JACKSONVILLE – Today, we look ahead by glancing back.
We will do so by presenting five things the Jaguars must do to succeed in 2019 – and we will do so by examining a few numbers and statistics that led to a lot of struggles last season.
There are many such numbers because the Jaguars struggled on many fronts last season en route to a 5-11 last-place finish in the AFC South – and as they prepare for 2019 Training Camp to open Thursday, they are looking for tangible improvement on most fronts.
How do they make that improvement happen? By improving the following five numbers:
1)Seven. This is about health and injuries, and multiple numbers from last season are available to make this point. The Jaguars' offense was waylaid early and often by injuries last season, with players such as wide receiver Marqise Lee and left tackle Cam Robinson missing 16 and 14 games, respectively, with structural knee injuries. Running back Leonard Fournette never went on injured reserve but played just eight games and missed seven with injuries – including six with a hamstring injury early in the season as playoff hopes steadily slipped away. But perhaps no number sums up the Jaguars' 2018 injury issue better than seven, which was how many offensive linemen spent time on injured reserve. That number included not only Robinson, but starting right tackle Jermey Parnell, starting left guard Andrew Norwell and starting center Brandon Linder. The Jaguars must stay healthier to complete in 2019 – particularly offensively and particularly along the offensive line.
2)Minus-12. This was the Jaguars' 2018 turnover margin, and perhaps no statistic better translates to success/failure for the Jaguars over the past two seasons. The Jaguars had 29 giveaways in 2018 with 17 takeaways after finishing plus-10 during their 2017 AFC South Championship season. Most notable on this front was that the takeaway total was down 16 from when they finished second in the category in 2017. The Jaguars also scored just two defensive touchdowns in 2018 after leading the NFL in that category with seven in 2017. Every NFL coach will tell you he emphasized takeaway/giveaway ratio. But Head Coach Doug Marrone really emphasizes it, and it's hard to imagine this team contending for the postseason with substantially more giveaways than takeaways.
3)37. The Jaguars, after finishing second in the NFL with 55 sacks in 2017, finished tied for 22nd in 2018 with 37. This was not a case of the front being less effective; ends Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue played pretty much as well in 2018 as they did in Pro Bowl seasons the season before. Rather, it was about the defense playing with far fewer leads than in 2017. The opportunities for quarterback pressures and sacks – and by extension, forced fumbles and interceptions – increase dramatically in obvious passing situations, and you get more obvious passing situations when holding a lead. If the Jaguars' offense improves, the Jaguars' defense should benefit. Nowhere would you see the statistical benefit more than in the sacks total.
4)19/107.4. The Jaguars, after leading the NFL in rushing in 2017 with 141.4 yards per game, finished 19th in the NFL in 2018 at 107.7 yards per game. While the Jaguars clearly want to be a more pass-oriented scheme with new quarterback Nick Foles and new coordinator John DeFilippo than with former quarterback Blake Bortles and former coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, the running game still must be effective. While the Jaguars won't need to average 160 yards per game as they were doing through the first few months of 2017, they must do a better job than they did in 2018 of being able to run when they need to run – i.e., late in games and in short yardage. That will remain an emphasis, and it's an area that must improve in 2019.
5)15/13. Bortles threw 13 touchdown passes with 11 interceptions last season, with backup Cody Kessler throwing two touchdowns with two interceptions. The assumption with the addition of Foles/DeFilippo is that the touchdowns will improve – along with this whole ratio. Foles doesn't have to throw 45 touchdowns this season for the Jaguars to contend, but something around the low 20s typically gets a quarterback around 15thto-17th in the NFL in passing touchdowns. That would get the Jaguars around average – and if they can get to average in that area, there's enough around the quarterback that this team should contend.