Jacksonville Jaguars NFL Season Preview: How Much Minshew Magic Will Happen This Season?

We examine the 2020 Jacksonville Jaguars roster and select our best bets ahead of the new NFL season, as the Jaguars are tipped as least-likely to win the Super Bowl by the sportsbooks.

In 2019, the Jaguars finished with their second consecutive losing season, a disappointment after nearly earning their ticket to the Super Bowl in 2017, almost pulling off an upset against the Patriots. The QB at the helm was Blake Bortles, the laughingstock of the NFL. Flash forward two seasons later, and the arrival of QB Gardner Minshew gave the Jaguars an eccentric personality, but not a competitive football team.

The 2020 Jaguars are an entirely different team, with lots of big-name departures: Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsey, and most recently Leonard Fournette, the stud #4 overall draft pick in 2017. Jay Gruden enters as the new offensive coordinator, looking to polish a young offense into contention.

Will Gardner Minshew improve as a QB this season? Will Jacksonville avoid another losing season? Let’s examine this 2020 team.

Offense

Minshew is the most important part of the Jags offense this season because instead of being the wild rookie-miracle of the NFL, he will be the starting QB and the foundation of the offense. That prized piece of the offense was supposed to be Nick Foles, but signing him for $88 million got the Jags four sub-par starts from Foles, injuries galore, and a trade to the Chicago Bears.

In his own right, Minshew is a talented QB. He went 6-6 with a 60% completion rate, 3,271 yards, 21 TD’s and 6 INT’s. He’s a confident QB who’s not afraid to move the ball down the field as accurately as possible. He’ll stay in the pocket as long as he wants until he finds the right play. He’ll also fumble the ball…a lot. A bad Minshew is a cornerback’s field day of sacks and fumbles.

New OC Jay Gruden values a play-action passing offense, which will fit Minshew’s strengths. It would’ve helped RB Leonard Fournette also, if the Jags didn’t just let him go a few days ago. His cut from the team put a massive blow to the Jags offense this season. There’s just not a lot of proven weapons for Minshew and Gruden to use. It’s important to note that the Jags ranked 26th in the league in passing offense, so improvement won’t take much.

Defense

Gone are the days of Jacksonville’s dangerous defense dubbed “Sacksonville.” The Jags had a busy offseason, with most of those changes coming to the defense. DE Yannick Ngakoue, with the 2nd most sacks in franchise history (37.5), hasn’t reported to training camp and is demanding a trade. CB Jalen Ramsey did the same thing, and got traded to the Los Angeles Rams.

The Jags solved an issue, replacing Ramsey with #9 overall draft pick CJ Henderson, the CB out of Florida. His 6 interceptions and 20 pass deflections in his two years as a Gator are one of many reasons while the Jags are banking on this rookie to play a huge role in the new defense.

ILB Joe Schobert joined the Jags this season via free agency, who will be the force in the middle of the defense that will help stop runs. Pro-Bowler DE Josh Allen, the 2019 rookie leader in sacks (10.5) is expected to lead the defense, along with young guys like 2020 1st round pick K’Lavon Chaisson, 2018 1st rounder Taven Bryan, and rookie DaVon Hamilton. It’s an extremely young defense that has a lot to prove this season.

Special Teams

Kicker Josh Lambo is a solid field-goal kicker for the Jags, leading the NFL with a 94.7% FG percentage, the highest since 2017 among active kickers. He also has a 42-kick streak of made field goals at home in Jacksonville that he aims to continue into 2020. Meanwhile, punter Logan Cooke is the franchise leader in punting average at 42.8 yards.

COVID-19 Opt Outs

The three Jaguars players to choose to bypass the season for COVID-19 concerns are DT Al Woods, DE/LB Lerentee McCray, and CB Rashaan Melvin. These players are veteran defensive guys for the Jags, which causes the defense this season to be incredibly young in age.

In the beginning of training camp, 12 Jaguars players, including Minshew, were placed on the COVID-19 reserve list, which led the NFL. That’s not exactly the way be #1 in the NFL.

Bets to Look Out For

If the diehard Jaguars fan chooses their team to win the Super Bowl this season, they’d be selecting the 32nd likely team to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. The odds for them to win the Super Bowl are +17500, according to Vegas. Jacksonville is expected to finish last not only in the AFC South, but in the AFC Conference.

The Jags’ divisional games will be brutal for them, as Indianapolis and Tennessee have improved their roster this offseason, and while Houston got worse, they still have high-caliber players that run over Jacksonville in every way. Jacksonville’s schedule is relatively tough, given the offseason drama that’s continuing with the team. It’s hard to pin the Jaguars finishing dead last; there’s always the Bengals, Jets, and the Dolphins. In fact, the Jags face Cincinnati and Miami this season, which are feasible victories for them. If Minshew is on target and is better than last season, the Jags have a chance. If not, expect a 4-12 season. Good luck next year.

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