Expect Nick Foles to take more downfield shots than Blake Bortles or Cody Kessler did in 2018.
The Jacksonville Jaguars open training camp July 25 at the team’s facility in Jacksonville, Florida. Here’s a closer look at a few storylines:
What is the offense going to look like with coordinator John DeFilippo and quarterback Nick Foles?
Foles doesn’t have the caliber of playmakers that he had in Philadelphia — especially at tight end — but there should be more downfield shots. The Jaguars threw 103 passes that traveled more than 25 yards in the air the last three seasons (which ranked 25th out of 32 NFL teams) but Foles consistently took deep shots during OTAs and minicamp. That might seem counter to the kind of offense that executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin and head coach Doug Marrone want, but it can be a huge help to the run game. If the Jaguars are willing to go downfield more, defenses can’t just gang up to stop the run the way they did the past two seasons.
What are legitimate expectations for running back Leonard Fournette?
Fournette has missed 11 regular-season games in his two seasons because of injury or suspension and averages just 3.7 yards per carry. There are still questions about his commitment, professionalism and maturity as well. Because of all that, expecting Fournette to rush for 1,200-plus yards while playing every game is unrealistic. It’s fine for the Jaguars to hope that’s what they get out of him in 2019, but 800 yards and six TDs rushing in 12 games is more sensible.
The Jaguars went from 55 sacks (second) and a QB pressure rate of 33.7 percent (third) in 2017 to 37 sacks (22nd) and a QB pressure rate of 28 percent (13th) in 2018. Ngakoue was consistently around the quarterback last season (his 55 pressures ranked sixth in the NFL) but wasn’t able to finish as well as he did in 2017 and finished with 9.5 sacks. Calais Campbell was banged up all year but still managed 10.5 sacks. Adding Allen, who was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year with 17 sacks at Kentucky, should certainly help, especially when the Jaguars use their third-down rush package and Allen lines up opposite Ngakoue and Campbell moves inside. But a big factor in improving the pass rush will be a functional offense. The Jaguars spent most of the season playing from behind because the offense was so bad. A pass rush is most effective when teams have to pass and the defense knows it. The Jaguars were rarely in that position last season.
The Jaguars are deep on the defensive line, so they’ll be able to absorb the Jackson loss, but it’s a much different situation at safety. Gipson played well in three seasons for the Jaguars — coach Doug Marrone was disappointed Gipson wasn’t a Pro Bowler in 2017 — and he was especially effective in coverage against tight ends (he helped hold Rob Gronkowski to two catches for 15 yards and Zach Ertz to four catches for 26 yards and a TD). The Jaguars are replacing Gipson with fourth-year player Jarrod Wilson, who has started just two games in his career, both at strong safety last year in place of an injured Ronnie Harrison (who replaced Church and is now the full-time starter). Wilson has primarily been a special-teams player who has played just 287 defensive snaps since he signed with the Jaguars as an undrafted rookie in 2016.