The Jaguars had been treading water for a few years and finally bottomed out in 2012, winning just 2 games. GM Gene Smith was fired for building this team and rightfully so. The Jaguars hadn’t had a winning season in any of their last 5 seasons, going 27-53. Smith whiffed on numerous high draft picks, didn’t get much out of the later rounds (including the selection of a punter in the 3rd round of last year’s draft), and done of his big free agent acquisition had panned out over the past few years.
The most notable and probably the most damaging of his mistakes was the selection of quarterback Blaine Gabbert with the 10th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. The Jaguars traded up from 16 to 10 to grab him, giving up a 2nd round pick in the process, and he proved to be nothing more than a media hyped kid who looked the part, but couldn’t get it done on the field, going 5-18 in 2 seasons and playing just as poorly as that sounds.
It’s always easy to play hindsight GM, but this move looked doomed from the start as Gabbert had very average production in 2 years as a starter in the Big 12, a league known for productive quarterbacks who don’t pan out in the NFL (Robert Griffin is the only Big 12 quarterback in the NFL to ever make a playoff start). Gabbert was benched midseason for Chad Henne, before going on IR, and now has lost his biggest supporter Gene Smith. The most crucial decision for their new GM is who will be the quarterback in 2013 and beyond.
Blaine Gabbert barely lasted a year and a half as the Jaguars’ starting quarterback, getting benched for Chad Henne midseason, before going on season ending IR. Gabbert was a miserable 5-18 as starter and was every bit as bad as that sounds. Trading up to 10 to draft him was an ill-advised move and one that GM Gene Smith has been fired for (among other reasons).
With Smith gone, Gabbert has lost his biggest supporter and he was benched even before that. Chad Henne had some nice moments in his absence, but remained as inconsistent as he was before he got ran out of Miami. This is a bad year to need a quarterback, but it sounds like the Jaguars will go after Tim Tebow this offseason to compete with Henne and maybe Gabbert and hope that one of those can be a decent quarterback for them in 2013 and give them some hope for the future.
There isn’t really a quarterback worth taking for them at #2, so Jarvis Jones seems like the favorite to go there and for good reason. Daryl Smith, ProFootballFocus 2nd ranked 4-3 outside linebacker in 2011, missed almost the whole season in 2012 and is now a free agent. Julian Sanford, Russell Allen, and Kyle Bosworth played outside in his absence, but none of that trio really played that well so they need at least one new starter at the position, even if it’s a two-down run stuffer who plays defensive end on passing downs, like Jarvis Jones would.
Derek Cox, Chris Harris, Rashean Mathis, and William Middleton are all free agents at cornerback for the Jaguars. Mike Harris and Aaron Cook remain, but neither of them played particularly well. In fact, their cornerbacks as a whole didn’t play particularly well on the Jaguars’ 21st ranked pass defense in terms of YPA. They need help here.
Left guard was a rotating door of…well rotating doors. Undrafted rookie Mike Brewster and former 2nd round pick Eben Britton got the bulk of the playing time, but they were so bad that they both managed to rank among ProFootballFocus’ worst guards this season. Brewster ranked 79th out of 80 eligible and Britton would have ranked somewhere around there had he been eligible. Britton is a free agent and should not be retained as a starter, while Brewster is clearly not capable of being a starter either. They have 2011 3rd round pick Will Rackley coming back from an injury that cost him the whole season, but he was one of the worst guards in the league as well in 2011 and he might be moving to center.
Here’s why Rackley might be moving to center. Brad Meester, a free agent heading into his age 36 season in 2013, might retire and even if he doesn’t, he is still coming off arguably his worst season as a pro and they need a replacement either immediately or in the near future. Rackley can’t be trusted as a definite starter anywhere on the line in 2013, so they need to bring in some competition. At least two interior linemen should be added, including one capable of playing center.
The Jaguars spent a 2nd round pick on Andre Branch in the 2012 NFL Draft and also signed Jeremy Mincey to a long term deal. Both really disappointed, especially as pass rushers, as the Jaguars ranked 31st in the NFL in pass rush efficiency. They at least need some depth. This is another reason why Jones makes so much sense for them at #2. He’d help fill their linebacker need and add some life to this pass rush.
Tyson Alualu is another reason why Gene Smith was fired. The surprise 10th overall pick in 2010 has not so surprisingly been a bust to this point, but they’re probably stuck with him in 2013. Meanwhile, Terrance Knighton is a free agent and if he isn’t re-signed, they’ll need a 3rd defensive tackle to rotate with Alualu and CJ Mosley.
Guy Whimper was one of the worst starting right tackles in the NFL in 2011. He was benched for Cameron Bradfield this season. He was better, but still could be upgraded. At the very least, they need to upgrade Whimper as their swing tackle as even in limited playing time this season, he still managed to grade out as one of the worst offensive tackles in the league.
The Jaguars use talented fullback Greg Jones quite a bit, but he’s a free agent this offseason.
The Jaguars had a ridiculous 11 different players return kickoffs for them this season, en route to ranking 27th in the NFL in kick return average. They could use a specialist here.
Kickoff returns weren’t there only issue. They also had 6 different players return punts en route to ranking 29th in the NFL in punt return average. They might be able to kill two needs with one stone if they can find someone capable of returning both kicks and punts effectively.