JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars’ offseason offensive lift has been heavy.
They addressed the most important position – quarterback – in a major way and addressed every other offensive position to various degrees. With the 2019 NFL Draft still to come, the lift isn’t done.
The Jaguars since the mid-March start of the 2019 NFL League Year have added or re-signed 13 free agents, including 11 on offense. Quarterback Nick Foles was the biggest name and most expensive addition, but he was far from the only move to address a unit that ranked 27th in the NFL in total yards last season.
They have added depth at running back, re-signed depth along the offensive line and re-signed a starter – guard A.J. Cann – along the offensive line, too. They also added potential starters/impact players at tight end (Geoff Swaim) and wide receiver (Chris Conley).
The result is an offense that has a dramatically different look at quarterback, and a moderately different look elsewhere. It’s also an offense that could still undergo more change, with many observers projecting the team could address tight end and offensive line in the NFL Draft.
What have the Jaguars done offensively so far this offseason? What’s still left to do?
That’s what we’ll study in detail in this position-by-position look at the offense as the Jaguars move closer to the 2019 NFL Draft April 25-27:
2019 projected starter: Nick Foles.
Others on roster: Cody Kessler, Tanner Lee, Alex McGough.
Offseason additions: Foles (unrestricted free agent, Philadelphia Eagles), McGough (signed in January after spending 2018 on Seattle Seahawks practice squad).
Offseason departures: Blake Bortles (released, signed with Los Angeles Rams).
About the position: This was the Jaguars’ most major position of offseason change – because when you change starting quarterbacks, it’s automatically your most major position of change. The Jaguars signed Foles hours into free agency, releasing Bortles – their starter for all but six games from 2014-2018 – hours later. The backup situation is far less solid, with Kessler struggling in four games as a backup last season and neither Lee nor McGough having taken an NFL regular-season snap.
Possible first-round quarterbacks: Kyler Murray, Oklahoma; Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State; Drew Lock, Missouri; Daniel Jones, Duke; Will Grier, West Virginia.
Chances of Jaguars selecting quarterback in first round: Low.
Quarterback draft thoughts: The Jaguars could address quarterback late in the draft, but it appears unlikely they will do so early – particularly not in Round 1. They signed the 30-year-old Foles with the idea that he can be their franchise quarterback for three or more years; that’s a long time for a first-round quarterback selected later this month to sit as a backup.
Running back (6)
2019 projected starter: Leonard Fournette.
Others on roster: Alfred Blue, Benny Cunningham, Thomas Rawls, David Williams, Dimitri Flowers.
Offseason additions: Blue (UFA, Houston Texans); Cunningham (UFA, Chicago Bears); Rawls (free agent, released by Cincinnati Bengals last season).
Offseason departures: T.J. Yeldon (UFA, unsigned), Carlos Hyde (released, Kansas City Chiefs), Corey Grant (UFA, unsigned), fullback Tommy Bohanon (UFA, unsigned).
About the position: This position has been a major focal point this offseason, with heavy focus on Fournette’s offseason approach – and equally heavy focus on an overhaul behind Fournette. A 1,040-yard, nine-touchdown rusher as a rookie in 2017, Fournette missed eight games and struggled on the field when healthy last season; he is working with his former collegiate strength-and-conditioning coach in Wyoming this offseason, and the Jaguars seem optimistic about his approach after a sophomore season that included a one-game suspension and other off-field issues. The team allowed Yeldon and Grant to leave via free agency, signing Blue to be the top backup behind Fournette and Cunningham as a special teams player. They signed Rawls to a futures contract shortly after the season.
Possible first-round running backs: Josh Jacobs, Alabama.
Chances of Jaguars selecting running back in first round: Low.
Running back draft thoughts: Despite signing Blue and Cunningham in recent weeks, the Jaguars could address running back in the draft. While Blue is a capable every-down substitute for the oft-injured Fournette, the position still could be helped by a receiving threat with speed capable of excelling in run-pass option looks. The Jaguars aren’t likely to draft a running back early, but it feels like a position that could be addressed somewhere from Rounds 3-7.
Wide receivers (6)
2019 projected starters: DJ Chark Jr., Dede Westbrook.
Others on roster: Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, Chris Conley, C.J. Board.
Offseason additions: Conley (UFA, Kansas City Chiefs).
Offseason departures: Donte Moncrief (UFA, Pittsburgh Steelers), Rashad Greene Sr. (UFA, unsigned), Jaydon Mickens (exclusive rights free agent, unsigned).
About the position: While this is a position of offseason change, the immediate future here likely will depend on a young core of players developing – and on Lee returning from a knee injury that cost him the entire 2018 season. The Jaguars allowed Moncrief to leave as an unrestricted free agent after a disappointing 2018, and they signed the athletic Conley to add speed and experience to a young group. Westbrook was the team’s best receiver last season. The key here will be the development of Chark – and to a lesser degree, Cole. Chark was selected in Round 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft with the hope that he would develop into a starter/impact player by 2019. Cole showed flashes of big-play ability as a rookie in 2017 but struggled last season. Overall, the Jaguars need better seasons from all key returners at this position.
Possible first-round wide receivers: D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi; Marquise Brown, Oklahoma; Riley Ridley, Georgia; A.J. Brown, Mississippi; K’Neal Henry, Arizona State; Deebo Samuel, South Carolina; Hakeem Butler, Iowa State; Parris Campbell, Ohio State; Kelvin Harmon, North Carolina State; J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford.
Chances of Jaguars selecting wide receiver in first round: Low-to-medium.
Wide receiver draft thoughts: While many observers list this is as a major pre-draft need, indications are the team believes the returning core of Westbrook, Lee, Conley, Cole and Chark can develop – and that the addition of Foles at quarterback will help the receivers significantly. There doesn’t seem to be a wide receiver in this year’s draft worthy of the No. 7 selection, and the team doesn’t seem to see the position as enough of a need to use so early a selection there. Best guess: The Jaguars could select a wide receiver on Day 3, but perhaps not earlier.
Tight ends (4)
2019 projected starters: Geoff Swaim, James O’Shaughnessy.
Others on roster: Ben Koyack, Pharoah McKever.
Offseason additions: Swaim (UFA, Dallas Cowboys).
Offseason departures: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (UFA, New England Patriots); Blake Bell (UFA, unsigned).
About the position: This was assured of being a position of major change entering free agency, with the team allowing Seferian-Jenkins, O’Shaughnessy and Bell to become UFAs. It was also a position where an overhaul seemed logical, with the team long having lacked a big-time receiving threat at the position and with the position last season accounting for just three touchdowns. The re-signing of O’Shaughnessy and addition of Swaim gives the team two capable players, but Foles and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo both have shown a tendency to utilize the tight end. That makes this still feels like a need as the draft approaches.
Possible first-round tight ends: T.J. Hockenson, Iowa; Noah Fant, Iowa; Irv Smith Jr., Alabama.
Chances of Jaguars selecting tight end in first round: High.
Tight end draft thoughts: The Jaguars seem relatively certain to select a tight end. The question is when. While players such as Hockenson and/or Fant could be worth a Top 10 selection, this is an unusually deep draft for tight ends – and many observers believe contributing players at the position could be found into the second and third rounds.
Offensive line (10)
2019 projected starters: Left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder, right guard A.J. Cann, right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi/Will Richardson Jr.
Others on roster: Left tackle/right tackle Josh Wells, tackle Leonard Wester, guard/center Tyler Shatley, Brandon Thomas, KC McDermott.
Offseason additions: Ogbuehi (UFA, Cincinnati Bengals), Wester (UFA, Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
Offseason departures: Left tackle/guard Josh Walker (UFA, unsigned), left tackle Ereck Flowers (UFA, Washington Redskins), left guard Patrick Omameh (UFA, unsigned), right guard Chris Reed (restricted free agent, unsigned), right tackle Jermey Parnell (released, unsigned), right tackle Corey Robinson (UFA, unsigned).
About the position: The Jaguars have done major work here in the last few weeks, particularly in the area of depth. After allowing seven offensive linemen to become free agents – including multiple players who started in place of injured starters last season – the Jaguars in recent weeks have re-signed three players and added a two more. Re-signing Cann hours into free agency assured four 2018 Week 1 starters – Cann, Can Robinson, Norwell and Linder – will return, and the team also re-signed valued longtime backups Shatley and Wells in recent weeks. The major question remaining here is who will start at right tackle. Richardson, Wells and Ogbuehi appear likely to compete for the position if nothing changes between now and training camp. But the draft is three weeks away, and much could change that weekend.
Possible first-round offensive linemen: Jawaan Taylor, tackle, Florida; Andre Dillard, tackle, Washington State; Jonah Williams, tackle/guard, Alabama; Greg Little, tackle, Mississippi; Cody Ford, tackle, Oklahoma; Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State; Garrett Bradbury, center, North Carolina State; Erik McCoy, C, Texas A&M; Kalen McGary, OT, Washington State; Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State; Chris Lindstrom, C, Boston College.
Chances of Jaguars selecting offensive line in first round: Very high.
Offensive line draft thoughts: This is the first-round position of choice for the Jaguars for many analysts, with Taylor – generally considered the top right tackle in the draft – increasingly mocked to the Jaguars in recent weeks. That’s the great unknown as the draft approaches. Do the Jaguars have faith in Richardson, a 2018 fourth-round selection who never has taken an NFL snap? Do they believe in Ogbuehi, a first-round selection by Cincinnati in 2015 who later lost his starting job? Or do they believe the position must be addressed in the draft? Stay tuned.