guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder, guard A.J. Cann and tackle Jermey Parnell.
Projected reserves/others: Tackle Josh Wells, tackle Will Richardson, guard/center Tyler Shatley, guard Chris Reed, Will Poehls, Josh Walker, Brandon Thomas, Avery Gennessy, Kc McDermott, Tony Adams.
Offseason to date: The Jaguars signed Norwell as an unrestricted free agent and allowed guard Patrick Omameh to sign with the New York Giants as an unrestricted free agent. The team also selected Richardson in the fourth round of the draft and signed McDermott and Adams as undrafted free agents.
About the position: The Jaguars didn’t overturn this unit, but the move they made was major. Norwell was a first-team All-Pro selection with the Carolina Panthers last season, and his addition is expected to have a major impact on the interior. Richardson likely will move in as the swing tackle this season behind Robinson and Parnell, and is projected to earn a starting role sometime soon after that. This area improved last season, but wasn’t dominant. The hope is Norwell’s addition will change that.