The Comeback is previewing all 32 NFL teams from worst to first leading up to the start of the 2017 regular season on Sept. 7. Coming in at No. 27 on our rankings are the talented, yet somehow still terrible (until now?) Jacksonville Jaguars.
2016 in a nutshell: Despite loading up on even more premier draft picks (Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack) and even more top-end free agents (Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson), the Jaguars ranked in the bottom eight in terms of points for and against and failed to reach the six-win mark for the sixth consecutive year, finishing 3-13.
What’s different: Jacksonville has loaded up on even more premier draft picks (Leonard Fournette, Cam Robinson) and even more top-end free agents (A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell). Meanwhile, Doug Marrone replaces fired head coach Gus Bradley and Tom Coughlin has joined the fray as an executive vice president.
Why they could be awesome: The receiving corps (Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns) is jacked, Fournette is the odds-on favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, Robinson should help make a solid line great and it’s hard to find a weak spot on defense with Jackson, Campbell and top 2015 draft pick Dante Fowler Jr. up front, Jack and reliable veteran Paul Posluszny at linebacker and Ramsey, Gipson, Bouye and solid veteran Barry Church in the secondary.
Why they could suck: Blake Bortles.
Major additions: Bouye and Campbell are stars, Fournette and Robinson should soon be stars, Church and guard Earl Watford are strong complementary additions and Coughlin brings a future-Hall-of-Fame touch to the building.
Major losses: I was surprised to see the Jags let stellar young safety Johnathan Cyprien escape in free agency, but Church is a decent replacement.
Breakout watch: We’re watching for half the damn team to break out, but the one guy to watch is Fowler. The former No. 3 overall pick missed his entire rookie season due to a torn ACL and followed that with an underwhelming 2016 campaign in which he recorded just four sacks in 16 games. He’s also been arrested twice in the last 18 months, but he’s only 22 so it’s too early to draw major conclusions.
Position to watch: I suppose this is the spot to elaborate on that Bortles dude. He’s the quarterback, and the biggest liability on the roster. His numbers declined in what was supposed to be a big third year and there’s plenty of evidence that the 2014 No. 3 overall pick has regressed. Coughlin and quarterback guru Tom House have been doing their best to straighten him out and fix his technique, but he’s running out of time. And if the Jags can’t get more out of him or backup Chad Henne at the quarterback position, it might not matter how much talent they have elsewhere.
Prediction: The Jaguars have to be better. They just have to be. Fournette is a monster and there are so many good players on both sides of the ball. But I think Bortles prevents them from contending. He’s just terrible.
6-10, last place in the AFC South