2019 was a tough year in Jacksonville. After losing new franchise quarterback Nick Foles in Week 1, they were left in an unexpected quarterback controversy after sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew stepped in and led the team to four wins in their first eight games. However, from 4-4 things went downhill, and the Jaguars won just two of their final eight games. With Minshew now the unquestioned starter, what do the betting odds look like for the Jacksonville Jaguars entering the 2020 NFL season? Do they have a chance to surprise and win more games than the sportsbooks project?
Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2020 season win total preview: Offseason breakdown
It was a relatively quiet offseason for the Jaguars when it came to free agents and experienced players. They added Tyler Eifert and Chris Thompson, who will both bring an added threat in the passing game for Minshew. Eifert has demonstrated he can be a useful receiving threat, but staying on the field has been a serious issue, as he has played in double-digit games just three times in his career. Thompson will be an intriguing weapon out of the backfield, and could absorb some of the targets they relied on Leonard Fournette for in 2019.
Defensively their most significant addition was middle linebacker Joe Schobert, who provides much-needed stability in the middle-level of the defense that they lacked after losing Telvin Smith in May 2019. Schobert has started 45 games in the last three years with the Cleveland Browns, totaling 380 tackles, six interceptions, and seven forced fumbles. One place they will need to see improvement from Schobert is in pass coverage, having allowed a 69.1% completion rate on 55 targets in 2019.
They also added Rashaan Melvin, who will compete to be a Week 1 starter alongside D.J. Hayden and first-round selection C.J. Henderson. Melvin is a journeyman cornerback, who allowed a 63% completion rate on 92 targets last season, giving up four touchdowns and 104.1 QB rating.
Part of the reason the offseason was quiet in terms of veteran additions is that it was quiet in terms of losses as well. The biggest news was the departure of Nick Foles. However, Foles had been replaced as the starter by Minshew following the 28-11 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12. Therefore, while in name, it was a significant loss, in reality, the trade of Foles is insignificant to the Jaguars season.
The most substantial loss in terms of on-field production was cornerback A.J. Bouye, who had been with the team for three seasons, starting 43 of the 48 games during that period. Given they traded away Jalen Ramsey during the 2019 season, the starting cornerback pairing will look very different in 2020.
The final headline departure was the trade of Calais Campbell to the Baltimore Ravens. Campbell had started all 48 games in the past three seasons, racking up 31.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, and 44 tackles for loss.
However, 2019 was his worst season in terms of statistics, with just 6.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. At the age of 34, it is more likely than not his impact would have decreased once again. His departure means that we will see the potentially dynamic duo of Josh Allen and Yannick Ngakoue on the field together in 2020.
Podcast: Moneyline and Wine Note: This article continues after the podcast player. To subscribe to Moneyline and Wine with Jessica Gridiron and Anita Marks, find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.
The Jaguars are going to look different at all three levels of their defense in 2020. On the back end, the departure of both starting cornerbacks could leave them vulnerable to opposing passing games. They are in a division with Deshaun Watson and Philip Rivers, which could be a significant concern in 2020.
The front seven could potentially be improved from last season, despite the departure of Campbell. Josh Allen racked up more sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (11) than Campbell despite seeing an 18% lower snap count (60%) than the veteran. In combination with the talented Ngakoue, they could make for a formidable pass-rushing duo for the Jaguars.
The addition of Schobert then reinforces the front-seven. That consistency up the middle allows the Jaguars to switch Myles Jack to that weakside linebacker position. It also allows the likes of Quincy Williams and Leon Jacobs to serve in backup roles, where they are perhaps better suited at this stage of their career.
Early round rookies
The Jaguars focused heavily on the defensive side of the ball. Five of their first seven picks were on the defensive side of the ball, including both first-round selections. They attempted to replace the talent lost in the departures of Ramsey and Bouye, by selecting Henderson ninth overall. Henderson could quickly take over a starting role in 2020, with only Hayden and Melvin as real competition.
The second of their first-round picks was spent on edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson out of LSU. Chaisson could play a hybrid pass-rush, strong-side linebacker role in 2020. If they want to get him on the field regularly, then expect to see him playing in the second level, but he is also capable of getting to the quarterback after picking up 6.5 sacks in his final year at LSU. His presence gives the Jaguars the opportunity to play some hybrid defenses, rolling Allen or Ngakoue inside next to Bryan on pass-rush downs.