Jaguars Bye Week Stock Report: Which Players Are on the Rise?
While we know this may sound like a broken record at this point, the 1-6 Jacksonville Jaguars are facing a grim picture during their Week 8 bye. With that in mind, the team has nine more games to galvanize and salvage their season.
If the Jaguars will do that over the next nine games, of course, the Jaguars will need a few players to step up their games and a few players to continue the ascensions they have begun.
With all of this in mind, here is our bye week stock report on which players are building some momentum for the second half of the season.
RB James Robinson
Is there any answer more obvious than this? Undrafted rookie running back James Robinson has been a revelation for the Jaguars' offense, quickly become the team's most impactful and efficient offensive weapon. Robinson is second among rookies in rushing yards (481) and yards from scrimmage (706), while ranking seventh and fourth in the entire league in each category. According to Sports Info Solutions, Robinson is sixth in yards after contact with 256. Add in six touchdowns (four on the ground, two as a receiver) and a 4.5 yard per carry average, and is there any reason the Jaguars shouldn't think they have found a feature back to build their offense around?
DE Josh Allen
Yes, Josh Allen's volume stats are on track to finish nowhere near where they finished last year. In terms of sacks, tackles for loss and forced fumbles, he will likely finish with worse figures than he did as a rookie. But with that said, Allen has still played good football for the Jaguars this year despite the lack of an impressive stat sheet. Allen is still impressing on the field, however, consistently getting pressure and forcing quarterbacks to move off of their spots. In terms of pass-rush metrics, Allen is frequently still within the top-15, especially in terms of Pro Football Focus' pass-rush win rate metrics, and Sports Info Solutions has his hurry percentage down just slightly. If the secondary behind Allen was any better, he'd likely have several more sacks than he does this season. Allen still has to make more plays, something he has failed to do this season, but he is a player who has done enough this season to have confidence that he can flip a switch over the final nine games.
WR Keelan Cole
There can be a good argument made for Keelan Cole as Jacksonville's top-performing wide receiver this season. The fourth-year veteran is second on the team in receptions (28), targets (40) and yards per reception (13.4). Include his team-leading 374 receiving yards and three touchdown catches (tied with DJ Chark), then Cole is easily having the best start to any season in his career. He has yet to drop a pass this season per Sports Info Solutions and Gardner Minshew has a 114.0 passer rating when targeting him. Cole's route running and ball skills both looked improved last season and he has been able to take his game to the next level now that he is finally getting starter reps. He has been Jacksonville's primary slot receiver over the first half of the season, a role offensive coordinator Jay Gruden thinks he will grow at with more experience.
"I know that just watching him on film last year, he had some talent but now we’re playing him more inside and it’s a tough position to jump into for the first time. He’s done a great job. He’s getting better and better as far as running routes from in there. I know he can do stuff outside, but we’ve asked him to move inside," Gruden said on Oct. 21.
"He’s a great target, he’s long, got great hands, not afraid, he can block. He’s been very impressive so far. I think he’s going to get better and better the more he sees in the slot and the more he understands the route detail that takes place in there, the depths, the breaks, the suddenness you have to have in there. I think he’ll get better and better, so I’ve been very impressed with him on and off the field and he’s made some big plays for us.”
DT DaVon Hamilton
For most of the first half of the season, James Robinson and Laviska Shenault looked like the only members of Jacksonville's rookie class who were ready to make a consistent impact early in the year. With the lack of preseason this wasn't surprising, and the idea was that once the rookies got the reps they missed out on, they'd start making plays. No rookie is better evidence of that than third-round nose tackle DaVon Hamilton. The young interior defender has had to grow up quickly with veteran defensive tackle Abry Jones on injured reserve, and he was able to have a true breakout game in Week 7 against the Los Angeles Chargers, recording eight tackles (four solo tackles) and a tackle for loss with three pressures. He was a consistent disruptive presence against the pass and the run, giving the Jaguars a bigger boost from the middle of the defense than they have seen all season. If Hamilton can build on that performance like many expect, then he could carve out a big role over the second half of the defense.
SS Daniel Thomas
When a player continues to stand out on special teams, there is always a chance he could make for a solid defender. After all, special teams are about playing smart, physical assignment football and either blocking or tackling in space. Thomas has done all of that well for the Jaguars, resulting in him making the team's biggest special teams play of the season in Week 7 when he blocked a punt and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown. But aside from strong special teams play, Thomas has also looked encouraging on defense despite his limited reps. He has played just 33 snaps on defense this season but in those snaps he has recorded 10 tackles and has yet to miss a tackle, per Sports Info Solutions. The fifth-round pick has also been targeted just once, allowing a four-yard catch. All things considered, that is a strong start to a rookie season.
C Brandon Linder
In terms of comparing it to other positions, metrics that show good offensive line play are somewhat limited. They exist, but a majority of offensive evaluation comes from what one puts on tape. Linder has been Jacksonville's most impressive and consistent offensive lineman yet again, frequently giving the Jaguars a reliable pass and run blocker in the middle of the offensive line. The few metrics that are out there for offensive line back this up as well, with SIS having Linder down for just one blown run block and ESPN has him with the highest pass block win rate among all centers. While there has been inconsistency at other spots on the line, especially over the last two weeks, Linder has once again proven why he is among the best centers in the NFL with his performance thus far in 2020.