The Jacksonville Jaguars have been perennial strugglers in the NFL and the 2016 season was no different for the AFC South side.
There was pressure on the team to finally deliver up to their potential after three years of poor performances under Gus Bradley.
However, the club took a huge step backwards in the campaign, despite heavy outlays on players during the off-season, culminating in a 3-13 record.
Bradley paid the price for the failure as he was fired by the organisation, winning just 14 matches out of possible 62 during his four-year tenure.
Doug Marrone has been hired as his replacement, while former head coach Tom Coughlin has also returned to the club in an executive role in order to improve results on and off the field.
We’ll now take a look back at the last season to see what went wrong for the Jags and what they will need to do to compete for a place in the playoffs.
The Jaguars came into the season under the weight of expectations and were handed a test of their mettle on the opening day against the Green Bay Packers.
The contest proved to be an even affair, despite the Packers racing into an early lead. Blake Bortles almost brought the Jags back into the game, but they missed a late fourth-down conversion, allowing the visitors to claim the win.
Their young side had a bad reaction to the loss and were consequently blown out by the San Diego Chargers in week two, putting in an atrocious performance on the road.
They were able to find their form in week three, with a fascinating match against the Baltimore Ravens – which would go down to the wire.
However, Bortles struggled as he threw three costly interceptions, while Josh Myers saw his field goal blocked – missing the opportunity to snatch the win.
Respite came against the Indianapolis Colts in London as on this occasion Bortles was able to hold his nerve to put his team beyond the desperate comeback of Andrew Luck, securing their first win of the term.
Gaining rest in their bye week, Bradley had additional time to scheme up his defense for their clash against the Chicago Bears, producing their best display of the season to hold the NFC North side to 16 points at Soldier Field.
The second victory of the season to improve their record to 2-3 gave hope that the Jaguars could reach the playoffs, especially given the weak division Bradley’s men played in. However, their response to the pressure would seal the fate of their coach.
Jacksonville had the chance to prove their playoff credentials with games against three solid outfits on the bounce. The Oakland Raiders had similar off-season hype, but managed to rise to the occasion with a strong run early in the campaign.
Derek Carr and company proved to have too much for the Jags as Bortles failed to match the 25-year-old score-for-score, succumbing to a 17-point defeat at home.
The Tennessee Titans and another impressive young quarterback in Marcus Mariota were the next team to put the Jaguars to the sword, scoring 24 points in the second quarter of their contest. Bortles added late touchdowns to spare the embarrassment, but the Jags were flattered by the 14-point margin of defeat.
Bradley’s men battled the Kansas City Chiefs in a fiercely-contested match, but ultimately were not good enough to clinch the victory. That proved to be the story during the mid-part of the campaign as they suffered losses to the Houston Texans, Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills, knocking them all but out of contention for the post-season.
Bortles’ form was a large factor in their struggles as his failures early in games put the Jaguars behind the scoreboard, putting the match further in his hands and forcing his defense to make plays. The 24-year-old’s confidence was shot towards the end of the season as the club lost their ninth match on the spin losing 21-20 to the Texans, resulting in Bradley’s firing.
The Jags were able to win one more match after Mariota suffered an injury for the Titans, allowing Marrone’s side to secure a 38-17 win. However, they bowed out of the 2016 term losing a close game to the Colts, finishing last in the AFC South.
The big question for the Jaguars is the form of Bortles. He has regressed during his time at the club, despite what his statistics might say from last term.
His mechanics were appalling down the stretch and the 24-year-old had become a massive liability, putting huge strain on the other units of the team.
Should he finally deliver on the potential that persuaded Jacksonville to take him third-overall in the 2014 Draft then they might be able to compete for a playoff place. However, another disappointing campaign could end his time in Florida.
Marrone has a different approach than Bradley and did have mild success in his two seasons with the Buffalo Bills, recording a 9-7 term in 2014.
The club have decent talent on defense, but need to bring back Johnathan Cyprien and Prince Amukamara to sure up the secondary, with both men scheduled to test the free-agent market. Jalen Ramsey is a future superstar after an excellent rookie season, while defensive end Yannick Ngakoue also impressed.
Help is needed on the offensive line as Luke Joeckel proved to be a bust after being selected second overall in 2013.
The club may need to search the draft as there are not many veterans on the market that could come into the side and provide an immediate upgrade.
Andrew Whitworth is the top option available at left tackle, but he could command a bidding war and is approaching the end of his career.
Sitting in the fourth spot overall in the 2017 Draft the Jaguars could bolster their formidable front by taking Jonathan Allen, adding his immense talent to Dante Fowler, Malik Jackson and Ngakoue.
The Jaguars could also be in the running to bolster their running game with Leonard Fournette in the mix to be taken inside the top five in the NFL Draft.
Backing Fournette to be the first running back taken in the NFL Draft at -350 with BetOnline sportsbook could be a wise option given the Jags need at number four.
There is talent on the Jaguars roster and due to the unpredictable nature of the AFC South there’s always a chance of the club reaching the playoffs.
Therefore there could be a chance – no matter how small – they could reach the Super Bowl, with odds of +4000 to win the AFC Conference.
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