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Team Previews: Jacksonville Jaguars

Nick Whalen

RotoWire's NBA Editor and award winning host of the RotoWire NBA Podcast. Many years ago, Stromile Swift gave Nick his unbelievably sweaty headband after a preseason game. Despite its failure to match his school colors, Nick went on to wear that headband for the entirety of his sixth grade basketball season. Catch Nick on Twitter @wha1en.

Bringing in Tom Coughlin marks a culture change for a franchise that's grown weary of doormat status in the AFC South. After another offseason of big spending and high-profile draft picks, the talent is unquestionably there. A seventh straight season with double-digit losses would be catastrophic.


NOW OR NEVER FOR Blake Bortles
Heading into last season, there was reason to be optimistic about the state of the Jaguars' passing game after Bortles tossed 35 touchdowns and logged more than 4,400 passing yards in 2015. In retrospect, throwing an interception on the first series of his campaign would prove to be a foreboding sign for the signal-caller. The 25-year-old completed just 58.9 percent of his passes and was picked off 16 times, while seeing his TD total drop to 23, as Jacksonville careened to a sixth straight season with at least 11 losses. Despite Bortles' struggles with accuracy -- 69:51 career TD:INT -- the franchise did not address the quarterback position in free agency or the draft, signaling at least a temporary vote of confidence in his favor. Jacksonville also exercised Bortles' fifth-year team option, but if he struggles again with a talented receiving corps on hand, the Jaguars will be forced to seriously consider moving on from the former No. 3 overall pick. The belief is that Bortles will be able to refine his mechanics during the offseason, and the arrival of Leonard Fournette should, at least in theory, take some of the pressure off the passing game. If everything breaks right, Bortles' numbers should look more like they did in 2015, preferably with more of that production coming in the first three quarters of contests.

The selection of Leonard Fournette at No. 4 overall drew mixed reviews, but the Jaguars believe they've landed a generational talent. Fournette has been a household name since his senior year of high school, and while injuries rubbed some of the luster off his three-year college career, he left LSU as the holder or sharer of 15 school records. Though both Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon remain on the roster, Fournette will immediately step in as the lead back and projects to be among the most intriguing fantasy rookies at any position. For Fournette to be productive, however, defenses will have to respect the team's aerial attack, which will require Blake Bortles to rebound from a disastrous 2016 effort. On that front, Bortles will have help from Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee, a wideout trio as talented as any in the AFC. Jacksonville also has question marks in the trenches, but the additions of Brandon Albert and rookie Cam Robinson will help shore up a line that's produced just one 800-yard rusher since 2011. Under the watchful eye of executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin, the Jaguars will focus on establishing the run, and Fournette will be the lynchpin of a re-emphasized ground attack that produced only eight rushing touchdowns last season, including three from Bortles.

While the Jaguars' shortcomings on offense have been well-documented, the team has also struggled to find stability on the other side of the ball, finishing 25th or worse in points allowed each of the last five campaigns. For the second straight offseason, Jacksonville invested heavily on defense, signing high-profile end Calais Campbell, along with safety Barry Church and cornerback A.J. Bouye. Church figures to step in for the departed Johnathan Cyprien, while Bouye will start at one corner opposite emerging star Jalen Ramsey, providing the franchise with arguably the NFL's best young cornerback tandem. The addition of Bouye comes after the Jaguars allowed veterans Prince Amukamara and Davon House to walk as free agents. Campbell, who recorded at least five sacks in each of the past eight seasons with the Cardinals, brings an established edge rusher to a unit in desperate need of just that. Jacksonville quietly ranked sixth in total defense last season, despite recording only 33 sacks and forcing fewer turnovers (13) than any team other than the Bears. Campbell will join Malik Jackson, Abry Jones, Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler on what should be a strong defensive line, though the Jaguars will need to get more out of Fowler (four sacks in 2016) in his second year back from a torn ACL.

The Jaguars have searched for stability at quarterback for nearly a decade, and this will likely be Bortles' final chance to prove that he's the answer. After struggling with accuracy and decision-making in 2016, he'll have to tangibly improve, and if this talented roster again falls short, the blame will fall squarely on his shoulders.


RISING: Allen Robinson
Blake Bortles' struggles helped make Robinson one of the biggest fantasy disappointments in 2016. He'll be discounted on draft day and could be poised for a bounce-back in what should be a more balanced offense.

FALLING: Chris Ivory
T.J. Yeldon's name also belongs here, as both will see reduced roles in the wake of Leonard Fournette's arrival. The rookie needs backup, but the Jags have barely been able to produce one fantasy-viable back, let alone two.

SLEEPER: Allen Hurns
After putting up more than 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns over his first two seasons, Hurns fell off a cliff in 2016. If he can stay healthy, the 25-year-old should reclaim his spot as the No. 2 option behind Robinson.

It's no secret that No. 4 overall pick Leonard Fournette will be the team's No. 1 back, but a pair of veterans will battle for carries behind the LSU product. T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory, who split the featured role last season, will both look to bounce back after disappointing 2016 campaigns. Yeldon was the Jaguars' leading rusher, but he racked up only 465 yards and found the end zone just once in 15 games. While Ivory's per-carry numbers were slightly better -- 3.8 YPA vs. 3.6 for Yeldon -- he, too, struggled to make big plays and was banged up for much of the year. With Yeldon missing all of the team's offseason work following ankle surgery in January, Ivory may hold the upper hand heading into camp. However, neither player is an overly attractive fantasy commodity, especially if Fournette is able to stay mostly healthy throughout his rookie campaign.

Leonard Fournette RB (Rd. 1, No. 4 LSU)
Blue-chip rookie could be the Jags' first 1,000-yard rusher since 2011.

Calais Campbell DE (from Cardinals)
Recorded eight sacks, earning Second-Team All-Pro honors last season.

A.J. Bouye CB (from Texans)
Signed away from a division rival after a breakout 2016 campaign.

Cam Robinson OT (Rd. 2, No. 34 Alabama)
Versatile 2016 Outland Trophy winner could start out of the gate.

JULIUS THOMAS TE (to Dolphins)
Dealt to Miami after two wildly disappointing seasons in Jacksonville.

Prince Amukamara CB (to Bears)
Joins third team in as many seasons after starting part-time last year.

Johnathan Cyprien S (to Titans)
Former second-round pick struggled to hold his own in coverage.

Hasn't been the same since dealing with major knee and triceps woes.

Dede Westbrook, WR The Heisman finalist and fourth-round pick missed the final eight days of OTAs in June due to an undisclosed injury. However, he was back on the field during individual drills at mandatory minicamp, suggesting he'll be ready for the start of camp.

T.J. Yeldon, RB Yeldon ended the 2016 on injured reserve and missed the entire offseason program while recovering from January ankle surgery. It's unclear whether last year's leading rusher will be ready when veterans report to camp on July 27.

Jalen Ramsey, CB Last year's fifth overall pick underwent surgery in mid-June to repair a core muscle injury. Ramsey may not be ready for the start of training camp, but the injury isn't expected to cost him much time.