With a 20-10 loss to the Denver Broncos, the Jacksonville Jaguars were eliminated from playoff contention in week 13. A huge regression from Blake Bortles is the main reason they didn’t live up to the lofty expectations people had for them going into the season after they seemed primed after their 2015 campaign. However, the defense didn’t really hold up its end of the bargain, either, as the script from last season (Bortles balling all out in garbage time) repeated itself this year. They didn’t take any sort of step forward this year, and going into next year, there are questions abound. Here are the five biggest as they turn their sights towards next season.
Will Gus Bradley survive the offseason? Will Dave Caldwell?
The Gus Bus is going off the road in a hurry, and he seems to be the latest in a line of good coordinators turned terrible head coaches. Shahid Khan is running out of patience, and Bradley may be the first against the wall. Caldwell has made some solid calls in talent acquisition, but they just seem mismanaged.
Is Blake Bortles the answer at quarterback?
Blake Bortles has one of the funkiest deliveries this side of Tim Tebow, and it, along with Bortles’ decision making, is starting to cost the Jaguars. The Jaguars will certainly roll with Bort for at least one more season, but 2017 is make-or-break for the future of Bortles with the Jags. He’s regressed mightily this season, and if he doesn’t turn it back around, he may be fighting for his starting job in 2018.
Will the defense take a leap forward and reward their investments?
The Jaguars have spent extremely high draft capital on a handful of players over the last couple of years, including Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack this season. Toss in their free agent defensive acquisitions like Malik Jackson, and you have a lot of cash and picks spent on the defense. Their yards per game is one of the best in the league, but they are one of the worst at keeping the other team out of the end zone. Gus Bradley is supposed to be a defensive coach, but it’s not showing. They have the tools to be a top-ten defense, but it’s not coming through.
Can the offensive line keep Bortles upright another season?
The Jaguars could not keep poor Blake Bortles off the ground in his first two seasons, as he was sacked 106 times, the most by any quarterback both seasons. Now the offensive line seems to be gelling, at least somewhat, and his 23 sacks this year is sixteenth among quarterbacks. Not bad, but the Jags ideally get him down in the 1-2 sack per game range instead of the 2-3 where he currently resides.
Do they invest another high pick in the defense?
The defense should be the strong point of this team in 2017, given their investments in both draft capital and free agency recently. However, most mock drafts have them doubling down on those investments and snagging another defender (our own Bryan Luis has them taking Michigan LB/S Jabril Peppers). There isn’t much at the top of the draft at anything but defense, so they may not have a choice. However, this is still the team that took Blake Bortles at a surprise #3 pick back in 2014. They’ll either have to draft a defender or take a slight reach on Leonard Fournette to cap off their disappointing backfield of JAGs (pun intended).