How Different Are the 2019 Jaguars From the 2018 Version?
The 2018 Jacksonville Jaguars season has a lot of parallels to their 2019 season. Heading into Week 12, the Jaguars have the same amount of wins, 4, that they had last year - and if the parallels continue, the Jaguars should get its fifth win next week against the Los Angeles Chargers. Let’s compare where the Jaguars were in 2018 to where the team is today.
The major difference between the 2018 Jaguars and the 2019 Jaguars was the expectations coming into the season. The 2017 season was the best the Jaguars had in the last decade, and maybe ever, so expectations were high. The defense was stout and apparently they had found its starting quarterback in Blake Bortles. When Jacksonville signed Bortles to a three-year, $54 million contract during the 2018 offseason, many fans were over the moon and the team was ready to make that Super Bowl push in 2018.
But boy did the tables turn - the 2018 Jags team and the 2019 Jags team both had a high paid quarterback that didn’t pan out. Obviously, in the 2019 offseason Bortles got cut from the team and the Jaguars were again on the search to find their next franchise quarterback.
As a result, executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin and company signed veteran quarterback and former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Nick Foles to a three-year $88 million contract with over $50 in guarantees; the largest contract given out in Jaguars history.
Fans were skeptical at the time, but started to come around as the season started inching closer. On the first touchdown drive of the season they lost their $88 million quarterback to a broken collar bone. So initially, the difference between the Bortles signing and the Foles signing was Bortles played bad right away but Foles just had bad luck and got injured.
But, that draws us to the next similarity to the two Jaguars teams and that is the backup quarterback position. Cody Kessler came in a lot later during the season, coming into the game in Week 13 against the Indianapolis Colts, and he actually led the team to its first victory in seven weeks in a 6-0 home win over the Colts.
This gave the fans and the team a little more confidence in the team with Kessler at the helm. Obviously, that would go downhill after he lost the following game to the Tennessee Titans 30-6, a game where Kessler threw the ball 43 times. The next week the Jags lost to the Redskins, and Kessler only threw 53 yards. He would eventually get benched in the game against the Miami Dolphins for Bortles, and Jacksonville ended up winning that game.
The difference between Kessler and this year's initial backup quarterback, rookie Gardner Minshew II, is clearly that Minshew came into the season way earlier on and he brought in some excitement. Unlike Kessler, he nabbed four victories and had an overall 4-4 record as a starter.
Also unlike Kessler, Minshew eventually found his way back onto the field after being benched for the original starter after Foles flopped in the Jaguars two biggest games of the season. Comparing the stats between the four quarterbacks, Bortles ended the 2018 season with 2700 passing yards and 13 touchdowns with 11 interceptions, Kessler threw for 709 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Minshew through Week 14 of the NFL season has thrown for 2400 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions and Foles threw for 736 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
So, Foles and Kessler’s stats were pretty similar and Bortles and Minshew’s passing yards are close but Minshew has a few more games to throw more yards than Bortles did in 2019. He’s also only thrown five interceptions to Bortles’ 11.
Along with the quarterback play in 2019, the whole offense has improved - the wide receivers especially. The Jaguars led the league in drops in 2018 and its leading receiver was Dede Westbrook with 717 yards along with five touchdowns. This year, DJ Chark has really come into his own jumping from 174 yards in 2018 to 881 yards and 8 touchdowns 12 weeks into the 2019 season.
The offensive line play, despite it not being perfect in 2019 has improved health-wise, along with impressive play by rookie Jawaan Taylor. Only starting left tackle Cam Robinson has missed a game along the offensive line's starters.
The running game was another big improvement for the Jaguars in 2019. Many were doubting Leonard Fournette following his 2018 campaign due to his play on the field along with his actions off the field. He only had 439 yards and five touchdowns, only averaging 3.3 yards per carry, and was publicly called out by Coughlin at the end of the season.
In 2019, though, he started his revenge tour. He has racked up 989 rushing yards three touchdowns and averages 4.5 yards per carry, which would be a career-high average. He also set his career-high in receiving yards in 2019 with five games left, racking up 444 receiving yards.
And maybe most importantly, Fournette has not suffered through injury issues this year, playing in every game and practice.
So, despite the season win-loss record being similar, the offense has come leaps and bounds from last season and there are still five games left in 2019. Now with Minshew back at the helm, the team should only improve.
Defensively, it’s been the same thing - it's improved at times but the health hasn’t improved on that side of the ball. The team has badly struggled with its run defense, but some units have been more consistent this year than last year.
The defensive line sack wise has been distributed a little more evenly this season, Josh Allen leads the team in sacks with nine - breaking the rookie record formerly held by Yannick Ngkaoue. Allen was a steal in the 2019 NFL Draft and has been a very good investment by the team and its shown. Ngakoue has six sacks, and Calias Campbell has five and a half. In 2018 Campbell led the team with 10.5, Ngkaoue had nine and a half and Malik Jackson came in next at three and a half.
The secondary and linebacker play have been the biggest regressions from 2018 to 2019. The Jaguars have had a rotating door of linebackers in 2019. Myles Jack, Quincy Williams, Jake Ryan, Najee Goode, Austin Calitro and Leon Jacobs have all seen time at linebacker this season, while in 2018 it was a bit more consistent with Telvin Smith, Jack, and Jacobs all seeing most of the time at the linebacker position.
With the secondary the Jaguars lost star corner Jalen Ramsey in a trade with the Rams, so Tre Herndon has seen some extended time. Jarrod Wilson and Ronnie Harrison got the starts at the safety position for most of the season but Harrison has been injured so guys like Wingard have also seen some time.
So one thing that has also been very similar is the Jaguars have struggled to rely on its guys to remain healthy, this year it was more on the defensive side of the ball than the offensive side of the ball.
So despite the win-loss record being very similar in 2018 as it is in 2019, the players are developing and becoming better. So, most of the Jaguars' struggles can be blamed on the higher-ups that are making those executive decisions - along with the health of the team not being the greatest.
Though this season has felt like one of the most disappointing seasons in a long long time, the players are improving and playing better - but, hopefully, those in the front office can retain those players that want to be here and will help the team win.