The 2014 season figures to be an interesting season for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team got off to an awful 0-8 last year but after the bye week, the team looked vastly improved and managed to go 4-4 on their remaining eight games to build some momentum in a franchise that has been trapped in a rebuilding process that has been longer - and slower - than expected.
The team made several changes during the offseason as they sealed the departures of two relevant players like Blaine Gabbert - who made headlines due to how poor he played with the Jags and was traded to the San Francisco 49ers - and Maurice Jones-Drew, who signed with the Oakland Raiders hoping to revitalize his career. In addition, long-time center Brad Meester announced his retirement and rookie wideout continued to be involved in issues outside the field so he hasn't returned to the team and at this point, it's unlikely he'll be with the franchise in the near future.
With that in mind, the Jaguars decided to add as many impact players as possible through the Draft and Costless Agency. Among the notable players selected back in May, former UCF QB Blake Bortles, a duo of receivers in Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson, ILB Telvin Smith and an underrated RB in Storm Johnson stood out in what turned out to be a notable draft for HC Gus Bradley and GM David Caldwell.
The costless agency period saw the Jaguars add several players on defense and the O-Line, two areas the team needed to improve. Former Seattle Seahawks' Red Bryant and Chris Clemons - together with former Pittsburgh Steelers' DT Ziggy Hood - are expected to bolster the team on the defensive side of the ball whilr former Denver Broncos' OG Zane Beadles will inject some much needed experience and protection to the quarterback, an area that has been a cause for concern for the team in recent years.
Perhaps the biggest change on offense will be at the RB position. After Jones-Drew departure, the team was forced to fill the void and they landed Toby Gerhart with an inexpensive deal that could be a solid pickup if he ends up realizing his expected production. Gerhart was Adrian Peterson's backup on the Minnesota Vikings for the past few years and now he will have his first chance to be a full-time starter.
With all these things in place, the Jaguars entered pre-season with Chad Henne under center - something that's expected to happen throughout the first weeks of the season as well - and with a lot of new faces on both sides of the ball. The pre-season had some bright spots - Blake Bortles was nothing short of spectacular and finished with 521 yards, two TD passes and no INTs and FA Allen Hurns had 14 catches, 232 yards and a TD - but they finished with a 1-3 record. Most people say that preseason records doesn't count since most teams don't even use their full playbook but it would've been nicer for the Jaguars if they had finished this period with a better W-L register.
The season starts this weekend and the Jaguars will compete in a division that's very even. The Indianapolis Colts appear to be head and shoulders above the rest but the Tennessee Titans and the Houston Texans don't appear to be a lot better than Jacksonville. The Jaguars have some tough matchups on the schedule but based on talent and with a whole year of the coaching of Gus Bradley under the belt, the team has a good chance to take a step forward on their rebuilding process. If Blake Bortles progresses as expected and ends up making an impact as a rookie, then Jacksonville could be a team between the 6-8 wins range.
That would be a massive improvement when compared to the season they had in 2013.