Justin Blackmon has been a bright spot for the Jaguars this year
In 1995 the NFL decided to expand the league by adding two new teams. One was the Carolina Panthers and the other was the Jacksonville Jaguars. These two teams were the first to be added to the NFL in 20 years but each franchise had different philosophies over how to build their football team. The Carolina Panthers built through a luxury previous expansion teams hadn't been afforded, free agency. The Jaguars, however, built through the draft. It was a strategy that benefited the Jaguars greatly as they quickly became contenders. After a magical season in 1996 where they made the AFC Championship game they went on to make the playoffs four years in a row. In 1999 the Jaguars had their best season in franchise history going 14 and 2, which led the league. However this impressive season was cut short by eventual Super Bowl contenders the Tennessee Titans, the only team that had beaten them that year. This season marks the first time that a team has lost all three of its game to the same team. Since then Jacksonville fans haven't had much to shout about with only two playoff appearances and one playoff win in 13 seasons. Cracks are starting to emerge in the third Floridian based franchise as attendances have slowly dipped since its inception. The city and surrounding area of Jacksonville has always been a smaller market and persistent rumours of relocation on top of uninspiring football have made the Jaguars a hard sell in a state with many distractions. The franchise needs a break or the Jaguars may be looking for a new place to call home. For UK fans it might be a franchise to keep an eye on as London has frequently been mentioned as a potential landing spot for this franchise. UK fans could certainly become familiar with them by then as the team has booked to play a game at Wembley every year for the next four years. If this is a year for a turnaround the Jaguars haven't made the best start. The team is one of two still winless after seven games, with the fellow Florida franchise the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also 0 and 7 after seven games. New head coach Gus Bradley's position is already in jeopardy as a major change in approach appears to be needed should the Jaguars have any chance of salvaging their season.
If the Jaguars have any chance of turning anything around it has to start on offense. The Jaguars offense has been the most ineffectual in the league and is ranked 32nd in points per game and yards per game. A lot of the blame rests on the shoulders of the quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. Gabbert was the starter at the beginning the season but serious questions had been raised about his ability to perform at the highest level. Unfortunately for the third year player his critics were proved right as through the first three games Gabbert threw only one touchdown compared to seven interceptions to post a paltry quarterback rating of 1.79. This forced five year man Chad Henne into the starting role and though Henne has been more serviceable than Gabbert, he also has failed to make any real headway reviving this Jacksonville offense. It is a source of much frustration for Jaguars fans as they undoubtedly have potential on the offensive side of the ball. This potential comes in the form of young prospects who could develop into one of the most fearsome units if given the decent quarterback to run the show. Tight end Marcedes Lewis is one such player. Lewis has proven in the past he is a threat in both elements of the game, being a good blocker in the run game and has developed into a reliable receiver in the passing game. Having tied the Jaguars single season touchdown receptions record in 2010 Lewis has shown he is an end zone threat and gives the Jaguar offense some much needed dynamism. Lewis is reportedly able to return to the squad this week after being side lined most of the season due to a calf injury. Lewis will be looking to make a similar impact as another player who just returned to the squad, wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Blackmon is another young talent who has a high upside if run in the right offense. The second year player comes off an impressive rookie season in which he showcased his ability to stretch the field and make spectacular catches in traffic. Having lead all rookies last year in receptions and yards he has already become the number one option in this Jaguars team and has the potential to become a top receiver in the league.
They Need To Party Like It Is Their All Pro Year
Running back Maurice "MoJo" Jones-Drew is a three time All Pro player and was 2011's rushing leader. "MoJo" has been out of sorts this year, mainly due to the lack of a passing game allowing opposing defenses to stack the box and a porous offensive line. Though the last two years have seen him regress significantly he is still a talented player who can be a big part of the offense. With a low centre of gravity due to his shorter stature Jones-Drew can break tackles but has the speed to break off long gains if he gets into the back field. On top of that he is a hardnosed runner who can grind hard yards out if required. The Jags need him now more than ever to recapture his All Pro form if they want to kick start this offense. The defense unfortunately has not fared much better than the offense and has surrendered a league high 31.7 points a game. Part of this can be attributed to the offense forcing them into unfavourable positions but Bradley, being a defensive minded coach himself, will be expecting more from his team. Players like middle linebacker Paul "Poz" Posluszny and defensive end Jason Babin have the ability to create problems for any team. Babin is a former All Pro player with the Eagles and will be looking to perform at a similar level having joined the Jaguars half way through last year in free agency. Posluszny holds the Jaguars single season tackles record and once again leads his team in tackles this season. Poz has developed into one of the better middle linebackers in the game and will be working hard to keep his team competitive to the bitter end.
A Bleak Outlook
The Jaguars are in trouble; no doubt about it and Gus Bradley will have to rely on all his experience and innovation if he wants to survive more than one season in his first head coaching job. One of the few positives is that the division, the AFC South, is relatively weak. The Indianapolis Colts are favourites to win the division and are off the best start. They have already hammered the Jaguars 37 to 3 in Jacksonville and will have the mental edge when the teams meet again in Indianapolis for the rematch. Even so the Colts can sometimes play inconsistent football and the Jaguars will have to take their chances when they can. The Houston Texans, who were one of the better teams last year, are off to a miserable start compounded by quarterback issues of their own. Though still an intimidating defensive team the Jaguars will have a good shot of snatching a victory or two against this wounded side. Historic rivals are the Tennessee Titans who started the season well but have slipped a bit in recent weeks. Their defensive team will make it difficult to score but if the Jaguars can get it going offensively the Titans can struggle to put points on the board. In London this weekend however the Jaguars face an altogether more impressive opponent in the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers are coming off a Super Bowl appearance and will be looking to make a statement in front of the London crowd. The Jaguars will hope that the long trip will cause some issues for the San Francisco franchise and they could pull off an upset, an achievement never performed at a London game. The Jaguars will hope to kick off their streak of International games in style though and as the weeks tick by they will be hoping their first win comes sooner rather than later.
Head Coach: Gus Bradley
Super Bowl Appearances: None
Division: AFC South
Biggest Rivalries: Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans
Jersey to buy: #14 WR Justin Blackmon, #89 TE Marcedes Lewis, #42 RB Maurice Jones-Drew, #51 MLB Paul Posluszny, #58 DE Jason Babin