The last time the Jacksonville Jaguars were a playoff team, George W. Bush was President of the United States. My daughter was just born. My son was in third grade. The last time the Jacksonville Jaguars were a playoff team, Jack Del Rio was winning everyone over with his “players’ coach” mentality and a defense that was suffocating and a rushing attack that was downright dangerous.
Those memories are now a decade old and the team that now walks into EverBank Field is one in flux. Even with plenty of questions, this is a team that can win the AFC South. Believe it or not, talent could take this team somewhere it should have been last season. And for those of you who think I may be nuts, here are four reasons why this could be the year the Jacksonville Jaguars win the AFC South.
A New Sheriff In Town
A local sports writer here in town said, “The acquisition the Jacksonville Jaguars made this offseason was executive vice-president Tom Coughlin.”
It’s possible the second most important acquisition was head coach Doug Marrone. In Coughlin and Marrone, the Jaguars and the fans get a no-nonsense combination that should do well together in the NFL. Jacksonville has been waiting for a management team (along with general manager David Caldwell) that get it. The trio will wipe the slate clean, hopefully with more intensity. This should change the culture in the locker room for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A winning culture.
The best thing Marrone can do is stick to his guns, continue to be the man he was when he was offered the head coaching job. Players liked Gus Bradley, but they lacked the winning discipline to end the losing in Jacksonville. Now, the discipline is in place.
A Mixed Bag Of Talent
The moves made in free agency proved Tom Coughlin was running the show. While Caldwell and Bradley designed a blueprint of young players to build around, the lack of veteran leadership showed in the locker room and on the field.
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny has been one veteran who has led by example. Now, there is Calais Campbell and Barry Church. AJ Boyue was brought in and the young nucleus that includes Jalen Ramsey, Allen Robinson, Yannick Ngakoue and Brandon Linder are all a year older.
This should be a team on the rise. While Marrone told the media there is still plenty to prove, this team feels as though it’s better than it was last season.
Scheduling For A Winner
The Jacksonville Jaguars schedule is not “easy” but it could play out well.
The Jaguars play the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, the Cleveland Browns and the San Francisco 49ers. If they can take care of business and win the games they should and split their division contests, this could be a .500 team.
They will have to steal a win or two along the way. Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, the New York Jets and Baltimore (in London) would hate to be the team the Jacksonville Jaguars steal a win or two from.
The schedule does present some issues, but solid teams find ways to play through the toughness and find ways to get victories.
Run, Run Away
The Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans were successful last year because they could run the football. The Jacksonville Jaguars couldn’t run the football.
You do the math.
Leonard Fournette is being asked to come in and become another Fred Taylor or Maurice Jones-Drew – two runners who are forever linked to the Jacksonville Jaguars as their best tailbacks in history. If the former LSU product can gain 1,100 yards, he will have solved the team’s biggest weakness.
Everything the team wants to do is predicated on the running game. Watch the offense open up more and the passing game thrive because the running game worked. Also, expect TJ Yeldon and Chris Ivory gets carries to keep the trio fresh.