In the run-up to the season, we’re going to run through the AFC South and look at teams’ happy face and sad face narratives and tropes. At this point, you could get me excited about the London SillyNannys versus the Montreal Alouettes so some hard-hitting football prophesying about real teams is sure to get my motor running. We’re going to look at each team and offer three reasons for fans to be cheerful and three to be fearful. Today we start with the Jags and their reasons to be cheerful.
Things haven’t been great for the Jags on D for a while. Bringing in the former Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley as Head Coach hasn’t, yet, yielded the uptick the ownership and fans have been looking for.
They’ve finished 20th or worst (and 28th twice) in Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DVOA) in the last four years. They have missed key players through injury, they have missed on draft picks and they have not gotten the best out of their talent (hey, Brandon Marshall!) but the ownership should be credited for their patience and their faith. Because, on paper, things are about to get lit on the Jags D.
I have to confess that I mocked Myles Jack to the Jags with the fifth pick, early in my draft dreaming. As the usual pre-draft nonsense started to swirl around, I realised he wouldn’t go that hight so I started fantasising about how Jalen Ramsey could fall to them whilst staring jaw-agape at YouTube videos of Ramsey balling out for the Seminoles.
Then the draft happened. OH MY GOD WHAT DID THEY JUST DO! I said to myself quietly because it was late at night and everyone was asleep as I watched the draft. Then they took Yannick Ngakoue in the third and Sheldon Day in the fourth. Don’t be surprised if the 2016 draft yields four day one starters for the Jags.
There is no way they should have walked away with Ramsey and Jack. These were two of the most highly-touted impact players going in the draft. They immediately upgrade all facets of the Jags D. Oh, and the number three pick from a year ago, Dante Fowler Jr, is ready to go and immediately upgrades their pass rush.
That’s all three areas of D with first round talent, not only first round talent, but top five pick talent. Oh, and (get ready for a lot of ‘oh, and’ usage) as they also signed Malik Jackson who is coming off a superstar level season for the SuperBowl champs Denver Broncos. Prince Amukamara is a nice value signing too. Sure he has injury concerns and has been spotty in play but he is a guy with real upside.
Jags fans, the board is set on D.
Strength of Schedule
It’s not the glitziest thing to get excited about but the Jags are a team that needs everything to break right. Whilst the owners have shown patience here, they haven’t with their other sporting venture, owning Fulham Football Club. So you think with the investment in free agency, the draft they’ve just had, and the fire power their offence has exhibited that the ownership will be expecting big strides.
The Jags finished 5-11 last year and that was their best return since the 2011 season. They have 11 wins in three years. For a team with this record, that needs to prove to ownership that they are progressing, the strength of schedule becomes super important.
At 23rd in NFL, the Jags have an easier predicted schedule than all bar the Titans in the AFC South.
However, don’t get too excited because the actuality of the schedule might also make an appearance in the converse ‘reasons to be fearful’ for the Jags.
Last year the two Allen’s, Robinson and Hurns, balled out. They were big play machines. Combining for over 2,400 yards and 24 TDs, they helped the Jags offence look explosive. There is nothing to suggest that these two won’t get even better.
More so, as the line gets better (hello, Kelvin Beachum), Julius Thomas adapts to the system and gets healthy and a running back tandem which keeps Ds honest, these two dynamos could be in for a buffet of big plays once again.
If Marquise Lee can stay fully healthy and/or KR/PR Rashad Greene can develop, then the variety of weapons should allow both Allens to absolutely dominate on the outside.
Additionally, their versatility together means they should – should – get moved around the line of scrimmage and be used creatively both in the slot, on jet-sweeps etc to really maximise their effectiveness.
Note – I had Allen Robinson in fantasy last year. A rare glimmer of light amidst the horrific wreckage of my season.
Gareth Duxbury enjoys football both American and Association. Follows Washington in the former, Sheffield Wednesday in the latter. His love of QB play only topped by his fandom of Inside Linebackers. He tweets from