INDIANAPOLIS –Jacksonville has earned a 6-26 record over the past two seasons, but last year's 4-12 finish was one that indicates improvements on the way.
After failing to win any of its first eight games in 2013, Jacksonville split its final four contests and finished in third-place in the AFC South. The Colts were able to sweep the Jaguars by comfortable margins, winning 37-3 at Jacksonville in week four and 30-10 in the finale (click here for film breakdown on Robert Mathis!(/team/roster/robert-mathis/5d29904b-7bec-41ee-9307-af5b707a681e/ "Robert Mathis") sack).
A look at the Jaguars:
2013 Record: 4-12, Third in AFC South
General Manager: David Caldwell (2nd season with Jaguars; with Colts 1998-2007)
Head Coach: Gus Bradley (2nd season with Jaguars; 4-12)
Offensive Coordinator: Jedd Fisch (2nd season with Jaguars)
Defensive Coordinator: Bob Babich (2nd season with Jaguars)
2013 Pro Bowlers: LB-Paul Posluszny
Pending Free Agents: UNRESTRICTED – CB-Will Blackmon, OG-Cameron Bradfield, DT-Brandon Deaderick, TE-Clay Harbor, QB-Chad Henne, RB-Maurice Jones-Drew, NT-Kyle Love, WR-Taylor Price, TE-Allen Reisner, OT-Sam Young.
Rounds with Draft Picks: 1st round-3rd overall, 2nd round-39th, 3rd round-70th, two picks in round 4, three in round five, one in rounds 6-7 (rounds 4-7 overall choice not available until compensatory picks awarded)
Estimated Salary Cap Space: $52.0 million
Off. Rank (AFC/NFL): Total – 293.8 (16/31); Rushing – 78.8 (16/31); Passing – 215.1 (12/22)
*Def. Rank (AFC/NFL): *Total – 379.4 (16/27t); Rushing – 131.8 (15/29); Passing – 247.6 (12t/25t)
Key Decisions:** As is the case with other divisional teams, quarterback is a pressing need and could be addressed with the third overall pick. Indications are the Jaguars could want to re-sign Chad Henne, a veteran who would play a mentor role and/or starter until the progression plan is ready.
Blaine Gabbert is not out of the picture completely, but his contract ends after this season.
Some would say the offensive line is unsettled with Luke Joeckel appearing to be set at left tackle. Jacksonville must replace veteran center Brad Meester, who retired after the 2013 season. Austin Pasztor appears to have a hold at right tackle, as does Uche Nwaneri at right guard. Depth beyond that may be a factor.
The long, storied career of Maurice Jones-Drew could be drawing to a close. The ninth-year back is one of the most significant players in franchise history, and he could test free agency. There is no stalwart presence beyond Jones-Drew, and the Jaguars could address that in the draft's mid-rounds.
Tight end Marcedes Lewis had 25 receptions and a team-high four TD receptions in 2013 and could be a more featured player in the offense.
At receiver, 2012 first-round draft choice Justin Blackmon's status (suspension) is uncertain. Consistency has been a matter for Cecil Shorts. Shorts is in the final year of his contract and has not been healthy a full season yet. Ace Sanders could be a bright spot for Jacksonville, but this draft appears to be richer at wide receiver than some other positions.
Veteran defensive end Jason Babin enters his 11th season. Third-year end Andre Branch could be a component in the team's plans.
QUOTE-UNQUOTE: David Caldwell (on how Ace Sanders and Johnathan Cyprien played as rookies)"Ace did a really nice job. For a fourth round pick, he came in, played in 15 games and had 51 catches as our slot receiver, which is pretty good production out of a rookie receiver. We really feel like going into next year, the arrow is pointing up on him. He has a tremendous work ethic, incredible hands and we feel he can take a step up and be our answer in the slot position and as our punt returner. Cyp, we were really impressed with how he progressed. He started 15 games as a rookie strong safety and probably didn't get the recognition he deserved." Caldwell (on Blaine Gabbert's future with team)"We'll treat Blaine like any other player. We're going to bring him in and have him compete and develop until we think it's not in his best interests or until he gets beat out." Gus Bradley (on if there is a special meaning when a team drafts a 'franchise' QB) "It's difficult, but it does get more attention as well because it's so important. Everybody is tagged with, 'Is he a franchise quarterback?' That's really difficult. I guess Chad Henne is ours and he's our starter, and if we get him re-signed. You're going to make some mistakes, but you hope it's limited and especially at that position." Bradley (on how active the Jaguars need to be in free agency)"We need to take a look at our team. We have some needs and we need to have a really good plan, and we feel we do. What's our plan? What's our attack mode? What types of players are we looking to bring into our organization? I think you'll see us play a part in it. How active or how big is yet to be determined, but we have holes we need to fill."