Jacksonville Jaguars 2013 Offseason Preview
SI.com is laying out offseason road maps for all 32 teams as they start their journey for the Lombardi Trophy -- two teams per day, from the teams that need the most work to contend in 2013 to the ones that are in pretty good shape. See them all.
2012 Record: 2-14
Key Pending Free Agents: Daryl Smith (LB), Derek Cox (CB), Rashean Mathis (CB), Greg Jones (FB)
List of Draft Picks (pending compensatory picks): 1 (2), 2 (33), 3 (64), 4 (95), 5 (128), 6 (159), 7 (191)
Available Cap Space: $22.1 million
GM/Coaching moves: Hired GM David Caldwell; head coach Gus Bradley; offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch; defensive coordinator Bob Babich
New owner Shahid Khan proclaimed, "I'm all in" before the season, but his team did not respond accordingly.
The Jaguars came into the season hoping to improve from their 5-11 record in 2011 and earn a playoff spot for the first time since 2007. Instead, they finished with the worst record in the 18-year history of the franchise and landed in last place in the AFC South for the third time in the last five years. It eventually cost general manager Gene Smith and first-year coach Mike Mularkey their jobs.
Maurice Jones-Drew's contract holdout -- he missed offseason OTAs and training camp -- may have been a harbinger for the disappointing season. MJD finally reported in early September, but the defending league rushing champion's season ended prematurely when he suffered a foot injury on the opening play against Oakland in Week 7. Surprisingly, Jones-Drew didn't have surgery to repair the injury until late December.
Injuries (shoulder and elbow) also curtailed the season of second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who eventually went on I.R. and was replaced by Chad Henne. Neither quarterback was particularly effective, leading many observers to suggest that a new signal-caller is needed.
Although Jacksonville played tough in overtime road losses to Minnesota, Oakland and Houston, it also was blown out by Chicago (41-3), Detroit (31-14) and Miami (24-3). Statistically, the team finished 29th in total offense (30th in rushing), 30th in total defense (30th against the run), 28th in net passing yards per play and 31st in third-down efficiency. The defense, which was sixth overall in 2011, allowed the most rushing yards in team history. The sack ratio -- 50 allowed, 20 recorded -- was awful.
Young wide receivers Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon were bright spots, however, as was rookie punter Brian Anger, whose gross average of 47.8 yards ranked seventh in the league.
17.8. Average yards per catch by second-year wide receiver Cecil Shorts, second in the league among regular receivers only to Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson (19.2).
In Shorts and rookie Justin Blackmon, the Jaguars appear to have two young playmakers at wide receiver. Shorts caught 55 passes for 979 yards and seven touchdowns. He had 10 catches for 25 yards or more, and more than half of his yards came after the catch. Blackmon, who came on strong in the second half of the season, finished with 64 receptions for 865 yards and five TDs. Now, they just need someone reliable to throw them the ball.
4.14. Percentage of plays third-year DT Tyson Alualu got pressure on the quarterback relative to how much he rushed the passer. That was the 16th lowest number in the league, per Pro Football Focus.
New defensive coordinator Bob Babich has to find a way to make Alualu more explosive off the ball so that he can collapse the pocket from the inside and be disruptive. Alualu also may need to get stronger, because he often has trouble winning one-on-one battles. In his three seasons, Alualu has recorded 3.5, 2.5 and 3.5 sacks -- not good enough for someone who was the 10th pick overall in the 2010 draft, even for an interior lineman.
1. Bring in a new starting quarterback. Neither Blaine Gabbert, the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft, nor Chad Henne, who came over from Miami as a free agent, look like the answer. Neither player completed at least 60 percent of his passes, and they combined for 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Caldwell recently went on radio station 1010XL in Jacksonville and said he wasn't "completely discouraged with the quarterback on this team." How's that for a ringing endorsement?
2. Use the No. 2 overall pick in the draft on a premier pass rusher. Pressuring the quarterback is an absolute must ingredient in a winning recipe, and the Jaguars struggled there last season, finishing with only 20 sacks (fewest in the league). Texas A&M's Damontre Moore, Florida State's Bjoern Werner, or Georgia's Jarvis Jones (a linebacker) could fill the need. The Jags picked up Jason Babin, discarded by Philadelphia, during the season, but they should consider some of the pass rushers who might be available in free agency, such as Detroit's Cliff Avril, Tampa Bay's Michael Bennett and Oakland's Richard Seymour.
3. Find a reliable backup running back. After Jones-Drew was lost for the season in Week 7, the team started four different backs (who combined for 709 yards) over the final 10 games.
The Jaguars have a long climb to make in an AFC South where Houston has won back-to-back titles, Indianapolis went from a 2-14 team in 2011 to a playoff team last season largely because of the performance of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, and Tennessee should be better in 2013.
Finding a quality quarterback in the draft may be problematic because, unlike last year, there is no one such as Luck or Robert Griffin III headlining this crop. Jacksonville may have to go shopping and find a free-agent quarterback. Matt Flynn, who was supposed to be Seattle's starter last season but instead languished on the sideline in the wake of Russell Wilson's improbable rookie performance, might be a good fit at the right price, if Seattle dangles him on the trade market as expected.
The team doesn't have a lot of available cap space, so Caldwell will need to spend wisely. No matter how much new personnel the Jaguars add, don't expect a quick turnaround in 2013. Bradley has a lot of work to do to make this team a playoff contender.