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Jaguars 2019 position group breakdown: Running Backs

Brandon Carroll

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Dec 23, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) runs down the field during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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. 

Brandon Carroll is an 18-year-old college student aspiring to be a sports journalist. Has written articles over the past few years for fun and had two published within In The Game magazine. Locked On Jags is his first real opportunity to showcase his writing and love for football.

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53 Man Roster

Jaguars 2019 position group breakdown: Defensive Backs

Brandon Carroll

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Oct 7, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) reacts with the crowd in the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

As we continue the breakdown of the Jacksonville Jaguars roster, we move onto the defensive side to take a look at their secondary. The defensive back position is a strong one, to say the least for the Jaguars. With arguably the best cornerback tandem in the entire NFL. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye look to hold down the outside once again for the Jaguars in 2019. 

While there are 16 defensive backs on the Jaguars roster, only about half have a shot of making the final cut. At safety, Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson will get their first shots at entering the year as starters. The Jaguars let go of Barry Church near the end of last season and Tashaun Gipson soon after the season ended. 

Replacing two players that were getting old with fresher, younger talent was a good move for the organization as Ronnie Harrison showed the coaching staff his playmaking ability late last season when he took over for Barry Church. 

Projected Secondary depth chart: 

*Italicized indicates starters

CB1: Jalen Ramsey, Quenton Meeks

CB2: A.J. Bouye, Tre Herndon 

Nickel: D.J. Hayden 

SS: Ronnie Harrison, C.J. Reavis 

FS: Jarrod Wilson, Cody Davis 

Jalen Ramsey

Jalen Ramsey, entering his 4th year out of Florida State, is looking to solidify his claim that he is, in fact, the best corner in the league. Standing at 6’1 and weighing nearly 200 pounds, Ramsey is a larger corner that uses his frame to his advantage. His physicality allows him to get a jam off the line and throw off the route timing the quarterback is accustomed to, taking his man out of the play. His length allows him to bat away balls and jump in front for takeaways with ease. 

Last season, Ramsey recorded 65 tackles, 3 interceptions and only allowed over 100 yards to receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown. Both receivers are touted as two of the best in the NFL.

While he took a step back from his breakout sophomore campaign in 2017, Ramsey remained atop the league in all categories as a corner. According to Playerprofiler.com, he was ninth in pass breakups with 12, 12th in passer rating allowed when he’s in coverage at 78.5 and only allowed one player to catch 10 or more balls — Hopkins. Ramsey looks to build and improve off of last year’s disappointing season as he enters his fourth year in the NFL.

Ramsey has learned a lot in his 3 years in the NFL and looks to build upon his back to back pro bowl seasons to become even more dominant in his fourth season. Whether he likes it or not Ramsey is a leader on this Jaguars team. He will look to lead by example on the field with his play. 

A.J. Bouye

On the opposite side of Ramsey, the Jaguars have a returning starter, A.J. Bouye. A player that came over from Houston after his breakout campaign in 2016 turned into a major factor for the Jaguars’ success in 2017. Similar to Ramsey, Bouye’s play also regressed in 2018 but he remained one of the best corners in the league. 

Bouye accounted for 46 tackles, 1 interception, and 8 pass breakups. Along with the Jaguars defense as a whole, his biggest step back was the ability to force turnovers from the opponent. In 2017, Bouye had six interceptions compared to just one in 2018. Not being able to track down the ball the same way he did a year prior made him a liability the opposing quarterback would attack. While Bouye is no slouch, he is without a doubt the weaker link for the outside in the Jaguars secondary. Last season, his passer-rating-allowed increased exponentially from 37.5 the year before 105.1 (via playerprofiler.com). His efficiency sharply decreased and he also missed 2 games last season. 

Bouye looks to bounce back from what many would call a down year from the talented corner out of the University of Central Florida. His focus will be to get back to his All-Pro form in 2019, as well as, push the new players in the Jaguars secondary to be the best player they can be to reach a common goal. 

Ronnie Harrison

Harrison is a second-year player out of Alabama who the Jaguars took in the third round of the 2018 draft. Standing at 6’2, Harrison is a tall, long safety that can cover lots of yardages and make big hits on receivers towards his part of the field. He has had some success in pass rush which may lead the Jaguars to experiment on downs where they want to get after the quarterback. But, if recent years have told us anything, Todd Wash will continue to rush the four down in any situation where you could bring pressure. 

A part of Harrison that can be a concern for the Jaguars is that he’s prone to allow the big play. Harrison is a very aggressive safety which causes him to bite on double moves or overrun routes he should be able to cover. His progression will be interesting to keep an eye on as he has a high football IQ when it comes to locating the football in the air. Harrison has the potential to make big plays in key situations as he showed briefly last season.

Jarrod Wilson

Wilson was signed by the Jaguars in 2016 as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan. Working his way up within the Jaguars hierarchy, Wilson is poised to be the starting free safety after three years as a backup. 

While he hasn’t shown much on the field due to his lack of playing time over the last three seasons. Wilson has shown his hard work and dedication off the field to secure the opportunity to start this year. 

Paired with Ronnie Harrison deep in the secondary, the two young safeties look to pick up where Church and Gipson left off in 2017. Expect to see two players that fly around the field and contain deep routes for the Jaguars in 2019. 

D.J. Hayden

Hayden arrived from Detroit, after four years in Oakland, to Jacksonville in 2018 after the departure of Aaron Colvin to Houston. Hayden dealt with injuries the majority of his first year with the Jaguars and looks to get back on track this season. 

In the games he did play, Hayden combined for 43 tackles, one sack, and an interception. A low sample for a guy who played in just 10 games. Although only a small sample size, Hayden showed up in the games he did play in 2018. He will look to build off of those games and remain healthy in 2019.

The potential for Hayden to be a solid player in this defense is there, now it’s just the transition of being able to stay healthy and on the field that will tip the scale. 

Depth

While many players are battling for the spots behind these five men, a majority of them will not make the 53-man roster when the time rolls around. Players like Breon Borders, Savion Smith, Picasso Nelson Jr., Brandon Watson, and Tae Hayes will most likely have to earn their roster spot on special teams if they want to make it at all. 

The ones set to be backups at the corner position are Quenton Meeks and Tre Herndon. Both very talented players that can step in case of injury. Herndon earned his spot last year after an outstanding preseason and a heavy workload on special teams. His hard-hitting ability on returners turned enough eyes for the Jaguars to give him the go once again this season on the team. 

Quenton Meeks is a second-year player out of Stanford who continues to develop under the unspoken leadership of Ramsey. While not being a great leader in terms of vocal presence, the talent Ramsey possesses and skill on the field is leadership in itself. Learning from him will only help Meeks continue to grow as a backup for many years to come. 

At safety, long time backup Cody Davis looks to seal another spot behind Jarrod Wilson while C.J. Reavis looks to fill in behind Ronnie Harrison. Two backup safeties who have played big roles in special teams and therefore will make the roster over guys like Andrew Wingard, and Joshua Moon. 

There’s a time where coaches look less at how you can help the team as a third-string at your position and they start to look at how you can help the team get better on special teams. In this case, any player in the secondary that is not named as a starter will look to solidify their spot through special teams play. 

Be on the lookout for some names mentioned behind these players on special teams. The more you hear their name when Logan Cooke sends a bomb into the air in the third quarter of a preseason game, the more likely they are to stay when the regular season rolls around. 

All players listed on the depth chart prediction will impact the Jaguars in one way or another. Whether that be in the secondary or on special teams, all bring a unique skill set into 2019. 

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53 Man Roster

Jaguars 2019 Position Group Breakdown: Quarterback

Brandon Carroll

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Dec 9, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) throws prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

After deciding to part ways with quarterback Blake Bortles at the end of last season, the Jaguars have revamped their quarterback room in terms of talent and new faces. After struggling at the position the last few years, Jacksonville determined it was time to pursue an established veteran quarterback via free agency as well as clear the room for some fresh new talent. 

Enter Nick Foles, Gardner Minshew, and Alex McGough. Two of which trying to solidify their spot on an NFL roster. The other being a former Super Bowl-winning quarterback from Philadelphia and a sure-fire starter this season, Nick Foles. Foles signed with the Jaguars this summer for 88 million dollars over four years with 50 million dollars guaranteed. A hefty price for a guy who has never played a full season in the NFL over his eight-year career. 

Taking a bit of a gamble by paying Foles nearly 22 million dollars per year, Jacksonville will rely heavily upon the quarterback to obtain success and accomplish the goals they set out for this season. 

The Jaguars weren’t taking any chances in assuring they get a well-developed quarterback that can take into the future. By signing Foles, the Jaguars nearly relinquished any opportunity at signing another large free-agent talent in the next few years. Causing them to be dependent on the play of their new quarterback. 

Projected Quarterback Depth Chart: 

*italicized indicates starter, underline indicates picked up via draft/free agency

Nick Foles, Gardener Minshew, Alex McGough

Nick Foles

Nick Foles is without a doubt the starting quarterback on this team. After being a prolific acquisition earlier in the offseason, Foles walks into an organization where there’s a lot of hope for the future. After years of miserable performances and lackluster quarterback play, Jaguars fans are excited to see what the new guy in town has for their franchise. 

While he has shown that he can get the job done on the biggest stage in football, he has not shown he can lead a team through the entire season. While having played well in his first year as a starter in 2013, Foles battled with injuries but excelled in the thirteen games he played in. Throwing for nearly 3,000 yards, 27 touchdowns, and only two interceptions. In the years following,  his play regressed as he played just 19 out of 32 games. He saw two consecutive seasons of 10 interceptions and a decrease in completion percentage. 

Recently, Foles has taken on the backup role at quarterback and has played well when his numbers been called. Leading Philadelphia to their first-ever Lombardi trophy, Foles threw for over 350 yards and three touchdowns. Including one to Zach Ertz to win the ball game. His knack for playing well in big-time situations was on display once again last season. Foles took the Eagles past the first round of the playoffs after Carson Wentz went down for the second year in a row. Foles is at the top of his game when he is counted out. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and he looks to continue that play in Jacksonville. 

Staying healthy will be a huge point going into training camp in late July. Foles tends to sit in the pocket and hold on to the ball warranting bone-crushing hits by some of the leagues best pass rushers. Foles will look to get the ball out of his hands early and often and continue to advance the ball downfield. Working to elevate his game in the sense of limiting the number of shots he takes will be a focal point going into the season for the veteran quarterback.  

Being able to transition back into a full-time starter will be huge to see what more he can accomplish in his career. At 30 years of age, Foles is in his prime, but how long he will be in his prime the question. Being able to take a Jaguars team with an outstanding defensive roster over the hump and deep into the playoffs will be his challenge in 2019.

Gardener Minshew

Gardner Minshew has shown his studious nature from his first days in Jacksonville which created a positive outlook on him within the organization. 

He was described as a passionate, fiery leader according to the Jaguars scouting report on him. Being exactly the guy you would like on your team. 

Offensive Coordinator, John Defilippo said that “He’s a very football-smart guy.” Which is important for any quarterback in learning the playbook and the intricacies within the offensive system. 

Minshew was drafted in the 6th round of this year’s draft out of Washington State. The Air Raid offense showcased Minshew’s strengths and even inserted his name into Heisman contention for much of the season. After transferring to WSU, Minshew threw for nearly 4,800 yards, 38 touchdowns, and nine interceptions in his one season under Mike Leach in Wazzu. Minshew showed great poise in the pocket and his accuracy completing 70% of his throws in 2018, while also leading the nation in passing yards, throwing for 397.6 yards per game. 

While having the lackluster arm strength and physical attributes compared to some of today’s NFL quarterbacks, Minshew has shown confidence and charisma on and off the field that makes him an intriguing prospect to take over the QB2 role for Jacksonville this season 

Minshew’s growth while in Pullman made him an intriguing prospect going into the draft. With the right coaching and development, he could succeed Foles when his time runs up in Jacksonville. The man with the mustache is ready for any challenge that comes his way. 

Alex McGough

Alex McGough, a second-year player out of Florida International looks to seal a spot on the team after an impressive showing thus far in training camp. While in college, McGough threw for nearly 9,100 yards and 65 touchdowns leading the Panthers all-time in touchdown passes and 2nd all-time in passing yards. 

Drafted in the 7th round by the Seattle Seahawks with the 220th pick, McGouch was an addition to the Jaguars unit for the sole purpose of providing a depth to the position. McGough has never played a down in the NFL but shows tremendous ability to be a career backup in the NFL. 

Standing at 6’3, 218 pounds, McGough is patient in the pocket and an efficient in his progression. An issue is that he does not have the arm get the ball downfield which limits his potential in the NFL. Developing arm strength is something very hard to acquire and could be the downfall for McGough. Causing him to lose out on the backup position to Gardner Minshew. 

With very little experience in his second year,  he will continue to develop and learn behind Foles as his career progresses. 

The battle for the second-string quarterback is seemingly very close between Minshew and McGough. Whoever can impress the coaches enough during training camp and the preseason will seal that second depth chart spot for September 8th and for the season.

Having them play in real game situations, Jaguars fans will see Minshew separate himself from McGough making him the primary backup in 2019.

The Jaguars have created a whole new look when it comes to quarterbacks. No previous quarterback remains and that means for a breath of fresh air. A clean slate may be exactly what Jacksonville needs to develop a homegrown long-lasting quarterback in the future. 

By gaining three quality quarterbacks and human beings all at the same time, this position room could turn out to be a special one in due time for the Jaguars.

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