JACKSONVILLE – It starts with quarterback.
That’s the great truth for any NFL team, and it’s true for the Jaguars entering the 2020 offseason.
The team’s No. 1 issue moving forward: direction at quarterback. It will remain a topic as team officials look ahead to touchstone offseason events such as the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., later in January as well as next month’s NFL Scouting Combine and the 2020 NFL Draft in April.
Will rookie Gardner Minshew II start the offseason at quarterback? What of veteran Nick Foles’ status after a difficult first season with the Jaguars?
The Jaguars hold the No. 9 and No. 20 overall selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, so quarterback could be in play sometime in late April.
The Jaguars have yet to determine the answers, and there is much to be decided at most offensive positions. How will tight end be rebuilt? What changes will happen on the line? Could receiver be an option in the draft or free agency?
We’ll look at those positions and more in this position-by-position look at the offense as the Jaguars move into the 2020 offseason:
2019 starters: Gardner Minshew II (12), Nick Foles (4).
Others on roster: Josh Dobbs.
Pending free agents: None.
Season in review: This position defined the 2019 season, and that was good and bad and weird at various times. Foles, signed as the starter as an unrestricted free agent in March, missed eight games after sustaining a broken clavicle in Week 1. Minshew started Weeks 2-9, with Foles starting Weeks 11-13 before Minshew started the final four games ahead of a healthy Foles. Minshew went 6-6 as a starter, completing 285 of 470 passes for 3,271 yards and 21 touchdowns with six interceptions. Foles went 0-4 as a starter, completing 77 of 117 passes for 736 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. Dobbs was acquired with a fifth-round selection from the Pittsburgh Steelers following Foles’ injury but did not play.
Possible first-round quarterbacks: Joe Burrow, Louisiana State; Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama; Justin Herbert, Oregon; Jake Fromm, Georgia.
Chances of Jaguars selecting quarterback in first round: Anyone’s guess.
Too-early look at the offseason: As noted above, this is a key position for the Jaguars peppered with uncertainty. Minshew played well at times and was inconsistent at others, but it would make sense for the Jaguars to open the offseason with him as the starter. The thought here is the Jaguars likely will try to trade Foles, which likely would mean giving another team compensation in exchange for that franchise taking on Foles’ salary-cap expense. Don’t rule out the Jaguars going quarterback early in the draft. The team has sought a franchise quarterback for more than two decades, and the position must remain a priority until one is found.
Running backs (7)
2019 starters: Leonard Fournette (15), Ryquell Armstead (1).
Others on roster: Devante Mays, Taj McGowan, Jeremy McNichols, Devine Ozigbo, Paul Perkins.
Pending free agents: Mays.
Season in review: Fournette defined this position this season, and the third-year running back had the healthiest and most productive season of his career. Fournette, after missing 11 of 32 starts in his first two seasons, started the first 15 games in 2019 and rushed for 1,152 yards on 265 carries. He also developed into a solid blocker in pass protection and caught a career-high 76 passes for 522 yards.
Possible first-round running backs: D’Andre Swift, Georgia; Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin; Travis Etienne, Clemson; Zack Moss, Wisconsin.
Chances of Jaguars selecting running back in first round: Minimal.
Too-early look at the offseason: This figures to be a low priority this offseason, with Fournette entering the final season of his rookie contract and with the team having selected Armstead in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Look for the Jaguars to add depth here, perhaps in second-tier free agency or in the later rounds of the draft.
Wide receivers (10)
2019 starters: DJ Chark Jr. (14), Chris Conley (13), Dede Westbrook (11), Keelan Cole (1), Marqise Lee (1).
Others on roster: C.J. Board, Michael Walker, Terry Godwin, Charone Peake, Jayson Stanley.
Pending free agents: Cole (restricted).
Season in review: Wide receiver, like the entire Jaguars offense, had flashpoints moments in 2019 mixed with stretches of inconsistency. Chark emerged as a go-to receiver, improving dramatically from an injury-shortened rookie season to catch 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns. Conley caught a career-high 47 passes for 775 yards and five touchdowns, and Westbrook played through a neck/shoulder issue much of the season to catch 66 passes for 660 yards and three touchdowns.
Possible first-round wide receivers: Jerry Jeudy, Alabama; Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado; CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma; Jalen Reagor, Texas Christian; Henry Ruggs III, Alabama; Tee Higgins, Clemson; Justin Jefferson, Louisiana State; Gabriel Davis, Central Florida; DeVonta Smith, Alabama.
Chances of Jaguars selecting wide receiver in first round: Medium-to-high.
Too-early look at the offseason: The Jaguars figure to address this somewhere in the offseason, with many draft analysts projecting the team to select a receiver with either the No. 9 or No. 20 overall selection in the draft. That makes sense, because the team could use a young, playmaking receiver opposite Chark.
Tight end (8)
2019 starters: James O’Shaughnessy (5), Josh Oliver (1), Seth DeValve (6), Ben Koyack (6), Nick O’Leary (3), Geoff Swaim (2).
Others on roster: Charles Jones, Matt Sokol.
Pending free agents: O’Leary, Koyack, DeValve.
Season in review: This was a thin area to start the season, and injuries weakened it to the point that it was a major area of concern throughout most of the season. O’Shaughnessy was having the best season of his career with 14 receptions for 153 yards and two touchdowns before a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in Week 5. Oliver, a third-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, played just four games because of a preseason hamstring injury and a season-ending back injury; he finished with three receptions for 15 yards. Jaguars tight ends caught a total of 51 passes for 445 yards and three touchdowns.
Possible first-round tight ends: Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt; Cole Kmet, Notre Dame.
Chances of Jaguars selecting tight end in first round: Medium-to-high.
Too-early look at the offseason: This figures to be a major focus for the Jaguars this offseason, perhaps in the first two days of the draft. The major question here is what the team believes regarding Oliver, who showed a few flashes of being an effective receiving tight end in what essentially was a season lost to injury. Do the Jaguars believe in Oliver enough to ignore tight end this offseason? That seems unlikely.
Offensive line (15)
2019 starters: Left tackle Cam Robinson (14), left guard Andrew Norwell (16), center Brandon Linder (16), right guard A.J. Cann (16), Will Richardson Jr. (2), right tackle Jawaan Taylor (16).
Others on roster: Cedric Ogbuehi, Tyler Shatley, Brandon Thomas, Tyler Gauthier, Donnell Greene, Blake Hance, Ben Ijalana, KC McDermott, Ryan Pope.
Pending free agents: Ogbuehi, Ijalana, Shatley, Thomas.
Season in review: The Jaguars’ offensive line was something of a mystery in 2019, a group that – like receiver – reflected the inconsistency of the offense overall. The group remained healthy and had strong moments – particularly in the running game – but it also was too inconsistent in pass protection at times. Penalties hurt the group, with Taylor leading the NFL in holding penalties as a rookie. Richardson and Cann rotated much of the season, and Taylor showed strong signs of developing into a top player moving forward. The interior of the line never has developed into the team strength expected when Norwell signed as a free agent in the 2018 offseason.
Possible first-round offensive linemen: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia; Austin Jackson, OT, Southern California; Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama; Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville; Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa; Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama; Trey Adams, OT, Washington; Sam Cosmi, OT, Texas; Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn; Solomon Kindley, G, Georgia; Shane Lemieux, G, Oregon; Deonte Brown, G, Alabama; Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin; Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma.
Chances of Jaguars selecting offensive line in first round: High.
Too-early look at the offseason: This is a mystery area in the offseason. The Jaguars need to improve the line, but where will they make moves to do it? Could the Jaguars draft a left tackle early and move Robinson inside? Could they draft interior offensive line early and move on from Norwell? This figures to be a major area of discussion in the coming weeks, and the strategy here could say a lot about the offense moving forward.