After an extremely promising 2015 campaign that had many thinking playoffs, the Jacksonville Jaguars have looked awful in 2016 and are on the verge of blowing it all up… again.
Count me among the many who expected the Jacksonville Jaguars to take the next step in 2016, not only into respectability but into playoff contention. I mean why not? The franchise was coming off a historic year offensively with breakout seasons by Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, and Allen Hurns, and general manager David Caldwell went hard in the offseason addressing a putrid defense. Things were looking up.
All the moves on paper were fine and dandy, but none of that matters when your quarterback regresses and becomes one of the worst starters in the league. Now not only are the hopes for relevance in 2016 dashed, but the long-term future of the team as it’s currently constructed is in serious doubt.
The development from the defense is promising; not only are the Jaguars up to 17th in DVOA, but they’re mostly doing it with work from their young core. Dante Fowler, Yannick Ngakoue, Telvin Smith and Jalen Ramsey are all on rookie deals and playing like above-average starters at their respective positions. For all the flak Gus Bradley has taken this year, his defense hasn’t been the problem.
While I was more skeptical of Blake Bortles’ “breakout” 2015 season than most, he has come undone during a wildly disappointing 2016 season. Bortles’ mechanics were erratic and are now seemingly random from series to series, and while his past issues could be chalked up to a porous offensive line, Jacksonville’s protection has improved this season. He has left multiple long touchdowns on the field in back-to-back games and shows little sign of improving. With Jacksonville likely to fire Bradley after this season, the Jaguars either need to hire a coach with experience molding quarterbacks into stars (like Norv Turner) or go after a quarterback who can get the most out of Allen Robinson & Co. Could they be a landing spot for Tony Romo? A franchise that hasn’t topped five wins since 2010 has work to do to achieve even that total in 2016.
As Barnwell notes, despite all the other positives that you can clearly see with a young and talented roster, none of that matters if you don’t hit on the quarterback. Blake’s numbers are similar to last year, but there’s clearly something different – he was supposed to get better, and his inability to take the next step has destroyed his confidence.
Blake Bortles through 9 games: 2016: 60% completion rate, 2,421 yards, 16 TD, 11 INT 2015: 55% completion rate, 2,381 yards, 19 TD, 11 INT
Right now, the Jaguars placement in this article is predicated on Bortles’ play. The good part of that sentiment is he could improve and so could the Jaguars’ future prospects. Right now, that seems like a long shot.