Widely regarded as one of the worst teams in the NFL prior to the start of the season, the Jaguars kicked off their 2020 campaign with a week one victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Jacksonville is now 1-0 after this 27-20 victory. This team has undergone a ton of roster turnover in the last few years, and while they could have wallowed in despair, they have decided to bask in a new ray of hope.
The 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars
The 2016-2017 Jaguars season proved to be typical, exactly what to expect given years prior. They finished that season with a 3-13 record. Doug Marrone finished the 2016-2017 season as the interim coach and was named the head coach for the 2017-2018 season. Marrone was gifted with young stars like Jalen Ramsey, Dante Fowler Jr, Yannick Ngakoue, and Myles Jack.
The 2017 offseason would be so successful, it would prove to change the trajectory of the franchise as a whole (or so we thought). Dave Caldwell kicked off the offseason with several major signings in free agency; Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye, and Barry Church. All of whom would prove to be crucial to the team’s success. The 2017 NFL Draft also brought them an additional infusion of young talent. No stranger to having a top-five pick, the Jaguars went on to select Leonard Fournette with the fourth overall pick. In addition to Fournette they also scooped up Cam Robinson, Dede Westbrook, Dawuane Smoot, and Blair Brown.
This newly crafted team brought the Jacksonville Jaguars back to the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 1999. They had supreme confidence in their abilities, a historically great defense, and a perfect blend of veterans and youth. While they fell to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, the foundation had been built. They overachieved, and they now had a taste of what it meant to be a Super Bowl contender. A franchise plagued with losing seasons, now catapulted into the top tier of the NFL, it all seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, this was the case, and it was indeed too good to be true.
The Internal Collapse
here’s a list of the 2017 AFC South Division Champion Jaguars players still on the team pic.twitter.com/RwdWYw213j— madebytim (@MadeByTim) August 31, 2020
After a magical 2017-2018 season, the Jaguars came crashing back down to earth the following season. The 2018-2019 season had them finish with a record of 5-11. The former third overall pick Blake Bortles was benched for Cody Kessler. Tensions between several of the Jaguars’ best players and their front office were escalating. These tensions continued to escalate through the 2018-2019 season, and into the 2019-2020 season as well. Star linebacker Telvin Smith had chosen to step away from football prior to the start of the 2019-2020 season, while Jalen Ramsey was eventually traded to the Rams only three games into the season. The Jaguars tried out Nick Foles at quarterback, but he suffered an injury only four games into the season. Luckily, thanks to a few unexpected young stars, the team wasn’t as bad as they could have been . They finished with a 6-10 record.
By the beginning of this season, the 2020-2021 season, almost all of the players from the 2017 AFC Championship team now have found a new home. “The Mayor”, Calais Campbell, now plays for the Ravens. A.J. Bouye now plays for the Broncos. Yannick Ngakoue plays for the Vikings. Tashaun Gipson plays for the Bears. Leonard Fournette plays for the Buccaneers. This unexpected conference championship appearance somehow led to most of their key players running from this franchise like it was a burning building. It would be natural that this Jacksonville Jaguars franchise fell into another period of dismay and lack of direction. Interestingly enough, despite losing so much talent in these last couple of years, the Jacksonville Jaguars have an infectiously exciting and hopeful aura around them. How is this possible?
Minshew Mania & Co.
Gardner Minshew headlines this group of young promising Jaguars, and he’s the biggest reason why this team could surpass expectations. His energy is infectious, he’s a fierce competitor, he has high game IQ, and he’s a winner. While I’m sure the Jaguars’ front office is enticed by the possibility of Trevor Lawrence, Minshew has blown away any expectations the Jaguars had of him. He’s a sixth-round pick that was thrust into a starting role, but he’s running with it and hasn’t looked back. Minshew has done everything right to prove he is the quarterback of the future. He’s been fantastic, and he’s cheap for the next few years, it makes sense to ride with him. A really exciting player to watch, doesn’t seem fake at all, overall very cool dude and I hope he continues to experience this wild success.
D.J. Chark is coming off of his first Pro Bowl season at only 24 years old. Laviska Shenault has a prominent role in the Jaguars offense, and he was the only rookie receiver to score a touchdown in week one. Collin Johnson‘s role in the offense will increase as the year goes on. They have several other quality veteran receivers, but these young guys could become the present as well as the future. Jay Gruden praised undrafted rookie Chris Robinson before the game, and he definitely showed up. He shouldered basically all of the rushing game. He will be fun to watch, as he will continue to receive high volume. Jawaan Taylor also looks like a franchise right tackle that will help anchor this offensive line for years to come.
The Other Side: Jaguars’ Young Defense
Ninth overall selection C.J. Henderson looked less like a rookie and more like a veteran who’s been playing in the league for years. He looks every bit the part of a reliable lockdown corner, with several key pass breakups in crucial moments. Fluid change of direction, confidence, and big play-ability. Reminds me a little of a corner the Jaguars use to have. Myles Jack is the old veteran on this defense at only 25 years of age. He enjoyed tremendous success in his first game after switching to weak-side linebacker. Josh Allen is an absolute stud, but we already knew that from his Pro Bowl rookie season. The Jaguars’ draft class this past season has gifted them a surplus of young talent, expect to see more of them as the weeks go on.
While this franchise could have fallen into dismay and hopelessness, they decided to go the opposite route. This new era in Duval is led by a man who sports jorts and a fine mustache. The 2020 Jacksonville Jaguars may not have the best record by the of the season, but they will fight and claw in every single game. They will no doubt be one of the more interesting/exciting teams to watch this season.