The New Identity Starts in Jaguars Training Camp
The past few seasons, the Jaguars we have come to know have not impressed. They have not won more than five games since 2010, when they finished 8-8. Finishing so low has led to multiple top-five draft picks, but sometimes organizations need more change than just the player personnel. As the team looks to finally post a winning season, let’s review some of the keys to watch in Jaguars training camp this summer.
Tom Coughlin is Back and in a Better Role Than Before
When things aren’t going well, a lot of times changes need to be made at the top. The Jaguars made a notable change this year by adding Tom Coughlin as the Vice President of Football Operations. I think this is the ideal landing spot for Coughlin and this year we are going to find out why.
Coughlin won’t be on the field executing the game plan, but he will be crafting the game plan from scratch behind the scenes and helping decide which players he wants to carry the load. In terms of training camp, I am excited to see what kind of formations and packages Coughlin wants his personnel to be in. The Giants were never the most talented team on paper, but Coughlin was always finding ways to put his players in the right spots to make plays. I mean, we all remember David Tyree helmet catch to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Just a great example of Coughlin implementing schemes and personnel to get the job done.
I am interested to see if the drafting of Leonard Fournette (who we will touch on in a minute) will lead to a philosophy change on offense. According to pro-football-reference.com, the Jaguars ran 776 plays out of the shotgun last season as compared to only 277 plays from under center. If the Jags start showing more of an I-formation in training camp and preseason this year, we can expect them to commit to the run a little more than we have seen previously.
The Jags’ Defense Needs to Be Healthy
The key defensive additions on the Jacksonville roster all grade out above 85 on Pro Football Focus. Barry Church is the new starting safety and finished 2016 with a grade of 85 in Dallas last season. Big-name defensive end Calais Campbell finished with a grade of 90, which was second highest in the NFL at his position. Finally, possibly the biggest signing is A.J. Bouye. In Houston last season, he finished as the third overall cornerback with a grade of 91, per PFF.
The key things to look at in training camp for this revamped defense are the healthy bodies they can get on the field. The aforementioned Barry Church is dealing with a back injury that he suffered over the offseason. According to CBS Sports, Church is expected practice early in training camp. Keep an eye out for him, as he was a key addition and will look to gain some cohesion with the rest of the defensive unit while avoiding further injury.
Talented cornerback Jalen Ramsey underwent surgery on a core muscle and is scheduled to spend training camp on the PUP list. All reports are pointing to him being ready for Week 1 of the regular season. It would be nice for Ramsey to be able to get on the field with the new signees to develop some chemistry, but he needs to be fully healthy for this Jaguars team to make strides this season. Aaron Colvin, a backup cornerback, is also expected to spend training camp on the PUP list.
Bortles Should Have a Breakout Campaign in 2017
According to multiple Jaguars reporters, Bortles has been working on his throwing mechanics all offseason. His main goal has been to shorten his throwing motion. A long throwing motion allows the defense to read and react more efficiently to where the ball is being thrown. A shorter and quicker motion gives the receivers a chance to make plays. There are plenty of talented receivers on this team, between Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns and Dede Westbrook. I trust Coughlin enough to help come up with schemes and packages for these playmakers that will lead to golden opportunities for Bortles.
The coaches have stated that they want to see the work Bortles has put in this offseason on his mechanics, and want him to come out at training camp and own the offense with confidence. It appears the coaching staff is on board with Bortles and he will get possibly his last shot at retaining the starting QB role. I will be keeping a close watch on his production throughout August.
If Bortles comes out and shines in camp, which I legitimately think he will, his fantasy value is absurd right now. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Bortles current ADP is the QB21 and 157th overall. This means you’re currently spending a 14th round pick on a guy who has finished as a top 12 QB in the last two seasons. I’m all in on Bortles in fantasy, even if he is going to be my backup QB.
The Bortles Backup Plan
Even though all of the arrows point to Bortles performing much better this year than the past couple seasons, the Jaguars will have a backup plan in case he doesn’t work out. I could probably sit here and write about one of the most reliable backup QBs, Mr. Backup himself, Chad Henne. I would rather inform you on Brandon Allen. The Jaguars spent a late round pick on this kid in last year’s draft. He quarterbacked for Arkansas in the tough SEC conference. Here are Allen’s stats from his senior season:
66% completion rate, 3,440 yards, 30 TDs and only eight INTs in 13 games. This is all in a run-first offense in Arkansas as well.
As much as I hate to admit it, I watched tape on Allen’s preseason game against the Falcons last year. He has great mobility and can move the pocket and throw on the run. Robinson also has a strong arm and can fit the ball into extremely tight windows. He isn’t asked to throw deep very often, but when he did (both preseason and college) he was relatively accurate. The deep ball is a big part of Allen Robinson’s game, so whoever is at the QB helm will need to have a serviceable deep ball. Allen’s negatives are that he sometimes throws off balance and doesn’t always climb the pocket properly when under pressure. These are both simple mechanical issues which can be fixed via repetitions in practice.
I really hope Allen can come out and challenge Bortles for the starting QB job, but in a good way. The best way to keep improving your game is to have the feeling someone is trying to take your spot. If Bortles feels even slightly threatened, this could help both QBs throughout training camp, because they would be competing for something. We may not have an official “QB Battle” on our hands here, but it is definitely a situation worth monitoring.
The Shiny New Toy
Leonard Fournette doesn’t need much hyping up. He is expected to eventually be the backfield workhorse for the Jags this season. Despite most sites having Fournette as the top RB on the depth chart, some Jags reporters have stated that he is currently being listed as second or third on the depth chart in order to motivate him to keep working hard in camp and the preseason. As mentioned when discussing Coughlin, I am very interested to see what types of packages and formations the Jags will come out in during training camp. They only operated under center about 26% of the time, and Fournette is a bruising back who does much better with the QB under center, rather than in shotgun.
The Jaguars on paper are a more complete team than they have been in years. Let’s hope training camp will serve as a way for the team to gel and be ready to go Week 1.
For more updated news, notes and analysis on the Jaguars training camp, check out Jaguars.com and follow the team writers as they break down the above issues and many others. Also, check out the TFA website for more training camp articles and content!