By: Hays Carlyon
I didn’t like the Quincy Williams pick in the third round Friday night.
I still don’t.
You can’t make me like the pick.
However, one misstep in the final stages of the third round is hardly a major blunder when looking at the whole off-season. While I will pine over the possibility of instead having Kentucky safety Mike Edwards, Georgia receiver Riley Ridley or a Florida defender in either safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson or linebacker Vosean Joseph instead, there’s no arguing two simple truths:
The first is that I’m a clear SEC snob.
More importantly, the Jaguars had a fantastic off-season capped off by an outstanding draft.
Stealing defensive end Josh Allen in the first round and swiping right tackle Jawaan Taylor in the second round secured high marks no matter what followed. I love the value in both picks and, yes, love that the six picks the Jaguars have made in the first two rounds the last three years are all SEC players.
Now, we have a clear look at how far the roster has come under personnel chief Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell since the ending of last season’s 5-11 failure.
Let’s look at five key positions heading into the offseason and what played out.
In: Former Philadelphia Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles.
Out: Blake Bortles.
Upgrade: A massive yes. Foles has started a dozen meaningful games over the past two seasons. He went 10-2, including 4-1 in the playoffs.
The numbers are impressive over that 12-game span. Foles completed 67.8 percent of his passes, averaging 271 passing yards a game with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He scored two other touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) while losing two fumbles. Foles was sacked 15 times, something that speaks to his decisiveness.
Foles completed over 70 percent of his passes in six of those games. He posted a passer rating of 100 or better in six of those games. He achieved one of these two marks in eight of the 12 games.
If we expand Foles’ numbers in the 12-game span to a full 16-game season he would project for 4,334 yards with 28 touchdowns and 13 picks. He also does a good job avoiding sacks, projecting to just 20.
That blows past the passing numbers Bortles put up in the 2017 regular season when he helped lead the Jaguars to a 10-6 season, AFC South title and eventual AFC Championship Game appearance. Bortles completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 3,687 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He was sacked a franchise-best 24 times.
Foles is clearly better than Bortles, even at Bortles’ best run of success. The locker room will also have more belief in Foles.
Out: Dante Fowler.
Upgrade: Strong probability of “yes” on the field, definitely “yes” off of it. Allen appears to have the self-motivation of Pro Bowler Yannick Ngakoue. He’s also taller, faster, stronger and heavier with longer arms.
There will certainly be a learning curve for Allen, as most rookie pass rushers struggle to find instant success. Still, the Jaguars needed a pass-rush boost and Allen should have chances to make big plays in passing situations when Calais Campbell moves inside.
Allen recorded 17 sacks in his final year at Kentucky. A fair expectation this season should be 5 ½, although Ngakoue managed eight as a rookie. Fowler had two sacks in seven games last season before being traded to the Los Angeles Rams.
Out: Jermey Parnell.
Upgrade: Yes. The 32-year-old Parnell still hasn’t been signed since the Jaguars cut him before free agency started in March.
Taylor started 32 games at right tackle at Florida and is going to an excellent environment for success. The Jaguars have outstanding offensive line coaching acumen with head coach Doug Marrone’s background, as well as 20-plus year veteran NFL line coach George Warhop.
Taylor also has experienced teammates he can lean on. Three players – left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder and right guard A.J. Cann – are all on their second contracts. Left tackle Cam Robinson is entering his third season in the NFL. The four have 12 combined seasons with the Jaguars.
Taylor is a motivated player. It would be surprising if the Jaguars coaching staff can’t take this athletic piece of clay and mold him into a quality starter.
In: Josh Oliver (draft) and Geoff Swaim (free agency).
Out: Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Upgrade: Yes, but only because of how dreadful the position was last year.
Seferian-Jenkins was a free-agent bust in his one season with the Jaguars, catching 11 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown in five games before a season-ending injury. As a group, the tight ends caught 53 passes for 469 yards and one score. That’s a pathetic 8.8-yard average per catch. The longest reception went for 22 yards.
Oliver, the first third-round pick, should help the offense generate more explosive plays. Swaim signed an inexpensive deal and will help as a blocker. The bar is low and therefore it won’t take much for this to be an upgrade.
In: No one of consequence.
Out: Tashaun Gipson.
Upgrade: No. This is the one area the Jaguars could easily be worse this fall. The team elected to re-sign Jarrod Wilson, who started two games in his first three years with the Jaguars combined, and anoint him the starter. Gipson was a quality player, who immediately signed with Houston once released.
The production at quarterback, offensive line and with the pass rush should be improved. That’s the holy trinity of success in the NFL. A fair expectation for this team should be a 10-6 record and playoff berth.
(You can email Hays at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)