Jun 102013

Gus Bradley2. Jacksonville Jaguars
Head Coach: Gus Bradley
2012 Record: 2-14
2012 Offense: 255 points scored, 30th in points, 29th in yards (21st passing, 30th rushing)
2012 Defense: 444 points allowed, 29th in points, 30th in yards (22nd passing, 30th rushing)

Key Additions
Head Coach Gus Bradley, LB Geno Hayes, DT Roy Miller, RB Justin Forsett, DB Alan Ball, DT Sen’Derrick Marks, WR Mohammed Massaquoi, CB Marcus Trufant, DT Brandon Deaderick, DT Kyle Love, T Luke Joeckel, S Johnathan Cyprien (6/13: QB Mike Kafka)

Key Losses
DT CJ Mosley, T Guy Whimper, S Dawan Landry, CB Aaron Ross, T Eben Britton, DB Derek Cox, LB Daryl Smith, RB Rashad Jennings, FB Greg Jones, DT Terrance Knighton, DB Rashean Mathis, DB William Middleton, WR Laurent Robinson, RB Montell Owens

Why 2013 will be better
After winning only two games last season, it probably can’t get worse. Bradley has brought in new defensive parts to replace a slew of departing players, but none of these is a proven blue-chipper and several have previously under-achieved. Still, Miller promises to help stuff the run, while Ball and Trufant should provide leadership to the five defensive backs that the Jaguars scooped up by the Jaguars in the draft. Blaine Gabbert’s job is hanging by a thread, so he has plenty of motivation to improve on his 77.4 passer rating (1,662 yards, 9 TD, 6 INT), while the consistently pedestrian Chad Henne waits in the wings. While the Jags have not brought in a quarterback to compete with Gabbert, it is entirely possible that Jacksonville will start the year with Henne at the helm. Maurice Jones-Drew returns from a lost 2012 campaign (once again proving that players who hold out more often than not get hurt or fail to perform), yet still led the team in rushing in only six appearances. However, it is an open question as to how effective he will be this coming season, and he is currently mired in controversy over his role in an off-field incident. This makes the signing of Forsett an important safety net for the club. Any improvements on offense will be a boon for the defense, which was last in the league in quarterback sacks last season. Assuming any offensive improvement at all in 2013, the Jaguars should be capable of winning four to five games this season, a marked improvement over 2012 that still nets the team a top five draft pick next spring.

Why 2013 will be worse
Gabbert will fail to improve while Hennne won’t be much better. MJD won’t return to form, and the defensive patchwork won’t be an improvement over last season. The Jags win two games again and secure the top pick in the draft. Hmmm… maybe that isn’t worse.

Despite the lack of good quarterback play, the Jaguars couldn’t run the ball in 2012, nor could they stop the run. While Gus Bradley is a tremendous defensive coach who helped turn around the Seattle Seahawks, it’s going to take a lot more than his brain power to turn around this woeful franchise. The addition of Joeckel secures the left tackle position for the foreseeable future, but the team lacks playmakers after Jones-Drew. Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts both showed promise last season, but the team needs to see both players surpass their production from last season. This will be hard for Blackmon to do since he will miss the first four games due to a suspension. Hopes for anything beyond a four win season should be regarded as wildly optimistic.

UPDATE (6/13): The Jags have claimed QB Mike Kafka, who was released by the Patriots earlier this week. Kafka adds an interesting wrinkle at quarterback, but doesn’t change the overall fate of the team for 2013.

Aug 222012

…is “When you’re in one, stop digging.”

And so it should be that Maurice Jones-Drew would be well-served to listen to this ago-old piece of advice. Jones-Drew (or MJD) is a remarkable running back who led the NFL in rushing yards last season and  broke the Jaguars franchise records for both rushing yards in a season and also yards from scrimmage in a season, finishing with 1,606 rushing yards and accounting for more than 47 percent of the Jaguars’ offensive production.

There is no question about MJD’s talent or of his importance to the Jaguars’ attack. With Blaine Gabbert set to start at quarterback this season, the Jags’ offense looks to be weak, and potentially disastrous. Yet, owner Shad Khan is quite right to refuse MJD a new contract and to call his player out over MJD’s protracted holdout.

Why? Simply put, it was MJD who agreed to a new deal in 2009 that was front loaded with cash (5 years, $39.5 million, $17.5 million guaranteed and $9 million signing bonus) in order to keep the then-budding star happy. Now, because his base salary is “only” set at $4.45 million this year, MJD is unhappy and has refused to report to the Jaguars. Rumors are now swirling that he is both open to a trade and wanting to bridge the gap with the Jaguars.

Here’s a little piece of advice to MJD; you have zero leverage in this game. If you choose to sit out until Week 10 (in order to get service credit for the season), you are still under contract in 2013, and even after that the Jaguars can use the franchise tag to stop you from moving. The Jags have no incentive to trade you, short of a team sending crazy talent and/or picks to Jacksonville, and unless you are going to sit for the next two seasons, you need to come to grips with the reality of the situation.

And the reality is that, while MJD now claims to be open to “bridging the gap”, the gap is one of his own creation.