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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars 3 Round Mock Draft: Offense, Offense, Offense

Zach Goodall

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Sep 29, 2018; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Daniel Jones (17) throws the ball during the second half against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Wallace Wade Stadium. The Virginia Tech Hokies defeated the Duke Blue Devils 31-14. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

We are where no one expected (or could possibly have ever wanted) to be with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Riding a four game losing streak into the bye week, sitting at 3-5 at the midway point of the 2018 season. A season where the Jags were expected to repeat as potential Super Bowl contenders and win their not-so-strong AFC South division.

Instead, here we are, talkin’ ’bout the 2019 NFL Draft.

The Locked On Jaguars staff has begun studying prospects for the upcoming draft and will present plenty of portfolios, mock drafts, positional debates and more going forward through the draft next April, starting today with the first Jaguars-centric mock draft of the season.

The Jaguars have approached both drafts during the Tom Coughlin/Dave Caldwell/Doug Marrone era by selecting the “best available player” according to their draft boards rather than addressing immediate needs (see: Taven Bryan over a guard). That shouldn’t be the case this team as the Jaguars are in need for specific upgrades. Therefore, don’t be shocked by what appears to be a “reach” pick at this time. At the same time, boards are far from set with several college games left to play for every team and prospect bowls, the Combine, and team meetings still far removed from now.

As of now, the Jaguars are projected to hold the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, according to The Draft Network. Put this into perspective: The Jaguars had 9:1 odds to win the Super Bowl in Week 2…

That’s why we’re starting to focus in on the NFL Draft. Could the Jaguars turn things around this year? Sure, but that isn’t likely at this point. It would require some drastic changes, likely utilizing the NFL trade deadline, but there’s no proof the Jaguars plan on doing that.

So, let’s look ahead to how the Jaguars could improve the team in 2019, with the first Locked On Jaguars mock draft of the year.

Round 1 – Pick 9: Chris Lindstrom, OL, Boston College

The Jaguars have a glaring need at quarterback as the Blake Bortles contract extension appears to have backfired, but in a QB class that isn’t top-heavy, I’d be shocked if the top guy (or guys) are there at the ninth pick. My best guess is Oregon QB Justin Herbert goes at whatever pick the New York Giants hold, and if Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins even declares after his first season as a starter, he may just be gone before Jacksonville is on the clock, too.

In selecting Lindstrom, the Jaguars would gain a lineman who provides four years of college starting experience, mainly at right guard and also at right tackle. Considering A.J. Cann’s contract is set to expire in March, and that he has had an up-and-down career for Jacksonville that may not warrant a big extension that the free agent market may offer Cann, selecting his heir should be his priority.

Throughout Lindstrom’s career at Boston College, the Eagles have consistently run the ball well. Through eight games this year, BC ranks 24th of 129 eligible teams in the NCAA in rushing yards per game with 226.4, and have scored 18 rushing touchdowns. In 2017, BC ranked 25th at 220.4 yards per game. Lindstrom has been a key factor in that production as a dominant, powerful run blocker who can make key pull blocks and open up wide lanes with power. He controls the direction of defenders consistently and never stops moving his feet after contact. From my viewing, his UMass and Wake Forest tape was absolutely dominant in the run game. His pass protection is less polished than his ability in the run game, but his footwork and mirroring ability is strong and can certainly be developed as Lindstrom grows in the NFL.

Benjamin Solak of The Draft Network currently has Lindstrom as the 23rd best prospect in this draft, and his experience, size (6-4, 310), and excellence as a run blocker fits what this Jaguars team appears to want in their offensive linemen. He’d be a perfect fit in an offense that views power-running as their offensive identity (at least, when Leonard Fournette is healthy).

Round 2 – Pick 9: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

Here’s the QB you were waiting for.

Disclosure: The Jaguars gave everyone in the front office a three year extension this past offseason, and I’m not going to speculate on if they will be with the team come April or not, rather I’m working this mock with their vision in mind.

The Jaguars like to run power (hence the Lindstrom pick), and incorporate West Coast concepts into their passing game, which require quick, smart decisions and timing throws to short and intermediate levels of the field. Elite arm strength isn’t necessarily a must-have in this offense, and rather it’s important to have a quick release at the top of a drop-back, mobility for play action roll-outs, and accuracy on routes that generate yards after the catch. Arm strength is merely a plus in this offense.

Daniel Jones fits that mold. The 6-5, 220 lb redshirt junior is in his third season as a starter for the Blue Devils, and from a decision making standpoint alone he is a fit, with four interceptions through six games. His full stat line through six games: 118-of-183 (64.5%) for 1457 yards – 8 yards per attempt – for 13 touchdowns and those four picks. If he graduates on time as he appears to be on pace to do, he should be invited to the 2019 Senior Bowl, a game in which the Jaguars have drafted plenty of previous prospects from, most recently WR D.J. Chark and QB Tanner Lee.

Jones puts fantastic touch on passes to all three levels of the field, despite not possessing a ton of strength to put more velocity on the ball. He has a solid feel for pressure and doesn’t panic in the pocket, and while he isn’t a big-play threat with his feet, he maneuvers the pocket well. That’s not to say Jones can’t run, though, as he has 15 rushing touchdowns in his career. Just, he doesn’t break off much, averaging 3.1 yards per rushing attempt in three seasons.

His footwork is nice in general, but sometimes he opens his feet when he doesn’t step into his throw which can eliminate some power. He goes through progressions thoroughly and doesn’t tend to abandon a play to check down often, unless it’s necessary. Jones is the epitome of a “safe” QB, which is what the Jaguars offense calls for. And if my word isn’t good enough, watch his 2018 Northwestern tape and report back to me.

Teams will shy away from Jones early due to his lack of explosive arm power and mobility, which lowers his ceiling as a prospect, but he appears to be the “anti-Bortles” that fits the mold of a West Coast QB. If the Jaguars are searching for a QB in this draft, I’d expect Jones to be a guy they like and solid value in the early second round.

Round 3 – Pick 9: Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia

We saw Nauta come to life against Florida this past weekend at the end of the first half. Georgia wanted to take more than a three-point lead into halftime, and QB Jake Fromm went Nauta’s way to drive the field, targeting and connecting with the 6-4, 246 lb TE on four consecutive plays for 61 yards to get into field goal range and extend their lead to six.

A former five star TE and No. 1 tight end prospect in his class, Nauta – a true junior – has never been the focal point of his offenses. He has 56 career receptions in his three-year career, with only nine in eight games during his sophomore year. In his senior year at IMG Academy, he only had 13 receptions, and was still rated the No. 1 tight end prospect in America. Nauta is the nephew of former Jaguars DE Joel Smeenge and grew up playing football in the Jacksonville Developmental League and at Landrum Middle School in Ponte Vedra, before heading to IMG.

Nauta’s lack of usage in a heavy tight end class will likely drop him down draft boards, much like Ian Thomas of Indiana last year. Thomas, who went in the fourth round, had 28 receptions in two years at Indiana and yet was widely regarded as one of the best-kept secrets at his position during the 2018 draft, despite an impressive Combine. With the lack of usage comes lack of film to study for traits, and while Nauta certainly seems to have solid traits, there may not be enough evidence for teams to confidently draft him high.

Nauta can be a dynamic pass catcher and offers physicality as a blocker when playing in-line and should perform well at the Combine if he declares, but with TEs such as Noah Fant, Dawson Knox, Kaden Smith, Irv Smith Jr. and others gaining hype as well and the fact that only five TEs have gone in the first round since 2014, Nauta could be a steal of a pick on Day 2, should he declare.

 

Zach Goodall covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for the Locked On Jaguars podcast and website. Follow him on Twitter @zach_goodall.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars vs. Texans: Five observations, red zone issues remain

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) throws under pressure from the Houston Texans defensive line men during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn--USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) will be left with a lot to work on during their bye week. There was plenty to gather from the team’s 26-3 loss against the Houston Texans (6-3) in London.

1. Jaguars red-zone woes are still prevalent and have no fix in sight

In the red zone this season, the Jaguars have completed 34.5% (10/29) of their opportunities for touchdowns.  This ranks only better than the Cincinnati Bengals (33.33%) in the entire NFL.

While quarterback play is an issue in this area, the Jaguars have not made the most of their play-call opportunities either. The Jaguars entered the Houston Texans’ red zone only twice in 11 drives on Sunday.

During the two drives in the red zone, the Jaguars completed 0 passes and ran the ball one other time with Leonard Fournette for three yards. Simply not good enough.

Jaguars’ offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has spoken about the team’s ineffectiveness on red zone opportunities. “We moved the football well, but we need to do a better job in the red zone,” DeFilippo said on Thursday following the team’s week seven victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. “I need to do a better job of helping our guys get open. We need to do a better job executing and being more detailed and throwing the ball on time and all of those things. Again, all of that starts with me, and I will do a better job with that.”

Two weeks later and the team’s struggles have continued.

2. Gardner Minshew might take a backseat

Already discussed, the Jaguars might be in for a quarterback change coming out of their week 10 bye week. Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew struggled mightily in Sunday’s game, and head coach Doug Marrone will have a tough decision to make.

Although Minshew was playing with a sore right shoulder, he was able to practice in full all week leading up to their matchup at Wimbley. Regardless, the Jaguars will have to make a decision, and everything points to Nick Foles being the team’s starting quarterback against the Indianapolis Colts in week 11.

Now completely Minshew’s fault, his struggles in the red zone have been evident for the past several weeks. Foles — during the 2017 and 2018 seasons when he started for the Philidelphia Eagles — was efficient in the red zone, which could point to his maturity as a passer more than anything.

The Jaguars will want to see what they can get out of their veteran quarterback, and there is a reason to believe the Jaguars’ head coach is leaning in this direction. If Foles is not named the starting quarterback next Sunday, it is very likely the veteran will never start for this Jaguars team, at least not under the current staff.

3. Jaguars’ run-defense regressed

Without starting nickel corner D.J. Hayden and SAM linebacker Leon Jacobs, the Jaguars were forced to remain in their nickel package for much of the day. Rookie cornerback Breon Borders replaced Hayden in the starting lineup and while he was not the reason why the run defense suffered, not having a competent linebacker on the strong side of the ball impacted the team greatly.

Texans’ running back Carlos Hyde gashed the Jaguars’ defense 19 times for 160 yards during Sunday’s matchup. Part of the reason why the Jaguars were unable to stop the Texans’ running game late was the sheer amount of plays the Texans ran to begin the game.

In the first quarter, the Texans ran 20 total plays while the Jaguars offense was only able to produce nine total plays.

4. Jaguars cannot rely on penalties, but two changed the course of the game

While the Jaguars should not, and cannot rely on penalties, the team had two costly controversial calls in the third quarter of Sunday’s matchup.

With an opportunity to score, Minshew threw a beautiful back-shoulder pass to Jaguars’ receiver DJ Chark Jr. who was able to haul in the pass but was called for offensive pass interference. A few plays later the Jaguars would botch a field goal attempt and give the Texans the football at the 50-yard line.

Following the change of possession, Jaguars’ defensive end Calais Campbell was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Specifically, Campbell was called for lowering his head to initiate contact with a defenseless rusher. The Texans would net only a field goal on this drive, but it was a potential 10-point swing as Chark’s interference call was questionable, and Campbell did not even touch Watson on the play.

5. Keelan Cole shines in Dede Westbrook’s absence

Although the Jaguars clearly missed their 1B receiver in Dede Westbrook, rarely-utilized receiver Keelan Cole was able to step up to the plate and put on his best performance of the season, and possibly since 2017.

While it was not sensational, Cole hauled in five out of six of his targets for 80 yards on the day. The Jaguars could not get anything going down the field, however, Cole was able to get open on routine crossing routes.

In the coming weeks, look for Cole to have a bigger role in the Jaguars offense, especially with veteran receiver Chris Conley playing so up-and-down (2 receptions on 7 targets for 32 yards).

DeFilippo recently spoke about Cole and understands the third-year receiver may be frustrated with his snap count.

“I am proud of the way he stayed in it and even though he has not gotten the playing time,” DeFilippo said after the Jaguars victory over Bengals. “Everyone wants to play every snap. I’m sure he wants [more playing time]. He has done a great job staying in it.”

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Jaguars to make tough decision next week, Minshew Mania over for now

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew (15) throws a pass in the first half against the Houston Texans during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) were embarrassed early Sunday morning via a 26-3 loss to the rival Houston Texans (6-3). Minshew-Mania may be over for now, but it won’t be the last time the rookie sensation starts for the team.

To put it simply, rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew did not play well at all yesterday. Completing 27/47 (57%) of his passes for 309 yards, two interceptions, and two fumbles lost, Minshew looked lost during the second half of the game on Sunday.

Minshew has been everything the team could have hoped for — and much more — out of a sixth-round quarterback, but between what transpired yesterday, and a few of his past performances — against winning teams –, the Jaguars will likely see what they can get out of veteran quarterback Nick Foles.

For three quarters, Minshew looked okay. While there was plenty that went wrong, the rookie was able to make key throws, during key situations. One play, in particular, stands out. With a little over five minutes left in the second quarter, the Jaguars could not seem to get anything going before Minshew scrambles around and eventually finds a wide-open Ryquell Armstead in the middle of the field. Armstead would take the ball 31 yards and set the team up for their only points of the game.

Minshew’s ability to improvise has been his bread and butter this season, and although he was not able to work his magic often against the Texans, these were the types of plays that gave pause in the Minshew/Foles debate.

During the fourth quarter, the Jaguars and Minshew were forced to take more shots downfield in a sort of desperation move while trailing 19-3. Although playcalling can certainly be questioned, the decision making of the Jaguars’ rookie quarterback was equally perplexing. Throwing two interceptions and losing two fumbles, Minshew had no chance at making a little magic to lead the team to another come-from-behind victory.

Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone will be forced to make a decision on his quarterback, but not right now. After the game, Marrone indicated he will wait until the Sunday before the team returns from their week 10 bye week to talk to both quarterbacks.

“I think after those 48 hours are over, I’m going to step away a little bit, take a break because I don’t have to make a decision and have time,” Marrone said shortly after the game when asked about making the quarterback decision. “That’s what I’m going to talk to the quarterbacks about, and then I’ll tell them probably right before we come back on Sunday, we’ll be able to discuss where we’re going to go. That’s pretty much my plan.”

While Minshew did not have a great game yesterday, the decision will be made on more than just one game, Marrone said.

The Jaguars’ head coach is stuck with an incredibly tough decision. At 4-5, the team needs a spark. The Jaguars need to win down the stretch and having to rely on a rookie — still going through ups and downs — is exhausting. While Foles may not be “the answer”, he is the only other option at this moment, and the Jaguars absolutely believe in the veteran.

Although this may be the end of Minshew starting in Jacksonville this season, his achievements — 188/307 (61%) completions for 2,285 yards, 13 touchdowns, and four interceptions — should not go unnoticed. The team absolutely still believes in the rookie quarterback, and he has a golden opportunity — if not this season — next year to prove everyone wrong.

One of the best, most fun performances out of a Jaguars’ quarterback over the first half of the season ever, is nothing to get upset about. Minshew provided spectators with Minshew-Mania, Minshew-Magic, and any other Minshew-ism one can think of.

For now, it is very likely Foles will make his Jaguars’ debut once again after breaking his left clavicle during the opening game of the season. In 11 plays this season Foles completed five out of eight of his passes for 75 yards and a touchdown.

It may be over for now, but this is just the beginning, and having the problem of deciding between a former Superbowl MVP and a rookie sensation at quarterback is a good thing. Depending on how Foles plays — if he is to be named the starter next Sunday –, Minshew could get yet another opportunity as the Jaguars progress from their 4-5 record.

Bonus clip:

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Jaguars fail to seize opportunity in London, falling 26-3 to Houston Texans

Demetrius Harvey

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Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) rushes for a first down during the first half of the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn--USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-5) fell to Houston Texans (6-3) in a disappointing pre-bye week game in London, England. The Jaguars absolutely did not have home-field advantage on the day. 

The Jaguars took to their annual London voyage with a lot of optimism, however, all of that optimism was quickly quieted by the Houston Texans (6-3) as they were able to bottle up Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars, holding the team to just three points on the day.  The Texans would win 26-3 and kill any chances the Jaguars may have had at earning the division title in a few weeks.

To begin the game, the Jaguars opted to start out on defense with the Texans struggling early on in games this season. Holding the Texans to just three points to start the game, the Jaguars defense showed up big, especially as Jaguars’ cornerback A.J. Bouye shadowed Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins who finished with just eight receptions for 48 yards. The Jaguars seemed to find a groove early on during the first half of the game, but their inability to score in the red zone reared it’s head yet again.

In what is likely his last game starting for the Jaguars this season — at least for now — Jaguars’ rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew completed just 27 out of 47 of his passes for 309 yards and two interceptions. Minshew also fumbled the football two times near the end of the game, which would ultimately end it at Wembley stadium.

While the Jaguars defense played well early on, they stood no chance against Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson who completed 22 out of 28 of his passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Extremely elusive, Watson was able to escape from the Jaguars pass rushers all day long. The Texans effectively ended any chance of the Jaguars coming back after Watson completed a long throw to Hopkins for 21 yards to the Jaguars’ one-yard line. The Texans would score on a one-yard run by Duke Johnson putting the team up 19-3 late in the third quarter.

All four of Minshew’s turnovers would come in the fourth quarter as the Jaguars attempted to climb back in the game. Missing their second-most targetted wide receiver in Dede Westbrook, the Jaguars and Minshew couldn’t seem to get anything going in the passing game.

The Jaguars’ run game was equally disappointing today as running back Leonard Fournette could only edge out 40 yards on 11 rushes.

Perhaps the best play of the game by the Jaguars’ defense, near the end of the game Texans’ running back Carlos Hyde sprinted free and was looking to go into the endzone when Jaguars’ safety Jarrod Wilson showed incredible hustle to force a fumble at the last second, turning the ball over to the Jaguars’ offense.

The good fortune wouldn’t last long, however, as Minshew would go on to throw his final interception of the game to completely seal the game for the Texans offense.

The Jaguars’ offense simply did not get anything going today, similar to their game against the New Orleans Saints in week six earlier this year. Minshew was sacked only four times on the day as the Texans did not want him to escape the pocket.

The team will have a very tough decision to make during their week 10 bye week. Ultimately, the team will need to decide between veteran quarterback Nick Foles or the rookie quarterback in Minshew.

Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone will be making the decision, and after falling 26-3 today largely due to the play of the team’s quarterback, it may be a no-brainer.

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