From the Other Side: Five Questions About the Jaguars
The Miami Dolphins will look to get their first victory of the season Thursday night when they face the Jacksonville Jaguars in an intrastate battle.
The Jaguars were expected to go through a lot of the same growing pains the Dolphins did in 2019 after unloading several high-profile veterans (Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye, Leonard Fournette, Yannick Ngakoue, to name four) in the offseason, but they began the season by upsetting the Indianapolis Colts at home before giving the Tennessee Titans all they could handle in a three-point loss in Week 2.
To get a better feel for the Jaguars, we checked in with Jaguar Report Publisher John Shipley for his answers on these five key questions:
1) Was the overriding philosophy behind all the offseason moves to reset and start of rebuilding project like the Dolphins did last year and if not, what was the plan?
For the most part it seems like the Jaguars wanted to accomplish two things before the season began: change the locker room culture and clean up a salary cap that was in disarray due to a number of large contracts, specifically Nick Foles and his anchor of a deal. The Jaguars cleaned up the salary cap by trading away high-priced veterans like Foles, A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell, which gave the team flexibility to sign Joe Schobert in free agency. The Jaguars more or less had to use this offseason to ensure they would have cap space moving forward into the future, which led to a few tough decisions. As for the culture aspect, it is clear the Jaguars do not want the drama and in-house fighting that has plagued the team for years to continue. The Jaguars did want to keep Yannick Ngakoue, but Ngakoue made that impossible for them to do. Every other move, such as releasing Leonard Fournette and trading Ronnie Harrison, was about moving past an era of Jaguars that the front office and coaching staff struggled with.
2) Given all the big-name departures, how surprising has been the Jaguars' start, including a victory against the Colts and a narrow loss against Tennessee?
It is surprising to a degree considering just how many people pegged the Jaguars to be either purposefully tanking or just naturally the worst team in the league. They were some of the biggest point spread underdogs in each of the NFL's first two weeks, which is reflective of the low expectations for the team nationally. With that said, I am not as surprised as I maybe could be. I predicted the Jaguars would be a 6-10, 7-9 type team due to an explosive offense but poor defense, and that is exactly what has happened so far.
3) Just how good is QB Gardner Minshew, and why doesn't he get more national respect?
For starters, Minshew is the first Jaguars quarterback to ever throw three touchdowns in three consecutive games, which shows just how special his three most recent starts have been. Minshew has been accurate, has made mostly good decisions and has shown he can win underneath, in the middle of the field and when throwing deep. Minshew has also done a great job of distributing the ball as well, completing passes to 10 different players so far. If there is any area Minshew struggles in, it is his pocket presence. He thinks he is a much better athlete than he really is and will as a result leave a clean pocket at times to scramble. This has led to either sacks or minimal gains, which should not be considered positive plays. As a result of doing this and a penchant for holding on to the ball too long at times, Minshew will take a decent amount of sacks. As for why he doesn't get more respect, it comes down to two things: he was a sixth-round pick and he plays for the Jaguars at a time when the franchise is more known for being a punch line than anything else. If he was a first-rounder for the Cowboys and playing like he is now, he would likely get plenty of respect.
4) Who's the biggest playmaker on offense aside from Minshew?
There are a few different players to choose from. Laviska Shenault has become the team's No. 3 wide receiver and No. 2 running back within two games, showing good hands and strength as a receiver and great vision and instincts when taking carries out of the backfield. Fourth-year receiver Keelan Cole leads the team in most stats currently, and running back James Robinson looks like a legit NFL lead back. But ultimately the answer is DJ Chark, Jacksonville's third-year Pro Bowl receiver. Chark isn't getting many targets yet, but he has made the most of the passes that have come his way and it is still evident that he is Jacksonville's top passing game option.
5) What do the Jaguars have in first-round picks C.J. Henderson and K'Lavon Chaisson?
C.J. Henderson has already become Jacksonville's No. 1 cornerback despite the absence of a preseason. He was terrific in Week 1, locking down T.Y. HIlton down the stretch and clinching the upset win for the Jaguars on fourth down. He did allow a touchdown to Corey Davis in Week 2, but it was truly the only significant play he has given up through two weeks. K'Lavon Chaisson recorded his first career sack on a nice pass-rush rep in Week 2 but his impact has been minimal otherwise. He has a lot of speed but it is clear he has work to do before he will be a consistent disruptor.