JACKSONVILLE -- Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars as they prepare to play the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. Sunday at 1 p.m.
1.The general manager position is a good one. Since Jaguars Owner Shad Khan dismissed General Manager David Caldwell Sunday, a prominent question of many Jaguars observers is just how good an opportunity is the position. The thought here is it's very good – perhaps as good as any that will be available in the NFL this offseason. The reasons have been well-documented, but bear repeating: the most projected salary-cap space in the NFL when the 2021 League Year opens, four selections in the first two rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft and a roster that has at least one potential front-line player at most positions. Another draw: a chance to select a potential franchise quarterback if – as seems likely – the Jaguars finish this season with one of the NFL's worst records. As important: Jaguars Owner Shad Khan's willingness to spend on player salaries and football operations, as well as his reputation for allowing football people to make football decisions – not to mention his patience with coaches and general managers compared with the quick-trigger approach of many NFL owners. This won't be an easy job for the next general manager. But it absolutely will be an attractive one.
2.Going with Glennon is fine. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone on Wednesday announced that Mike Glennon will start a second consecutive game at quarterback Sunday – despite Games 1-7 starter Gardner Minshew II being fully recovered from the thumb injury that kept him out the last four games. The move makes sense because Marrone's focus remains on doing whatever possible to win, and Glennon looked good enough throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions in a loss to Cleveland Sunday to likely give the Jaguars a chance or two at a victory or two in the last five games. He also appeared to run the offense efficiently enough to allow players around him – particularly young players such as wide receivers Collin Johnson and Laviska Shenault Jr. and running back James Robinson – to continue developing. Bottom line: neither Glennon nor Minshew nor rookie Jake Luton represents the Jaguars' future at the position. Glennon's as good a choice as any at this point.
3.The defensive effort has been remarkable in the last month. Marrone left no doubt early this week that the focus of the coaches and players remains on winning, specifying that the Jaguars don't plan on "shutting down" players to preserve health heading into the offseason. The Jaguars' continued fight and desire to win has been evident in recent games, and could be seen this past Sunday when middle linebacker Joe Schobert forced a key fumble on an effort play and when the entire offensive line pushed Robinson into the end zone for a late touchdown. It also can be seen in the effort of the Jaguars' defense in recent weeks. After the unit allowed 30 or more points in an NFL-record-tying six consecutive games, the Jaguars have held their most recent four opponents to 27, 24, 27 and 27 points despite losing multiple critical players to injuries. This is a team and a defense becoming thinner by the week. Yet, the defense continues to at least give the team a chance each week. The effort has been impressive.
1.The Jaguars are at the edge of the cliff. There is a tipping point in NFL seasons such as this – where a team is losing but playing tough and staying in games – turns, and it's usually injuries that causes it. In the last three games the Jags have been down both starting corners (CJ Henderson, Sidney Jones), their best pass rusher (Josh Allen), their best defensive tackle (DaVon Hamilton), a starting guard (Andrew Norwell), their top receiver (DJ Chark Jr.) and a promising young safety (Daniel Thomas). The coaches and players will talk about "next man up" – and they should – but the game is about talent, and the Jaguars are playing without a good portion of theirs. The Jaguars won't slide to the end of the season because they're not playing for anything; they've already shown us that. But the losing streak likely will continue because they're playing contending teams with guys that weren't part of the plan this season. The next few weeks could look a lot rougher.
2.I'm looking at individual players the rest of the way. Who are the guys that can be building blocks for a new general manager? I want to see who plays hard, who is getting better and who loves the game; that last quality might be the most important because this game will wear you down, especially when you're losing. Players who love the game are the electricity in a locker room and the guys you need going forward. Johnson looks like one of those guys and sounded like it during the postgame following Sunday's loss to the Cleveland Browns. Let's see what cornerback Josiah Scott brings and linebacker Shaq Quarterman bring to the equation as well as defensive tackle Doug Costin and guard Ben Bartch.
3.Caldwell missed on the quarterback and that is why he is no longer the Jaguars' general manager. The roster has more quality players than when he took over in 2013 and the salary cap is in phenomenal shape. The Jaguars will have the most salary cap room of any team and multiple picks in multiple rounds, plus they won't have the dead money from quarterback Nick Foles on their cap thanks to Caldwell finding a team willing to take it on (by the way, that wasn't a given). But for all his efforts in the draft and free agency, he didn't get the quarterback right – not with Blake Bortles nor Foles, and the won/loss record has suffered because of it. While we can talk about missing on Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, let's not let that get in the way of who is up next. It looks like Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields is the guy at No. 2 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, but maybe North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance or Brigham Young quarterback Zach Wilson is the better choice for the Jaguars. Maybe Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is so good it's worth a mega trade up to No. 1? A quarterback cleans up so many areas of a roster, the choice is literally the next decade for the Jaguars. They can't miss again.