Jacksonville Jaguars: 7 building blocks for 2016
Few teams in the league have as exciting a young core as the Jacksonville Jaguars. At 5-11, Jacksonville's roster still needs work to reach respectability, but there's also a great deal of talent already in place, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Take a look at seven players who can be considered building blocks as the Jaguars look to enter the playoff picture next season.
1. Blake Bortles
The second-year quarterback had a standout season in 2015, setting single-season franchise records for passing attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns. His 35 touchdowns were second most in the league, trailing only New England's Tom Brady. While Bortles' 18 interceptions led the NFL, there's every reason to believe he'll continue to improve with another season in offensive coordinator Greg Olson's system. In Bortles, the Jaguars appear to have the franchise quarterback they were looking for when they drafted him No. 3 overall in 2014.
2. Allen Robinson
If people didn't know who Allen Robinson was before the season, they certainly should now. The wide receiver finished with 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and tied for the NFL lead in touchdowns with 14. In the process, he earned himself his first trip to the Pro Bowl. The 2014 second-round pick also became the first Jaguar since 2005 to have more than 1,000 yards receiving in a season. Robinson's emergence gives the Jaguars a true No. 1 receiver and at just 22, he may only get better.
3. Allen Hurns
Hurns joined Robinson in topping the 1,000-yard mark as part of his 64-catch, 1,031-yard and 10-touchdown season. The 24-year-old became the youngest undrafted receiver since 1970 to have that many yards and touchdowns in a season and he did it while playing through a sports hernia for most of the year. Hurns and Robinson combine to give Jacksonville arguably the NFL's top young receiving duo.
4. T.J. Yeldon
Jacksonville's second-round pick in 2014, Yeldon ran for 740 yards in 12 games as a rookie and had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. The Jaguars drafted Yeldon to be their every-down back, and thus far, all indications are he's up to the task. He should continue to emerge next season, particularly in the red zone, where Jacksonville struggled scoring touchdowns at times in 2015.
5. Julius Thomas
Thomas failed to have the impact he and the team were expecting after a broken hand kept him out of the first four games of the year. But the 27-year-old showed glimpses of what he can offer late in the season with touchdown receptions in four straight games. Thomas finished the season with 46 catches for 455 yards and five touchdowns. With a full offseason to continue working with Bortles, he should play a larger role in the Jacksonville offense next season.
6. Telvin Smith
For a defense in need of a lot of improvement, Smith is someone to build around. The 2014 fifth-round pick had 128 tackles in 14 games, sixth most in the league. He also contributed 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. As the Jaguars look to retool their defense over the offseason, Smith is one player they don't need to worry about.
7. Dante Fowler Jr.
Fowler didn't play a down for the Jaguars in 2015 after tearing his ACL in the team's rookie minicamp in May. However, the No. 3-overall pick in the 2015 draft offers something the Jaguars were missing all year -- an ability to get to the quarterback. Fowler had 8.5 sacks his final season at Florida and getting him back in 2016 should offer a boost to Jacksonville's anemic pass rush.