December 6, 2021

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Fit And Go Forward

Assessing the Jags’ top-7 positional needs for the 2021 offseason

The Jacksonville Jaguars are currently in the process of completing their regime change under new head coach Urban Meyer. Once that happens, it will be all about making improvements to the roster this offseason.

With a very important offseason coming up, we’ve decided to preview the Jags’ biggest needs based off their 2020 performance and the expiring contracts they will need to address. Here is how we view the team’s top-7 needs, starting from the least significant to the most significant:

7. Wide receiver

Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Jags’ receiving corps didn’t have the season fans were hoping for, and the frequent changes at quarterback are partly to blame. Even in the early stages of the season, though, their top guy, D.J. Chark Jr., struggled to build a connection with quarterback Gardner Minshew II. Chark ended up registering the Jags’ highest receiving total with 706 yards. That has led many to wonder if a No. 1 receiver is needed to pair with Chark, though his numbers could spike with a solid quarterback. If not that, the Jags could afford some more skill guys with speed, especially if they don’t retain Keelan Cole. In a nutshell, if the Jags target a star receiver like Kenny Golladay that would be awesome, but would feel more like a luxury if they can get Chark back on track. Then again, you can never have enough star power on offense.

6. Safety

Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Jags’ secondary, in general, needs help as the days of Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Tashaun Gipson, and Ronnie Harrison are in the past. With all of the aforementioned names parting ways with the Jags over the past few years, the Jags had a significant drop-off in play in their secondary. Injuries within the group only made it worse, and as a result, they were ranked 30th in the league per Pro Football Focus. At safety, it appears the Jags could use at least one starter alongside Jarrod Wilson — and the argument could be made that he could be replaced, too. The player they predominantly used alongside Wilson, Josh Jones, started the season off hot, but as the season went on, it was clear he doesn’t offer a lot in coverage. Luckily, the 2021 free agency class could be strong at the safety position with options like Justin Simmons, Anthony Harris, Marcus Williams (pictured above), John Johnson III, and Marcus Maye set to potentially be available. While the draft is an option, too, taking advantage of the aforementioned group of free agents might be very enticing for the Jags with the amount of cap space they will have.

5. Defensive line

New York Giants defensive end Leonard Williams (99) puts pressure on Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton (14) in the second half. The Giants defeat the Cowboys, 23-19, at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, January 3, 2021, in East Rutherford.
Nyg Vs Dal

The specific alignment in which the Jags will use under new defensive coordinator Joe Cullen is unknown, but what is known is the fact that the Jags need help in the interior of their defensive line. They had players flash like rookies DaVon Hamilton and Doug Costin, but it feels like one more bonafide interior threat is needed. The Jags’ defense finished the season 31st overall and 30th against the rush, so bolstering the interior should be a priority of the Jags. They could take a swing at someone like Leonard Williams (pictured) if he hits the open market, but that might not happen. If not Williams, the draft could be the way to go with options like Christian Barmore being slotted to the Jags in mocks.

4. Tight end

Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

This is a position that was frequently an issue under Dave Caldwell and is still a question mark with him gone. In Caldwell’s defense, he tried the draft (Josh Oliver) and free agency (Julius Thomas, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Tyler Eifert) but nothing seemed to work. Additionally, when looking at the Jags’ current group of tight ends, Eifert (contract option), James O’Shaughnessy, and Eric Saubert could all be free agents this offseason. That would leave names like Josh Oliver (zero starts and four games played), Tyler Davis (zero career starts and eight games played), and Ben Ellefson (four starts) as the Jags’ top options. Clearly, that’s an indication that additions are needed within the group. This might be a spot where new general manager Trent Baalke can help the Jags after he was a part of a San Francisco 49ers team that drafted both Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, as Locked On analyst Tony Wiggins pointed out this week. https://twitter.com/shoptalkingwigg/status/1352633383759851524?s=21 Like the safety class, there could be some options available in free agency at the tight end position. Notables like Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith (pictured), and Gerald Everett could hit the open market. There also could be Day 2 draft prospects who could help the Jags like Iowa’s Charlie Kolar, Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth, and Miami’s Brevin Jordan.

3. Cornerback

Mandatory Credit: Dan Powers/Appleton Post-Crescent via USA TODAY NETWORK

Continuing on the secondary, the Jags’ cornerbacks group needs a big-time addition this offseason. As previously mentioned, the Jags lost arguably the best cornerback duo in football after trading Ramsey last October and Bouye in March. That resulted in them having to draft C.J. Henderson eighth overall last April and pair him with Tre Herndon. Henderson had moments where he flashed, and then there were times where he also looked like a rookie in 2020. Ultimately, he ended up going on injured reserve in November but will undoubtedly return into the starting lineup in 2021. Herndon, on the other hand, struggled in coverage and was one of the team’s leaders in penalties with seven. As a favorite in the eyes of the last regime, the next regime should use this offseason as an opportunity to find an upgrade over Herndon and make him more of a third to fifth option at the position. The Jags also saw Sidney Jones IV on the field a lot after being signed from the Philadelphia Eagles. He had a solid season and was clearly the Jags’ best cornerback at times but had issues staying healthy and missed several games on the back half of the schedule. Similar to the safety position, free agency could provide the Jags with a variety of veteran options who could help them at cornerback. Players like William Jackson III, Xavier Rhodes, and Troy Hill could be available. In the draft, there are plenty Day 1-2 options like Jaycee Horn, Asante Samuel Jr., Tyson Campbell, Eric Stokes, and Greg Newsome II, to name a few.

2. Left tackle

(Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

With the likely addition of Trevor Lawrence, the Jags need to figure out things on his blindside as Cam Robinson is set to be a free agent. Robinson has been the Jags’ starter since he was drafted in 2017 but has been inconsistent in pass protection. That said, the Jags could be in an interesting predicament depending on how much Robinson is asking for in negotiations. The free agent market is pretty thin at left tackle outside of Trent Williams and Alejandro Villanueva, and even with their additions, the Jags would be getting significantly older players. To me, this might warrant using the franchise tag on Robinson for 2021 to see if they can get more consistency out of him. This would also help the Jags avoid putting a rookie on the blindside for their quarterback of the future. With Robinson on the franchise tag, the Jags could maybe draft a left tackle around Day 3 this April, giving them a Plan B if Robinson doesn’t improve or shows regression. It would be similar to what the Jags are trying to do with Ben Bartch (drafted last year), who feels like the eventual successor for A.J. Cann.

1. Quarterback

Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With the Jags not having a QB1, why wouldn’t the most important position be first, right? Gardner Minshew II was given a shot to continue his success from 2020, however, it didn’t go as planned. A hand injury caused him to miss several games, and when he was on the field, he didn’t improve in playing from the pocket, which was something that needed to get better. With Minshew’s injury sidelining him, the Jags gave Jake Luton and Mike Glennon a shot, and both came up short in his absence. Luton at least proved to be a developmental option worth keeping, but nobody will mistake him for a QB1 either. Luckily, with the frequent changes at QB, the Jags found themselves with the No. 1 overall pick. That gives them a clear path to address their most important need with a generational talent in Lawrence. With the No. 1 overall pick, the Jags have no reason to look to free agency for a starting quarterback. Besides, that’s not the place to find a QB1 anyway. However, if Minshew is traded and there is a need for a veteran QB2, options like Andy Dalton, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Nate Sudfeld are worth looking at if available.

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