Scouting the South: Jacksonville Jaguars Preview

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing our division previews with the third-place team. Can Jacksonville make the leap this season?

2013 Recap: It was expected that the Jags would have a rough, rebuilding year and that is exactly what happened.  The roster lacked both top-level talent and depth.  Combine that with struggling quarterbacks and its obvious to see why Jacksonville didn't get their first win until Week 10 - against the Titans.  Gus Bradley is a well-respected defensive mind and some feel that after the bye his team really started to improve.  Including the victory over Tennessee, the Jaguars ended the second half of their season 4-4.

Free Agency Review: The Jags were fairly active this offseason, plucking several players from winning teams.  Guard Zane Beadles comes over from a strong Denver offensive line.  That should help the passing game and also open up holes for another new addition, Toby Gerhart.  Gerhart takes over the starting role from Maurice Jones-Drew, as the former star headed to Oakland.  Its easy to like what the team did defensively as well.  Chris Clemons and Red Bryant reunite with their former Seattle DC and should help make the team more competitive early on in the season.  Ziggy Hood was another defensive end acquisition but he has failed to live up to expectations throughout his career.  Can Gus Bradley kickstart it?

Draft Review: The Jaguars made three straight selections that they hope will fix their poor passing game this year.  Blake Bortles was a shocking pick at third overall.  Receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson were both second-round picks.  Let's start with the Bortles move.  I commend David Caldwell and Gus Bradley for going out and getting their guy.  The talking heads like to go on and on about value and their perception of the draft board but years from now if Bortles pans out no one will care that Mel Kiper thinks he was drafted too early.  Actually, does anyone care now?  Caldwell and I agree on the thinking that you should go and get "your guy"  but clearly disagree on Bortles' future.  Its hard to see Bortles winding up as a consistently accurate quarterback.  Similarly with Lee and Robinson, I understand the desire to surround your young quarteback with weapons but am unsure whether those two will be the difference-makers they want.  A pick to keep an eye on is Storm Johnson, who was discussed a few times here as the draft neared.  He may steal a few carries as the season progresses.

Most Dangerous Player to the Titans: Receiver Cecil Shorts and a few defensive players received consideration here but the title goes to the aforementioned Toby Gerhart.  The Jags are going to rely heavily on his rushing ability to win games.  Shut him down and it'll be much easier to win.

Underrated Player: Cecil Shorts III took this category last year and he's back here again.  With a competent QB I think Shorts could shine as a very good second receiver with perhaps even a chance to be the top option in an offense.

Overrated Player: Denard Robinson was drafted last year with a lot of hype about being used all over the field.  One season in and it looks like a move better in theory.  When you draft a gadget player like Robinson it requires a commitment by the offensive staff to use him frequently (at least more than someone with 20 touches a season).

2014 Outlook: There has been a lot of young pieces added in just two offseasons by the current braintrust and with youth comes optimism for the future.  However, the unfortunate reality is that the young talent may never develop as expected.  Which of these young guys will be the hits and which will be the misses?  They are banking on Blake Bortles developing into a star and once you have a quarterback, anything is possible.

For now I would expect some mild improvements.  The roster is definitely better than last year's edition but so too are the other teams in the division.  They have two road games to start and the schedule overall does not look easy for this developing team.  I have them anywhere between 5-8 wins, hitting on the high end if Bortles plays better than expected.  Let's make the official prediction 6 wins this season.

How many wins do you have them at?

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