Reassessing Jacksonville Jaguars Offseason Plan and What's Left to Address
This offseason must rate as a success for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Head coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell have upgraded specific areas of weakness, particularly on defense.
The pair have adhered to a very specific list of targets and managed to land most of the top names on their list. But amid all the pats on backs and good feelings generated by a successful foray into free agency, there is still work to be done in Jacksonville.
The AFC South cellar dwellers still need a boost of talent and intensity along the offensive line. Then there is the elephant in the room that threatens to squash any optimism regarding the Jags: quarterback.
Caldwell and Bradley must accelerate the process of identifying their team's quarterback of the future. They should also make time to find a primary target for that quarterback, to help compensate for Justin Blackmon's issues.
Here's how the Jaguars can complete a near-perfect offseason, starting with what they've already got right.
What's Gone Right so Far
The best thing the Jaguars have done this offseason is construct a nastier-looking front seven. The additions of ex-Seattle Seahawks Chris Clemons and Red Bryant ensure the Jacksonville D-line will be a force this season.
Bryant earned a four-year deal to use his massive frame to toughen up 2013's 29th-ranked run defense. Clemons, meanwhile, will be a key cog in a revamped pass-rush rotation.
The 32-year-old "Leo" probably won't play all four years of the contract the Jags gave him, but he adds a legitimate playmaker to a pass rush that mustered a mere 31 sacks last season.
Clemons will get help from veteran Jason Babin, who led the team in sacks in 2013. Retaining the capable veteran rush end was another smart move—and so was adding former Pittsburgh Steeler Ziggy Hood. The 27-year-old gives the defense another useful interior pass-rusher to go along with Sen'Derrick Marks, who was wisely re-signed.
For a team that had so much trouble generating pressure in 2013, Jacksonville now has a host of players capable of terrorizing quarterbacks.
These represent the best moves the Jags have made during free agency. The new arrivals up front make them a more physically imposing team ahead of the new season.
Sign Alex Mack
But the path to Mack is not likely to be an easy one. Pro Football Talk scribe Mike Florio reports the Browns will match Jacksonville's mooted $22 million deal.
But that shouldn't deter Caldwell from making the team from Ohio an offer it can't refuse. The Jaguars desperately need a quality anchor for their O-line. Mack is that player.
It's not as if the Jags don't have the resources to win a bidding war for Mack's services. The team still has over $30 million worth of space under the cap, according to figures from Spotrac.com.
Armed with that sort of money, Caldwell shouldn't pass up the chance to sign Mack.
Bolster Right Side of the O-Line
Signing Mack shouldn't be the end of Jacksonville's attempts to get bigger and better up front. The O-line also needs work on the right side.
In fact, Caldwell could complete a major overhaul of the interior trio by convincing ex-Tampa Bay Buccaneer guard Davin Joseph to remain in Florida.
The 30-year-old had a rough 2013, but he still retains the power and skill to be effective in the right scheme. Joseph is worth the risk for a team that was as soft in the middle as the Jags were last season.
Florida Times-Union writer Gene Frenette identified the interior as the most culpable part of a line that allowed 50 sacks and could only help the Jacksonville rushing attack average 78.8 yards per game.
If Caldwell doesn't deem Joseph capable of helping, he might consider AFC South veteran Wade Smith, who has played some fine football for the Houston Texans.
With a new three-man wall on the inside, and 2013's No. 1 overall pick Luke Joeckel back at left tackle, the Jaguars would boast a much-improved O-line in 2014.
Find a Big-Play Wide Receiver
As much as this offense needs a top-notch signal-caller, it also needs a premier playmaker at the wide receiver position. Justin Blackmon was supposed to be exactly that, but off-field troubles have blighted 2012's fifth overall pick, culminating in an indefinite suspension.
That should put any potential new No. 1 on the team's radar. Sadly, free agency offers only slim pickings in the form of players such as Sidney Rice and Santonio Holmes.
The Jags would be better off looking for their new demon pass-catcher in a draft class overflowing with talent at the position. They should start by running the rule over Sammy Watkins.
The ex-Clemson ace is a roving playmaker creative offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch would use in a plethora of ways. NFL.com Media Analyst Daniel Jeremiah has the Jaguars using the third overall pick to take Watkins, instantly upgrading last season's 31st-ranked passing game.
Alternatively, if the Jaguars don't want to take a receiver that high, Caldwell should target prospects like Jordan Matthews or Allen Robinson with the seventh pick in Round 2.
By stocking up on pass-rushers, the Jaguars have given themselves the freedom to look past players like Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack in Round 1 if they choose to.
Re-signing veteran Chad Henne also means the team isn't committing to find its future quarterback in the opening round.
Jacksonville's fine work in free agency means the team could go after a receiver like Watkins.
Find That Quarterback
Bringing back Henne gives this team some insurance under center, but the smart move it still drafting a starter-ready quarterback this May.
Of the top prospects, Teddy Bridgewater is the most accomplished passer, and that should be the first place to start analysing any young quarterback.
In his latest mock draft, Bleacher Report writer Matt Miller strongly endorses the Jaguars selecting Bridgewater. Miller cites Bridgewater's accuracy, skill at deciphering coverage and ability to start form day one.
Sports Illustrated scribe Chris Burke also identifies Bridgewater as the "most pro-ready" quarterback of this class and encourages the Jaguars to waste little time selecting him.
But if they want to wait until Round 2, the Jags could select Jimmy Garoppolo. Bradley and his coaches worked with the ex-Eastern Illinois rocket-armed passer at the Senior Bowl, per NFL.com College Football 24/7 reporter Chase Goodbread.
Bradley may have tabbed Henne as his starter, per John Oehser of Jaguars.com. But that is like treating a ruptured artery with a band aid.
This team is still in rebuild mode, and that is the perfect time to let a rookie passer learn on the job.
Following these moves would complete a brilliant offseason for the Jaguars and put them in a position to surprise many in the new season.
All stats and rankings via NFL.com unless otherwise stated.
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