The Jacksonville Jaguars picked a bad year to be a bad football team.
After finishing 2-14 a season ago, Jacksonville entered the 2013 NFL draft with the No. 2 overall pick and the need for a surefire franchise quarterback. They came away from the first round with a Pro Bowl-caliber offensive tackle, but the quarterback position remained unaddressed.
For all the talk of Blaine Gabbert’s futility in his first two NFL seasons, the Jaguars showed enough faith in him to not select a quarterback this offseason. With Chad Henne in the fold, it will be Gabbert’s job to lose—though it may be his last chance if Jacksonville stumbles to another disappointing season and a selection at the top of the 2014 draft.
Things didn’t get off to a good start in training camp as Gabbert sprained his ankle, per SportsCenter, but Ed Werder of ESPN labeled the injury as “not serious,” and Gabbert should be back in the quarterback mix soon enough.
Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert sprains ankle at practice. He will be evaluated over the next two days.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 29, 2013
Opting to not select a quarterback this year was both a good and bad thing for the Jaguars. Gabbert understands he’ll have another chance to shoulder the offense this season, but Jacksonville doesn’t have much of a safety net apart from Henne.
Still, general manager David Caldwell didn’t exactly neglect the team’s offense this offseason. If all goes according to plan, Gabbert should have plenty of help.
Along with the free-agent additions of running back Justin Forsett and wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, Caldwell selected wide receiver Ace Sanders and versatile offensive weapon Denard Robinson in the draft. Additionally, three-time All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew will be back in the fold after missing 10 games in 2012.
Michael Kelly of WJXT Sports tweeted a picture of MJD at practice, and as noted in an Associated Press report via ESPN, the 28-year-old didn’t experience any pain or apprehension when getting back into the mix.
Jones-Drew has been a huge part of Jacksonville’s offense since he was drafted in the second round in 2006, and without the star rusher in the backfield last season, the team’s offense grinded to a halt. For Gabbert and the rest of the offense to be successful this year, Jones-Drew has to come back healthy and prepared.
Jacksonville lost fullback Greg Jones and running backs Rashad Jennings and Jalen Parmele this offseason (as well as wide receiver Laurent Robinson and offensive lineman Eben Britton), and the offense is going to need some time to gel prior to the season. An improved offensive line should help in that process, though.
With the second pick in the draft, Jacksonville selected offensive tackle Luke Joeckel—a player long believed to be the Kansas City Chiefs’ No. 1 choice with the first overall pick. Teams don’t often use a top selection on a player who will line up at right tackle in his formative seasons, but pairing Joeckel with Eugene Monroe should pay huge dividends for the entire offense line.
But Caldwell’s focus on the offensive side of the ball was limited to a few key moves. What he did on the defensive side was an all-encompassing effort to shore up a unit that finished 30th in the NFL in total defense last season.
After losing cornerbacks Derek Cox, Rashean Mathis, Aaron Ross and William Middleton and safety Dawan Landry, Caldwell went to work to replenish the team’s secondary with some young talent via free agency and the draft, including second-round safety Jonathan Cyprien.
Caldwell also signed free-agent corners Marcus Trufant and Alan Ball and drafted Dwayne Gratz, Jeremy Harris and Demetrius McCary in April. A lot of question marks remain, but Jacksonville’s secondary certainly has some potential this season.
We’ll take a closer look at many of those offseason moves in the following slideshow, as well as some positions to watch and a season outlook for the Jaguars in 2013. Read on.