Jacksonville Jaguars: The Biggest Questions Heading Into OTAs
I know everything seems to be on the rise here in Jacksonville and the team that has been a bottom feeder for the better part of the last five seasons is on the rise.
But truthfully, until the wins outnumber the losses, the team that seems to be reaching for a level playing field will be grasping for respect here in the NFL.
Next week begins another chapter in the rebuilding process of the Jaguars. OTAs will give fans their first true glimpse at the roster. It will also give the media another shot at seeing a rebuilding project that is pretty close to completion.
Again, wins take care of questions. Losses continue to cast doubt.
These are the major questions the Jaguars face heading into OTAs.
HOW WILL BLAKE BORTLES LOOK?
The offseason has been good to Blake Bortles.
A learner look, a passing camp attended by fellow Jaguars players and new toys to play with on offense. The team wants Bortles to take that natural step of progression from year one to year two, but there are still questions about the offense. With a better line in front of him and a better running game behind him, Bortles now has a better opportunity to prove he can be a Ben Roethlisberger-like player the team envisioned.
WILL THE OFFENSIVE LINE BE BETTER?
It has to be. There was so much thought put into who the team wanted to sign in the offseason. David Caldwell and Gus Bradley started by targeting Jermey Parnell and then waited on Stefen Wisnewski. With the solid play by Brandon Linder and the hope that both Zane Beadles and Luke Joeckel can play better on the left side, the thought is this could be a team strength in 2015.
With the free agent signings and the Draft which brought the team AJ Cann, there is more depth when you add Austin Pasztor and Luke Bowanko to the mix.
Like I said, it has to be better than it was last season.
WHAT ROLES DOES MARCEDES LEWIS NOW PLAY?
The Jaguars look like they will start the season with a two tight end set, which means no fullback will be used. This is a good thing for Lewis, who is still regarded as one of the better blocking tight ends in the game.
While Lewis will see his targets diminish this season, having two tight ends on the field at the same time will certainly make things interesting for the Jaguars and their offense. How will working with Julius Thomas make Lewis a better player? How will Lewis be used in the red zone?
I see a change in the Jaguars’ offense to more of a smash-mouth running attack as well. Having an extra blocker on the line means there is more opportunity at the goal line for scoring, which we all know this team needs more of.
Personally, I think Lewis will excel in his new role with the team.
WHO FILLS THE LEO ROLE AT LINEBACKER?
The Jaguars have been dealt a big blow now that Dante Fowler is no longer in the mix for 2015. The plan was to use him at LEO as the designated pass rusher, which is something this team has lacked. Despite the defense finishing sixth in the league in sacks, there were many players who got in on the action, with Sen’Derrick Marks leading the team with 8.5.
Look for the team to ask Andre Branch to finally step forward and show why he was a second round pick in 2012. The team also likes what it sees in Ryan Davis. There will be plenty of sacks this season, but there needs to be one player who is a game changer.
Who will that player be?
CAN THIS RUNNING GAME FINALLY TAKE OFF?
We all hope so. TJ Yeldon wasn’t brought in to sit on the bench. Look for the rookie to make a strong case to start this season.
And we should not count out Denard Robinson just yet. Robinson led the team in rushing last season, but is not the type of back who can tote the ball 250 times a year. He should be the change of pace back who can spell Yeldon. I don’t think the team gives up on him, but since they drafted a runner in the second round, the Jaguars sent a message to the unit they were not happy with the output in 2014.
WHICH WIDE RECEIVER HAS A BREAK OUT CAMP?
The Jaguars are hoping any one of the three second-year players – Allen Robinson, Marquise Lee or Allen Hurns – becomes the go-to guy for Blake Bortles. Remember, too, that Julius Thomas will see many balls thrown his way as well.
I think Robinson will be the player most likely to excel first, but don’t count out Lee, a player who had a rough start to his rookie season, only to show flashes of greatness at the end of the season.
The Jaguars are in good position to confuse defenses and light up secondaries with the team’s size and speed at the position.