The Jaguars are a trendy pick among pundits to have a breakout season in 2016, with a couple of good young receivers on offense in a division that appears to be open without a strong, standout team. They have a ways to go to win the division after winning five games last season, continuing a streak without a winning season that dates back to 2008.
QB Blake Bortles put up impressive numbers last year in his sophomore season, completing 355 of 606 passes for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns with 18 interceptions. WR Allen Robinson hauled in the majority of those passes, with 80 catches for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. WR Allen Hurns also put up good numbers, with 64 receptions for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns. TE Julius Thomas — who played 12 games, 11 starts, in his first season with the team — added 46 receptions for 455 yards and 5 touchdowns. The running game didn’t fare as well as the passing attack. RB T.J. Yeldon was the leading rusher, with 740 yards and 2 touchdowns in 12 starts. The defense was also lacking, allowing the second-most points in the league and racking up just 9 interceptions, tied for the third-fewest in the league.
If the Jaguars are going to have a shot at winning the division, as some people think they can, Bortles will have to at least come close to repeating the season he had a year ago. Any regression will hurt the offense, especially if the running game doesn’t improve upon last year’s performance. And the team won’t have much of an improvement without a better defense than last season. Beefing up the defense was the Jaguars’ priority in this year’s draft, selecting CB Jalen Ramsey and LB Myles Jack, respectively, in the first two rounds of this year’s draft. If the defense can put up better numbers to go along with the top receivers in Robinson and Hurns, the Jaguars could have something going.
The schedule doesn’t start off easy for the Jaguars, as they host the Packers in Week 1, which will provide a real test for the defense right out of the gate. The Jaguars then visit the Chargers in Week 2 and host the Ravens and Colts in Weeks 3 and 4, respectively, before getting an early bye in Week 5. Later in the season, the Jaguars visit the Chiefs in Week 9, then host the Texans in Week 10. The defending Super Bowl champion Broncos come to Jacksonville in Week 13, followed by the Vikings in Week 14. The Jaguars’ season ends at the Colts in Week 17. Overall, the Jaguars’ schedule isn’t too tough but I still don’t think they’re ready to take the next step. I think they’re still a year or two away from contending for a playoff spot. I am projecting them to improve on last year’s total by three wins, though, which would put them at 8-8 for their first .500 record since 2010.