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View from the O-Zone: Quite the class

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen (41) applies pressure during a game against the New York Jets during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Tom DiPace via AP)

JACKSONVILLE – The plan wasn't to make them to wait.

That was fine. Waiting didn't interest Jawaan Taylor and Josh Allen, anyway.

"We came in with the mindset to help this team win games," Taylor said Wednesday as the Jaguars (4-4) prepared to play the Houston Texans (5-3) at Wembley Stadium in London Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

Mission accomplished.

We're talking about the Jaguars' rookie class, which means we're discussing perhaps the most impactful rookie class in franchise history. Will it be the best class in franchise history?

It's early for that, but it's a legitimate question.


Gardner Minshew II…


Those three are part of a '19 draft class that has made an enormous contribution in eight games, and it's a group aware of its importance to the cause.

"Since we've been here, we've pushed each other every single day," Taylor said. "Me and Josh are roommates, away and home. We have long talks on Saturday nights, pumping each other up and making sure we're ready to go. We all support each other."

If the Jaguars' 2019 drat class included only the aforementioned players, it would be very good. But the Jaguars also believe players such as Quincy Williams, Josh Oliver and Ryquell Armstead are destined to become very good players. Very soon.

And as Head Coach Doug Marrone sees it, it's time to stop thinking of them as rookies.

"Once you get halfway through the first part of the season you can take that 'R' off of everyone," Marrone said. "They're not really rookies anymore even though they're in their first year."

Best ever? It's too soon for that, but it's not too soon to say the Jaguars likely wouldn't be .500 through four games without the rookies. A player-by-player look at the class:

*Allen, edge defender, Kentucky, Round 1 (No. 7 overall). Considered by many analysts a top-three selection, he has shown why. He is tied for the NFL rookie lead with seven sacks, and he has two forced fumbles. Beyond the numbers, he is passing the eye test and consistently disruptive. The Jaguars don't just think Allen will be good; they believe he is on his way to being one the league's dominant defensive players. The favorite for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Nick Bosa of the 49ers, has seven sacks through eight games. Why Bosa over Allen? Good question.

*Taylor, right tackle, Florida, Round 2 (No. 35 overall). The Jaguars had a first-round grade on Taylor, and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin called getting him early in Round 2 the key to the draft. Taylor has fulfilled that billing. While he struggled with holding penalties early in the season, he has fared fine against some of the NFL's best defensive ends. There is a thought around the Jaguars Taylor may end up being as good as any player in this class. "I really can't say enough good things about him," Marrone said. High praise.

*Oliver, tight end, San Jose State, Round 3 (No. 69 overall). Oliver has played just two games after missing the preseason and the first six regular-season games with a hamstring injury. He has one reception and hasn't been targeted much. That's expected for a young player returning from injury with practically no professional game or practice experience. But Oliver showed a few really good signs Sunday against the Jets. Expect improvement to be rapid. The Jaguars believe he's going to be very good.

*Williams, linebacker, Murray State, Round 3 (No. 96 overall). Williams struggled in his first four starts and was replaced in Week 5 by veteran Najee Goode. That didn't dim the Jaguars' belief that he will be very good. He fell victim to trying to do too much, resulting in some assignment mistakes. The feeling is strong he'll be much better when he returns to the starting lineup. That shouldn't be long.

*Armstead, running back, Temple, Round 5 (No. 140 overall). Armstead was drafted to provide a complement to starter Leonard Fournette. Because of Fournette's durability, Armstead's opportunities have been limited. He has 59 yards rushing on 20 carries with two receptions for 14 yards. One of his receptions was a seven-yard touchdown reception in a victory at Denver.

*Minshew, quarterback, Washington State, Round 6 (No. 178 overall). What can be said that hasn't already been said? He's 4-3 as a starter and has the look of a longtime starter? Who knows what that means when for the short-term starting quarterback Nick Foles returns in November? What we do know is that if Offensive Rookie of the Year was a midseason award Minshew not winning would be … well … offensive.

*Dontavius Russell, defensive tackle, Auburn, Round 7 (No. 235 overall). We know less about Russell than any other of the team's seven draft selections. He has been inactive in all but the first two games of the season. That's not unusual for a late-round selection at a position such as defensive line.

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