Football is back in Jax!
The Jacksonville Jaguars kick off their training camp practices tomorrow, in preparation for a run at defending their 2017 AFC South Division Championship. Expectations are high at TIAA Field, and the energy is as positive as it’s been around the Jaguars in about 10 years.
Fans are excited as well, so we took to Twitter here at Locked On Jaguars for questions that the fan base wants answered before camp kicks off. Can the secondary remain as dominant as it was last year after the loss of Aaron Colvin? Will any Jaguars players be nominated for end-of-the-season awards? Let’s get to the Q&A.
From @IrishJaguar: Does a Jaguars player win an individual award this year (e.g. DPOY, Rushing title, etc)?
The Jaguars have 10 returning starters on their defense this year, a unit that ranked 1st in pass defense (169.9 yards per game), 2nd in points per game (16.8) and total yards (286.1), it’s easy to assume there will be a defender or two considered for Defensive Player of the Year. Yannick Ngakoue, who had 12 sacks and six forced fumbles last season, and Jalen Ramsey, who recorded four interceptions and 17 defended passes in 2017, are the first two names that come to mind for the award.
Considering the Jaguars ran the ball on 49.5% of offensive snaps last year — leading the NFL by almost 2% — the rushing title could be Leonard Fournette’s to take, as long as he stays healthy. The offense runs through the second year bell-cow running back, who looks to improve on his 1040 yards and nine touchdowns from last year with an improved interior offensive line ahead of him. The team signed free agent guard Andrew Norwell to a five year, $66.5 million contract to help improve the team’s inside run game, where they ran on 64% of rushing plays last year.
From @TWEETS_BY_MITCH: What realistic expectations can we have for DE Dawuane Smoot in his second year?
Dawuane Smoot was on the field for 24.4% of the defensive snaps last year, but with first round pick Taven Bryan transitioning from defensive tackle to 5-tech defensive end in camp, Smoot may not see his snap count increase as much as he’d like this season.
Smoot was Calais Campbell’s backup at 5-tech last year. He possesses average athleticism with a 7.18 3 cone and 4.77 40 yard dash for a defensive end, standing at 6-3, 264 lbs. If he can display growth during camp as a pass rusher, the team may make his role more versatile and let him back up both end spots, the big-endd 5-tech and the wide defensive end role that Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler Jr. play.
Growth as a pass rusher will be important for Smoot as he enters his second year in a position group — the Jaguars’ defensive line as a whole — that’s as deep as it gets. Assuming he carves out a role from this growth, I’d project him to play about the same amount of snaps this year and accumulate some run stops and one or two sacks.
From @_boog1: Can we talk about the development of QB Blake Bortles last year? What’s changed with the offense becoming simpler for him?
I think the second part of the question hits the nail right on the head. The offense got a huge makeover last year in transitioning to a heavy power-run scheme. Leonard Fournette became the team’s bell-cow right out of the gate, and teams were forced to respect his ability to wear-and-tear defenses down.
With defenses shifting focus to stopping the run, unlike we’ve seen in year’s past where teams would stack the box to apply pressure and force Bortles’ into a bad decision, Bortles got to play more comfortably. He didn’t have to play with the game on his shoulders like he has during his entire career prior to 2017.
On top of the run game becoming a stress-reliver, offensive coordinator Nate Hackett drew up a simpler playbook for the QB. The passing game resembled West-Coast concepts that required short, accurate, and anticipated throws from Bortles, and despite shakiness at times, Bortles handled it pretty well. He found a new favorite target in WR Marqise Lee on crossing routes, and that comfort level turned into a four year, $34 million extension for Lee.
The biggest thing for Bortles is consistency. Going into his second year in Hackett’s system, he will need to take control of the offense and continue to make the simple throws he’s asked to make while also continuing to limit mistakes. If he can do so, the offense will flourish.
From @YoJoeCool: Would the Jags keep WR Allen Lazard and use him as a TE? Seems like they prioritized him during the UDFA period.
Allen Lazard offers an intriguing skill-set that is best suited in the redzone. While standing at at nearly 6-5, 227 lbs, he doesn’s possess the greatest speed, running a 4.55 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine.
Lazard’s vertical jump was impressive, however, coming in at 38 inches. The combination of his size, vertical athleticism, and ability to come down with contested catches and asjusting to the football would give the Jaguars’ passing game something it doesn’t currently have.
I don’t see the Jaguars moving Lazard to tight end, however. That position is already a little bit crowded with Austin Seferian-Jenkins locked in as the starter and Niles Paul, Ben Koyack, and James O’Shaughnessy battling for backup roles and reps.
Lazard will compete for the sixth receiver spot with Rashard Greene, Jaydon Mickens, and Shane Wynn. Those three receivers are all similar, as they can handle the slot and return punts. However, with Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark, who can also return punts and move around as receivers, regarded as locks to make the roster, Lazard’s unique ability could make those three expendable if he impresses in camp.
From @BenCNU804: If we have a season with similar success like this past season, do you think teams start to reach out to Todd Wash and Nate Hackett for head coaching jobs?
Definitely. The easy assumption is that Todd Wash would become a hot commodity on the head coaching market next January, as the Jaguars’ defense was top in the league last year and has the talent and continuity to finish as the league’s best defense this year as well.
Hackett could also receive some calls if the run game takes the next step this year and Bortles builds upon his solid 2017 campaign. I’d consider Wash to be the more likely candidate, though.
From @_boog1: Can we discuss the development of the WR Corps? How Keelan Cole went from an UDFA to possibly a WR1 by mid-season and the impact Keenan McCardell has had on the development of these WRs.
Keelan Cole’s ability to contirbute in this offense was evident before the team even put pads on in training camp last year. He flashed the ability to stretch the field, specifically by consistently hauling in go-routes down the field. As the season wore on, he began to grow as a route running, cleanly adding posts and corners to his deep game as well as some intermediate outside routes.
The biggest thing for Cole is consistency in the underneath passing game. It’s easy to point at his 17.8 yards per catch last year and label him as a deep threat, but the team is confident he can grow into a complete receiver. He’s going to be one of the most intriguing players to watch during camp.
As for McCardell, well, look at the player we just talked about. No one knew who Keelan Cole was before Jaguars’t training camp, as the former Kentucky Wesleyan product went undrafted in 2017. Now, Cole is on a clear path to becoming the Jaguars’ most versatile receiving threat, and I believe McCardell has been a key factor in his development. Now, McCardell faces another project in second round pick D.J. Chark, who possesses great intangibles with 6-3 size and 4.34 speed, but still has room to grow with the fundamentals of playing receiver in thr NFL.
But with coach McCardell in charge of Chark’s development, I’m confident Chark will grow into a big-time threat in the Jaguars’ passing game as well.
From @alexmahoney10: Is the Jaguars’ secondary going to live up to that standard of greatness it set for itself last year, even with the loss of Aaron Colvin?
The loss of Aaron Colvin isn’t as big of a deal than some fans believe it is, in my personal opinion. That isn’t a criticism of Colvin at all, as I was an advocate of Colvin playing a bigger role than just nickel cornerback, whether it be in Jacksonville or elsewhere, but the responsibilities of a nickel cornerback in a Cover 3-heavy scheme aren’t nearly as difficult as a boundary cornerback.
The Jaguars’ nickel cornerback has more responsibility in the run game than their boundary cornerbacks, naturally, as the nickel CB lines up closer to the hashes rather than the numbers on the field. In the passing game when running Cover 3, the nickel corner often covers the flats in place of the SAM linebacker’s coverage responsibilities in the same defense. Colvin was incredibly efficient at this, but I don’t believe this skillset is as valuable as the ability to play outside, especially in a Cover 3.
D.J. Hayden, who the Jaguars’ signed to replace Colvin, has had a shaky career when playing outside. However, the team is confident he can fill the role Colvin left absent after signing with the Houston Texans to take on outside responsibilities. With two All-Pro’s in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye playing outside cornerback, and a combined eight interceptions from safeties Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church, this secondary possesses the talent and continuity to be dominant yet again in 2018.
Jaguars 2019 position group breakdown: Running Backs
Similar to their quarterback situation, the Jacksonville Jaguars have attempted to answer some questions in terms of the run game in this year’s offseason. Jacksonville went through a full remodel in an attempt to add veteran presence that can sustain the ground attack if injury strikes the team yet again in 2019.
Two years ago, the Jaguars were a team that led the NFL in rushing at 527 attempts throughout the regular season. Nearly 50 carries ahead of any other team in the league. On those 527 attempted the Jaguars saw heights in production not seen since the Maurice Jones-Drew.
That production staggered in yardage and overall sustainability of the offense with their lackluster quarterback play last season. This was all due to the injuries of star running back Leonard Fournette and the majority of the offensive line. Without Fournette, the Jaguars only accumulated half the yardage in 2018 Fournette produced in 2017 with T.J. Yeldon and Carlos Hyde leading the affair.
Being a strong part of the offensive system, the Jaguars win total saw a sharp decrease and the team swagger that carried them to the 2017 AFC playoffs had vanished.
Jacksonville looked to replenish their running back room and get back to the strong, effective run game they saw in 2017 that made them so successful.
Adding Alfred Blue, Benny Cunningham, Thomas Rawls and more through free agency, as well as, drafting former Temple running back, Ryquell Armstead the Jaguars made a good move in adding reliable to back up Fournette in the backfield.
Projected Running Back Depth Chart:
*italicized indicates starter, underline indicates picked up via draft/free agency
Leonard Fournette, Alfred Blue, Benny Cunningham, Ryquell Armstead.
Leading the pack coming into 2019 is Leonard Fournette. Fournette is a player that has all the major attributes to be a star player in the NFL if he could just stay healthy. Fournette missed eight games last season and seven due to injury which caused the Jaguars offense to stall in his absence.
He is a player that combines strong downhill running with game-breaking speed. Abilities not many can combine nevertheless replace. He is a generational talent who looks to return to his rookie form in 2019.
Fournette looks to be getting back on track this season and “refocused on football.” Him being able to stay on the field will be a huge plus for a Jaguars team that has struggled offensively for many years.
The next two players on the depth chart are veteran backs Alfred Blue and Benny Cunningham.
Blue being a signee from the Houston Texans roster and an experienced back who knows how to get yardage necessary to sustain drives. While receiving very little touches in the Houston offense he played the backup role well and was a reliable source of receiving out of the backfield.
Blue will be used more as a third-down back in the Jaguars offense.
The same goes for Cunningham. Coming over from the Bears, which last season saw two top-caliber running backs in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen sharing carries, Cunningham got lost in the shuffle. Cunningham is a great receiving threat out of the backfield and can play solid minutes in his role on his new team.
Having two players that can play roles, and play them well is vital for any team in the NFL. Taking fatigue and potential injury into account getting Cunningham and Blue was one of the more important moves the Jaguars made this offseason. The Jaguars acquired two reliable backs for new quarterback Nick Foles to work with on downs where Fournette is not in the game.
Next on the team’s depth chart is the Jaguars 2019 fifth-round pick out of Temple, Ryquell Armstead. In his senior year, Armstead scored 13 touchdowns and averaged nearly 6.5 yards per carry. Armstead’s progression through his college career was a sight to see. After starting his career as a bulkier strong runner, Armstead slimmed down to become a more complete back and utilized his opportunity at Temple to make it to the NFL.
Posting 2,987 yards and 34 touchdowns over his career, Armstead looks to carry on those impressive numbers at the next level. Armstead is a runner with great field vision and patience behind the line of scrimmage. He bursts through the open hole and is willing to lower the shoulder to gain extra yardage. Armstead says that he models his game after former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs.
He describes himself as an angry runner. “I run angry, I run violent. I look for contact— that’s something that makes me unique.” Armstead stated in an interview with CBS sports.
The type of physical running Armstead brings to the table is something the Jaguars have had success within recent memory. That willingness to create contact and run hard for his team to succeed is an attribute any team would love to have with their running back.
A player that very strongly resembles Leonard Fournette in terms of running style was a guy the Jaguars looked at as a potential steal in the fifth round. An aggressive, one-cut runner who can run over opponents or bounce it to the outside and take off down the sideline.
Armstead had the second-fastest time in the 40-yard dash among eligible running backs at the 2019 NFL combine at 4.49 seconds. Being a player with blazing speed mixed with a downhill running style, Armstead could see minutes directly behind Fournette later in the season. Armstead is an intriguing prospect but his development as a pass-catcher out of the backfield will need to improve for him to solidify the playing time this season.
While the Jaguars have many running backs on the roster, all of them cannot stay. Unless there is a huge jump of progression when training camp starts later in the month, Thomas Rawls and Taj McGowan have very little shot of making the team.
After last season, the Jaguars have done whatever it takes to assure they have depth at this position. Being able to provide multiple sources of production is important for any team. By providing this depth, the Jaguars hope it can get the job done and they can return to the success seen in the running game just two seasons ago.
REPORT: Jaguars to sign former WVU WR Marcus Simms
The Jacksonville Jaguars have made a roster move signing former West Virginia WR Marcus Simms according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Simms was slated to participate in the supplemental draft after filing the paperwork on June 20th.
Source: The #Jaguars are signing former West Virginia WR Marcus Simms, pending a physical tomorrow. Had several offers after today's supplemental draft ended. One to watch in camp.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 10, 2019
Simms will make for interesting competition for the Jaguars as we inch closer to training camp. Simms accumulated 87 receptions for 1457 yards and eight touchdowns in his three-year career at West Virginia. Simms has also made his name known in the return game totaling 992 yards as a kick returner. According to reports, Simms ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4-4.49 seconds, with a vertical jump of 36″, a broad jump of 10-2 and three-cone time of 6.91 seconds. After his physical tomorrow, the Jaguars will have to make a corresponding move.
Simms will look to compete for a bottom-of-the-roster position with players such as Terrelle Pryor and Keelan Cole. If the Jaguars intend on retaining six receivers Simms will have a good shot at making the roster. By all accounts, Simms was a draftable player.
2019 Jacksonville Jaguars Fantasy Football: Nick Foles Preview
Quarterback Nick Foles signed a four-year, $88 million dollar contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason. Foles is a much-needed upgrade behind center and may be the best signal-caller the franchise has had in the past decade. Jaguars fans have high expectations for how he’ll do on his new team. Here’s what you should expect how he’ll do on your fantasy team.
Poor Fantasy History
Throughout the entirety of Foles’ career, his fantasy football production has been underwhelming. Foles has only finished as a top-25 fantasy quarterback once in his seven years in the league.
Part of the reason Foles never produced solid fantasy numbers due to the fact he has never played a full 16-game season — the most games he’s played is 13 back in 2013 when he was fantasy’s QB9. Foles played more than eight games just one other season. To remove the effect of the number of games played, we can look at fantasy points per game (PPG), but those statistics are also disappointing:
-Foles averaged 20.46 PPG in 2013, his best fantasy season. His second-best fantasy season was last year when he scored 15.00 fantasy PPG, which was tied for 24th — with Eli Manning. His career mark is 13.04 fantasy PPG.
-For comparison, Blake Bortles’ best fantasy season was in 2015, when he finished with 20.25 fantasy PPG. In 2018, he scored 13.31 fantasy PPG, which was 28th. His career mark is 15.88 fantasy PPG.
Bortles has been a viable fantasy option partly because of garbage-time opportunities in his first couple years and increased rushing production in the last couple years, but it’s still a tough look for Foles to have worse career fantasy numbers than Bortles by over two points. Long story short, Foles has frankly been a bad fantasy quarterback throughout his career save for one good season.
Fewer Passing Attempts
Another warning sign for Foles is a likely decrease in passing attempts after playing for the Philadelphia Eagles the past two seasons.
-In five regular-season starts last season, Foles had 39.0 attempts per game and averaged 15.04 fantasy points per game.
-In 12 regular-season starts last season, Bortles had 33.0 attempts per game and averaged 13.32 fantasy points per game.
-Foles and Bortles each averaged 0.35 fantasy points per dropback, per Player Profiler.
Foles finished with more fantasy points per game than Bortles, which was partly due to Foles simply throwing the ball more often. Foles’ higher passing rate can essentially be boiled down to two factors: team defense and rushing rate. Jacksonville’s 8thranked defense last season allowed the Jaguars the freedom to run more often and Philadelphia’s 18thranked defense sometimes forced the Eagles to pass more often (weighted defensive efficiency rankings via Football Outsiders). Additionally, Jacksonville (49%) ran at a higher rate than Philadelphia (43%) in game-script positive situations (rushing rates via Sharp Football Stats). To summarize, due to differences in defensive production and offensive play calling, the Eagles pass a lot more than the Jaguars.
Despite the new additions of Foles and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, the Jaguars will likely continue to rely on running and defense. As a result of transitioning from Philadelphia to Jacksonville, Foles will almost certainly throw fewer passes, and therefore is unlikely to produce numbers like he did last season- which already weren’t exceptional.
Fewer Red Zone Opportunities
Foles also isn’t likely to have as many opportunities to score in the red zone as he did with the Eagles, which is another fantasy red flag.
-In the past two seasons, 36.1% of Foles’ fantasy points have come from in the red zone, while 32.5% of Bortles’ fantasy points have come from in the red zone, per fantasy data.
-In the past two seasons, the Eagles passed on 53% of red-zone plays, while the Jaguars passed on 47% of red-zone plays. The Eagles passed on 57% of red-zone plays in games Foles started, and the Jaguars passed on 42% of red-zone plays in games Leonard Fournette started.
-In the past two seasons, the Eagles averaged 3.4 red zone attempts per game, while the Jaguars averaged 2.6 red zone attempts per game, per Team Rankings.
Based on the 2017-18 seasons, Foles may not reach the red zone as much nor pass in the red zone as much as he was accustomed to in Philadelphia.
Offensive Talent Downgrade
One of the more talked about storylines regarding Foles’ signing with the Jaguars is his prior supporting cast in Philadelphia compared to his current one in Jacksonville. Foles must transition from a receiving core of Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, and Nelson Agholor to Dede Westbrook, Marquise Lee, and rookie tight end Josh Oliver. The difference in each group’s production is obvious:
-Ertz, Jeffery, Agholor, and Golden Tate (who played for Philadelphia in the second half of last season) all surpassed 100 fantasy points and 60 receptions last season. They have four combined career Pro-Bowl appearances.
-Westbrook was the only Jacksonville receiver to surpass 100 fantasy points and 60 receptions last season. In fact, he is the only player on the current roster who caught over 40 passes last season. The Jaguars receivers have zero combined career Pro-Bowl appearances.
The argument that Westbrook is as good as Agholor is feasible, but Agholor was Philadelphia’s third receiving option at best last season, and Jacksonville has no weapons who can come close to the skillset or production of Ertz and Jeffery. Additionally, Foles targeted Ertz a lot and he generated impressive numbers – which creates a lot of buzz for the imminent Foles-Oliver connection – but Ertz’s success was likely due more to his own talent than Foles’ supposed rapport with tight ends:
Per Sports Info Solutions, Foles targeted tight ends at the highest rate in the league (35%) last season. However, he posted a worse completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown percentage, interception percentage, and quarterback rating when throwing to a tight end than the wide receiver or running back last season. Foles also ranked 42ndamong all quarterbacks (min. 10 attempts) in passer rating when targeting tight ends. Ertz finished top-three in targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns, and total fantasy points among tight ends last season. However, he ranked only 20thin fantasy points per target and 18thin yards per target among tight ends (per Player Profiler), which suggests that his massive target volume was a big benefactor towards his production. That large target volume combined with Ertz’s individual talent masked Foles’ below-average efficiency when targeting tight ends.
Now Foles is in Jacksonville, and his top tight end has yet to play an NFL snap. 2019 third-round pick Josh Oliver has a lot of potential to succeed in John DeFilippo’s tight end-friendly offense, but it is unreasonable to expect him to approach Ertz’s skill level or production in his first season. It should also be noted that rookie tight ends historically don’t have a large impact– in the past 15 years, only two rookie tight ends have surpassed 600 receiving yards, and only two have finished as a top-five fantasy tight end. Consequently, Foles may have even worse ratings when targeting tight ends this year. Foles’ supposed strength of throwing to tight ends could be revealed to simply be a result of having an All-Pro tight end to throw to ten times a game in Philadelphia. Overall, Foles is leaving a group of proven/productive receivers and joining a group of young/inconsistent receivers.
One last personnel issue to consider is the strength of Foles’ offensive lines. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles ranked 17thin pass protection last season and gave up 40 sacks. The Jaguars ranked 27thin pass protection and gave up 53 sacks. Jacksonville’s linemen couldn’t stay healthy as it seemed like backups of backups were starting late in the season. If rookie tackle Jawaan Taylor makes an impact and the starters stay healthy this season there shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but it is worth mentioning that Foles’ new offensive line is just one more variable that could hypothetically make 2019 harder on him and hinge his fantasy potential.
Foles Overall Outlook
Foles ranks 12thin career winning percentage (per Football Database) but 34thin career fantasy points per game among all active quarterbacks (minimum 10 starts). Foles can win games without having to put up lucrative passing numbers, which is exactly what the Jaguars are expecting of him. Based on his past fantasy performances and his new environment in Jacksonville, Foles doesn’t have much of a fantasy ceiling and should not be drafted in single quarterback leagues. He has value as a streaming option/cheap DFS play when he has favorable matchups against weak pass defenses, but for the most part, it’d be wise to look elsewhere when finding a fantasy quarterback.
Note: All fantasy numbers are in standard format (non-PPR). Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are via Pro Football Reference.
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