NFL Worst to First in 2021: Jacksonville Jaguars
Updated: Apr 29
The Jacksonville Jaguars are the latest team we focus on in our look at the 2020 NFL divisional bottom-dwellers as we judge their chances of taking the leap from worst to first in 2021.
By James Pike
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The 2020 NFL season is officially in the history books, and it will go down as one we will never forget. The global Coronavirus pandemic affected everyone and everything, including the National Football League.
Despite a couple of games being moved the league as a whole did a fantastic job of making sure that we got a full season, as well as the playoffs and the Super Bowl. I for one cannot thank the league enough for the magnificent effort they put on in 2020 to make sure that fans across the globe got their football fix.
That’s why I think that it was only fitting that in a year with so much uncertainty and unpredictability that the eventual Super Bowl champions in 2020 were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tom Brady added a seventh ring to his collection and brought the Vince Lombardi trophy back to Tampa for the first time in almost 20 years. Brady winning a Super Bowl is the kind of normality the world doesn’t necessarily want, but at this moment needs. This gives every football fan a common enemy to root against. No one wants Brady to continue his dominance into his late 40s, right?
It’s all smiles in Tampa Florida, but there is another team based in the sunshine state that must have distinct frowns on their faces watching the Bucs win it all. And no; it’s not the Miami Dolphins.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Can They Go From Worst To First in Their Division?
Projected Cap Space: $77 Million.
Notable Draft Picks: 1st Overall Pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, 25th Overall Pick, 33rd Overall Pick, 45th Overall Pick.
Chance of winning AFC South next season? Low-Medium.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum to Tampa. They finished the 2020 NFL season with the worst record in all of football, even beating out the New York Jets who didn’t win their first game until Week 15 this year.
After their week 1 upset victory against the Indianapolis Colts the Jags didn’t win another game this past season. It became abundantly clear that this was a bad football team. Furthermore, whereas other teams who ended the year as wooden spoon recipients in their respective divisions did have some bright spots it seemed as though Jacksonville had nothing going for them.
Minshew Mania it turns out isn’t running wild in Jacksonville anymore. Despite playing solid throughout the season the moustachioed maestro didn’t help his team win football games and didn’t see the field after their defeat to the Los Angeles Chargers. Standout wide receiver D.J. Chark regressed in his third season, but we can give him a pass due to the uncertainty of the quarterback position all season.
Their defense was horrendous, their offensive line was abysmal and outside of undrafted rookie sensation James Robinson there really wasn’t anything to shout home about for the Jags in 2020.
This is a team that is well and truly deserving of the title as the worst team in football. What makes things worse was it wasn’t even particularly close either. Even the Jets, who were a pretty bad football team last season had more bright spots than the Jaguars did in 2020.
They saw two of their young players from their previous two draft classes make an impact for the team as well as putting themselves in a position to win games down the stretch when most teams are playing their best football gearing up for the playoffs.
While the Jets were able to put up a considerable fight down the home stretch, Jacksonville went away with a whimper. They lost each of their last four games of the season by two or more scores, and nothing about the way they finished the year should suggest that they are even close to being better next season.
So why then have I rated their chances of winning the AFC South next season as low to medium? Well, when you take a look at the rest of the division, you can clearly see a path to success for Jacksonville moving forward.
I don’t think I have to tell anyone about the torrid start to the off-season that the Houston Texans have had so far. Not only have they released arguably the best player to ever play for the Franchise in J.J. Watt, but their star quarterback Deshaun Watson may soon be following him out the door as he has made his intentions clear that he doesn’t want to play for the Texans next year. All this coming from a team that won just four games themselves in 2020 without the future draft capital that the Jags have; all signs point to the Texans being a bad football team for years to come.
We all know the Texans are in serious trouble, but what about the rest of the division you might ask? Two teams in the AFC South made the postseason and are just a couple of pieces away from true contention. Do I honestly see the Jaguars overcoming both the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts in just one offseason? It might not be as far-fetched as you might expect.
Titans in Descent, Despite Derrick?
First of all, let’s take a look at the Tennessee Titans. Last season only four teams had a worse overall defense than the Titans, and of those four teams, three of them finished last in their division in the Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons and the aforementioned Jaguars.
The other team was the Texans. So, Tennessee seriously struggled to stop other teams from doing whatever they want on the offensive side of the football. Tennessee is also a team who are pretty much at the limit of their salary cap so improving this defense without a drastic overhaul is going to be very difficult.
The Titans however in true yin and yang fashion are one of the best offensive teams in all of football, and that starts with one man. Derrick Henry. Henry was once again almost unstoppable throughout the 2020 campaign rushing for over 2,000 yards on the ground and further cementing himself as the league’s best runner. The Yeti’s domination on the ground allows the Titans play action passing attack to thrive.
Ryan Tannehill has morphed into one of the league’s best quarterbacks over the past two seasons, and with the likes of A.J. Brown, Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith to throw the ball to their offense is a well-oiled machine. Capable of putting a lot of points on the board and keeping them in most games.
However, during the playoffs we saw what can happen when Derrick Henry is stopped. During the Wildcard game against the Baltimore Ravens, Henry basically ground to a halt. His poor performance in turn meant that the Titans simply had no answers on offense and couldn’t keep up with Lamar Jackson and co., leading to a loss which was much more one sided than the scoreboard suggests.
If teams can find a way to slow down Henry, or if he were to go down to an unfortunate injury then the Titans could be in serious trouble next season. Their entire offense runs through the All-World running back, meaning that if he isn’t a factor in games the team usually falters.
Colts Set to Scramble For Signal Caller
What about the Colts? Indianapolis won 11 games last season, and unlike the Titans they have a defense that is built to last. Darius Leonard, DeForest Buckner, Justin Houston and Rock Ya-Sin are some of the core members of the Colts’ stifling defence which was elite in every measurable last season.
Their offense is also more than capable of putting points on the board. Their stellar offensive line allowed rookie Jonathan Taylor to finish his debut campaign as a thousand-yard rusher, while Nyheim Hines is the perfect change of pace back for the offense. T.Y. Hilton still has plenty of gas in the tank, while another rookie in Michael Pittman showed flashes of his playmaking abilities.
The Colts were a tough out for any team during the 2020 season. A point they proved on Wildcard Weekend when they gave the high-powered Buffalo Bills everything they could handle during that game.
The Colts are without a doubt a great football team, but once again they find themselves having to scramble during the offseason to find someone to play the league’s most important position. Phillip Rivers' retirement has thrown Indianapolis’ offseason plans into disarray.
Losing a potential Hall of Famer at the quarterback position is usually impossible for any team to overcome quickly, and the Colts have found themselves in this position twice in the past decade. Once again Indy has to make moves during the offseason to find a new signal caller to run the offense. Many would argue they have a good safety blanket in Jacoby Brissett, but if 2019 taught us anything about the fifth-year player out of N.C. State is that he isn’t the answer for this team moving forward.
The potential is there for the Jaguars to find themselves in a position where the Colts aren’t as threatening as they once were, and where the Titans offense can’t make up for their defensive woes. There is however one small issue that Jacksonville has to address during the postseason: becoming a good football team.
The first step to building a good football team starts with the coaching staff, and one of the most successful head coaches in the history of college football is finally given his shot in the big leagues.
Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence To Usher in New Era in Duval?
On the 14th of January it was announced that former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer will take charge of the Jaguars going forward in a move that has been years in the making for one of the best in the business at the collegiate level. What Meyer did during his tenure with the Buckeyes was one of the best success stories in college football over the last 10 years.
Between 2012 and 2018 the Buckeyes went 83-9 with Meyer calling the plays, meaning that at the college level he is a proven winner. Ohio State were more often than not in contention for a National Title during his time there, winning it all back in 2014 and if this can translate to the professional game, then Jacksonville will be extremely happy with the decision they have made.
I believe this is a smart hire for the Jaguars, as Meyer will no doubt bring a fresh pair of eyes to the coaching staff in Duval and will hopefully give the team the shake-up it truly needs to become competitive once more. Meyer is a proven winner but transitioning to the NFL is usually difficult for coaches coming out of college. A prime example of this is Nick Saban, who has established himself as one of the greatest play callers in the history of college football, but during his two seasons with the Miami Dolphins in 2005 and 2006 struggled to adjust to coaching professional athletes.
Meyer is lucky enough to find himself in a situation where he will hopefully have plenty of time to make his mark, and the Jaguars roster is one of the youngest in the entire league so he should hopefully be able to implement his philosophy without too much backlash from the veterans. Jacksonville is in no rush to become a powerhouse, so Meyer should be given plenty of time to adjust and coach the players how he wants them to be coached.
The hiring of Urban Meyer was the first piece of the puzzle for the Jaguars during this offseason. The next step will be upgrading the personnel that Meyer has to work with through the draft and firstly in free agency. Luckily for the Jaguars they do have the assets available to do this, so let’s start with their salary cap situation.
Jacksonville will enter free agency with more spending power than any other team. So, if a player is interested in joining the team and it comes down to a bidding war, no one can beat the Jags. That is good, as this team has a lot of holes to fill if they want to get better next season. There will also be plenty of players available at positions of need in the offseason.
The Jaguars need to improve their offensive line, and players such as Joe Thuney, Brandon Scherff, Trent Williams and Taylor Moton headline an overall decent class of linemen during free agency.
They also need to be able to stop opposing offenses better so looking at players such as edge rusher Shaquil Barrett, linebacker Lavonte David or safety Justin Simmons will instantly improve their defense. Need more weapons on the outside? This free agency class of wide receivers is one of the best of the past decade with Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, Juju Smith-Schuster, Will Fuller and a whole host of difference makers all hitting the open market in 2021.
With so much money to spend, and potential difference makers available at every position it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Jaguars take a punt at more than one of the players I have mentioned above to help improve their football team next season. Having plenty of cap space will certainly give Jacksonville a chance to improve next season, however when you think about the Jags offseason in 2021 one thing ultimately comes to mind: the 2021 NFL Draft.
In a year where a team with potentially the biggest question mark a quarterback in the league is picking first in the draft, the 2021 draft class is one of the strongest in recent memory. In some mock drafts no less than four QBs are taken in the first ten picks, which showcases just how high the talent is during this year’s NFL Draft.
Jacksonville being able to take their pick of these players means they will have the chance to immediately get better at the game’s most important position. Despite all the options available to the Jaguars at 1st overall I will be shocked and amazed if we don’t already know which of this group they take with their pick.
Trevor Lawrence is the best quarterback Prospect to come out of college since Andrew Luck when he was selected first overall by the Colts back in 2012, so it comes as no surprise that everyone expects the Clemson superstar’s name to be called when Jacksonville is on the clock. I 100% expect the Jags to take Lawrence with the first overall pick on the 29th of April 2021, beginning their rebuild in the best possible way.
The term “generational talent” gets thrown around way too often when it comes to college prospects leading up to the draft, but Trevor Lawrence is the closest you can get to a sure thing in years. His arm talent, decision making, size, athleticism and accuracy are all traits you look for in a franchise quarterback and I fully believe he will go on to have a successful career in the league.
It is the Jaguars’ responsibility to build around this potential cornerstone, and they have to use their other picks wisely during the draft. Just like in free agency, Jacksonville is rich with assets when it comes to the draft as they will be on the clock four times during the first 45 selections, so they cannot get this wrong if they hope to build a competitive team going forward.
Not many franchises in history find themselves in the position the Jags are currently in with plenty of opportunities to turn things around during the off season, so having a successful draft is paramount to this team taking a step in the right direction.
There will be plenty of difference makers left when they pick again at 25th overall, and with two second round selections in their back pocket, they could potentially move up and grab themselves a player they desperately want to help build around whoever they take first overall (it will be Lawrence).
To summarize the Jacksonville Jaguars’ chances of improving their roster during the off season: they will have more opportunities than any other franchise and so they have all the assets they need to start turning things around in Duval quickly. How they go about it will be tough, as roster building in the NFL isn’t as simple as having the most money and draft picks. It’s what you do with those which makes all the difference.
Do I believe that Jacksonville will be better in 2021? Or will they continue to struggle like they have for the past few years? It all comes down to the decisions this franchise makes going forward.
Do you believe that the Jaguars will be a force once again in 2021? Who would you take with the first overall pick in the draft?
Let us know on Twitter or join our group on Facebook and start the debate! I will continue to try and answer the question of which team has the best chance to go from worst to first in 2021 throughout the offseason, but see the teams I have already discussed below: