Jaguars Season Win Total Prediction
Blake Bortles promised great riches … down the line. Then there was the torn ACL suffered by No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler. Sooner or later, though, the Jaguars won’t be able to keep selling the future.
Head coach Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell understand that they must produce infinitely better results immediately. So, does the long-suffering franchise actually have the teeth to taste .500 in 2016? In a relatively weak AFC South, that’s certainly possible.
Oddsmakers at online sports book Bovada.lv project Jacksonville for 7.5 victories. Such a number seems fair, considering the organization’s collapse a year ago. The Jags dropped five of their final seven contests, ensuring a fifth straight campaign with at least 11 defeats.
Foundational players abound, however, starting with Bortles. The quarterback comes off a season in which he threw a club-record 35 touchdowns. Even though the Jaguars’ penchant for falling behind inflated that figure of 4,428 passing yards, we’re watching a man in the act of mastering his position. Provided that Bortles can cut down on interceptions, lock him in as a first-time Pro Bowler.
The ex-UCF standout’s weapons aren’t household names quite yet, but just permit them another 16-game schedule to generate buzz. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns combined for 2,431 receiving yards in 2015. They so dominated offensive coordinator Greg Olson’s attack that Julius Thomas almost became an afterthought. (The tight end still managed to notch five TDs despite missing four weeks of action.) T.J. Yeldon exhibited a fair amount of wiggle upon nabbing the No. 1 job in the backfield, too.
Up front, Jacksonville hopes to have finally remedied a devastating weakness. Kelvin Beachum likely unseats Luke Joeckel at left tackle. The former first-rounder rightfully receives a lot of scorn from fans. Then again, the entire O-line must claim responsibility for surrendering a whopping 122 sacks over the past 32 tilts. The fresh faces of Beachum and guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, among others, ensure that won’t happen again.
Todd Walsh’s defense absorbed a huge hit as soon as last summer’s training camp commenced. Fowler, who had been expected to wreak havoc off the edge right away, went down with his gruesome injury during the first practice. The ensuing months found Walsh and his cohorts at a loss to mold a cohesive unit. Despite the veteran leadership of linebacker Paul Posluszny and end Jared Odrick, Jacksonville finished 31st in points allowed.
Yet reinforcements arrived in April. The team used early selections on second-level dynamo Myles Jack and corner Jalen Ramsey. These individuals instantly upgrade the Jaguars’ athleticism and physicality. While questions follow Jack’s long-term viability, the UCLA sensation’s much-discussed knee shouldn’t present any issues at present. Caldwell also took a proactive approach to free agency, boosting DeWayne Walker’s secondary with Prince Amukamara.
A successful September is paramount to the Jags’ chances of returning to the playoff party after a protracted absence. The schedule opens with Green Bay, San Diego, Baltimore and Indianapolis. We envision a 2-2 mark at the quarter pole – significant progress in South Florida. Look for the momentum to keep building as winter nears.
WEDNESDAY NFL FREE PICK: JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS OVER 7.5 VICTORIES