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May 02

Jacksonville Jaguars Draft Themselves Into the Playoffs

For almost four years, now, www.ChaChaandSpoons.com has been relentless in our poking fun at the Jacksonville Jaguars. We are now prepared to eat our words.

Okay, so maybe we won’t EAT our words. Jacksonville has been a historically bad franchise, never having been to a Super Bowl, and last winning the division when Verve Pipe was still popular. In fact, the Jaguars haven’t smelled the postseason since 2007. Jacksonville hasn’t been deserving of their terrible press, but much like we wrote about the Kansas City Royals three seasons ago… things are about to change in North Florida.

Jacksonville finished their 2015 campaign with an unimpressive 5-11, thus earning them the fifth pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. This is the fifth draft in a row that the Jags have had a Top 5 pick, previously drafting Justin Blackmon, usatsi_9149417_153192880_lowresLuke Joeckel, Blake Bortles, Dante Fowler Jr., and now, Jalen Ramsey. You would think, at this point, that the team had infused enough young talent to be good, right? Until 2016, the answer was clearly “no”. The pick of Ramsey opened our eyes, and after the final pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, I’m prepared to say that Jacksonville will compete with Indianapolis for the AFC South division, and may very well win.

Digging into their future, let’s start with Gus Bradley, who began his path with Jacksonville after a stint as defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, during which he helped develop one of the best defenses in the history of football. While his 12-36 record as a head coach is fairly embarrassing, he had little talent when he began with the Jags in 2013. Most coaches would be fired after a miserable 3-year period. Instead, Bradley got an extension, at least for one season.

In 2013, the Jags drafted quarterback Blake Bortles to be their franchise guy. Admittedly, this seemed like more of a reach than Mr. Fantastic ever attempted. Bortles had a good college career, but would step in to fill the shoes of Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. You can understand why Jacksonville fans may have been hesitant to get behind a franchise whose best quarterback of all time was Mark Brunell. After a rough rookie season, Bortles went on to throw for over 4,400 yards, with 35 touchdowns and only 18 interceptions. His passer rating jumped almost 20 points to 88.2 last year, and showed signs of brilliance.

The key to this turnaround, however, will be the defense. As mentioned earlier, Bradley is a defensive-minded coach, who had little to no talent coming into his head coaching debut. Oh, how things have changed.

20131009_092457_gus-bradleyIn 2016, the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted the best cornerback in the draft. Jalen Ramsey will be an immediate starter, and will be expected to contribute in special teams, as well. Additionally, they traded up to pick Myles Jack, the best linebacker in the draft. Jack fell because there was risk he would need surgery in the offseason. The moment it was announced he wouldn’t, the Jaguars pounced on him like a pack of dogs on a three-legged cat. Jack would have easily been a top-6 pick. Eventually, they would go on to draft three more defensive linemen, and another outside linebacker. May you live up to your name, Andrew Luck.

Jacksonville killed the 2016 Draft, which made most people forget about the 2015 Draft, would be a mistake. With the third overall pick last year, Jacksonville picked up defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., arguably the most talented player in the entire amateur draft. In a horrible stroke of misfortune, Fowler tore his ACL on the first day of mini-camp and missed his entire rookie season. Keeping in mind that the team also killed the rest of the 2015 Draft, we now prepare for the 2016 season.

This season, Jacksonville’s toughest road games will be at Kansas City, and closing the regular season at Indianapolis. While they host several tougher games, including Green Bay, Denver, Minnesota, and Oakland, they will thankfully not have to travel. Additionally, one of their games against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts will be in London. Though I don’t wish that misfortune on anyone, the distance of the trip may be enough to disrupt Luck and not getting his best game.

Bradley has his defense. If he can’t turn it around, no one can. Last season, Jacksonville was dead-last in the AFC, allowing 28 points-per-game. If they can cut it by a touchdown, they will avoid a 10-year postseason drought.

 

About the author

Chad

Chad has a Bachelor's Degree from Marquette University in Broadcast Journalism & Electronic Communications. Currently living in Seattle, WA, he takes every opportunity he can to go to a game, partake in the nightlife, laugh with friends & family and root for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.