Jacksonville essentially had three different seasons in 2013 under first-year coach Gus Bradley. The start wasn't pretty. The Jaguars were blown out at home 28-2 by Kansas City and would lose their first eight games by double digits -- all but one of those was by more than 10. Amazingly, the Jaguars didn't score a touchdown in Jacksonville in that run (three games; they scored one in a fourth game in London as the home team). Then the Jaguars were very competitive for a five-game stretch, winning four of them. That included an improbable three-game road winning streak. A week 14 home win vs. Houston might have been the difference in the Jaguars getting the top overall pick in the 2014 draft -- the Texans did. Any momentum vanished in the final three games as Jacksonville lost them all.
Chad Henne emerged as the team's temporary No. 1 quarterback because former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert struggled as usual and battled injuries. Henne threw for 3,241 yards, and completed 60.6 percent of his passes. He should be a backup, but likely holds the starting job for a season while a 2014 draft pick learns. The No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft, offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, was so-so in limited action, but should be a fixture on the line for years. A major disappointment was receiver Justin Blackmon, the No. 5 overall pick in 2012. The guy has major talent but was limited to four games because of off-field problems, including substance abuse. He remains on indefinite suspension, and the Jags really aren't counting on him for 2014.
Key Offseason Moves
Jacksonville gave up on Gabbert, trading him to San Francisco for a late-round pick. It was a shock the Jags got anything for the former Missouri star. Jacksonville also bid goodbye to one of the best players in franchise history, running back Maurice Jones-Drew. He hadn't been the same the past couple of seasons, however. Jacksonville's leading sacker, end Jason Babin (7.5 sacks), was re-signed as was Henne. The Jaguars added depth to their defensive line in signing Seattle's Red Bryant and Chris Clemons and Pittsburgh's Ziggy Hood. Their starting running back heading into the year could be Toby Gerhart, signed from the Vikings. Surely, Jacksonville will address running back (and receiver and quarterback) in the draft. The team also added a projected starter on the offensive line in Broncos free-agent guard Zane Beadles.
2014 Schedule (all
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7, at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14, at Washington, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21, Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 28, at San Diego, 4:05 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, at Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, Miami, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 2, at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 9, Dallas, 1 p.m. (in London)
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Nov. 30, NY Giants, 1 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7, Houston, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, at Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Week 16: Thursday, Dec. 18, Tennessee, 8:25 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, at Houston, 1 p.m.
Jacksonville has a schedule that ranks as the fourth easiest in the NFL with an opponents' 2013 winning percentage of .453. It has five games against playoff teams.
The Jaguars are the biggest Week 1 underdogs on the board at sportsbooks, +11 at Philadelphia. The irony of facing the Eagles is they were likely to hire Bradley as their head coach before Chip Kelly changed his mind and took the job. The schedule-makers didn't do Jacksonville many favors with three of its first four on the road, and the lone home game against defending AFC South champion Indianapolis. The Colts had no trouble with the Jaguars last year, winning by scores of 37-3 (in Jacksonville) and 30-10.
Jacksonville hosted San Diego in Week 7 last season and lost 24-6, having possession of the ball for just 22:30. The Jaguars didn't face the Steelers in 2013 and split with the Titans. They won in Tennessee, 29-27, in Week 10 for their first victory of the year. Jacksonville never trailed and forced four turnovers it turned into 17 points. There's no reason the Jaguars shouldn't have a great shot at beating both the visiting Dolphins and Browns in Weeks 7-8 even though Jacksonville had only one home win in 2013. It did win in Cleveland, 32-28, the most points the Jags scored all year. Henne hit Cecil Shorts for the game-winning 20-yard TD pass with 40 seconds left.
After facing the Dolphins, the Jaguars won't play a true home game for more than a month, giving up one for their now annual trip to London. Jacksonville was routed there by San Francisco last year. The schedule is much easier following the Week 12 trip to Indianapolis with no games against playoff teams. That likely will be the stretch where Jacksonville determines whether it can finally win more than five games. The Jaguars swept the Texans in two close games last year. They didn't play the Ravens or Giants.
Free NHL picks: 'Under' 4.5 wins. Bradley looks like he could be a good coach -- after that disastrous 0-8 start, the team played hard every game the rest of the way. The problem is the skill position talent might be the weakest in the NFL, and that influences greatly choosing the correct MLB picks. The Jaguars will hang around most games but are unlikely to win more than four of them unless they find some dynamic impact rookies in the 2014 draft.