Happy Thanksgiving Jacksonville Jaguars fans! It’s that special day of the year, where we have societal permission to do nothing but eat copious amounts of food and watch copious amounts of football that isn’t Jaguars football, meaning the only pain comes from too much turkey stretching our pants.
In the time honored tradition that we all dread around the dinner table but relish in the form in relation to our beloved football teams, we whip around the room to share all things Jacksonville Jaguars fans can be thankful for in this horrid year (that last part actually applies to all of life in 2020, not Jaguars football).
There was serious consideration to making this entire article just two words: James Robinson. The rookie running back has 1,011 yards from scrimmage thus far this season, the first undrafted rookie in NFL history to total 1,000 scrimmage yards through their first 10 career games.
The Receiving Unit
On Sunday the club will start their third quarterback in five games, so some of the struggles through the air can be accounted to the inconsistency at the most important position. On the other end sits a receiving unit that has a foundation and pillars to be a pretty solid unit around which to build an offense. Pro-Bowler DJ Chark can win 50/50 balls deep but has also proven reliable in the slot, where he has taken 91 snaps this season through 10 games. He must be accounted for by defenses as well, meaning when he’s bracketed, primary slot receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. can rip across the middle of the field.
Fourth-year receiver Keelan Cole has taken advantage of Chark and Shenault being out at separate times and become the formidable second swing in the one-two punch that has become Chark and Cole. Cole is second on the team in receptions (36), yards (453) and yards per catch (12.6) while tied with Chark for touchdowns (4). He is also in the Top 50 in the NFL in the three latter categories.
Your Stadium Has A Pool…
…and that’s cool.
Robinson joins running backs Fred Taylor (1998) and Leonard Fournette (2017) as the only players in franchise history to total 1,000 scrimmage yards through their first 10 career games. Furthermore, Robinson is doing it after little to no offseason, no pre-season games to become accustomed to the game speed and in an offense that has been more explosive than years past but is still far away from finding its footing. If this is what he can do this year, just imagine 2021.
There’s Nothing To Lose
At 1-9 and out of the playoff picture and with the fate of the club and personnel seemingly set, at this point, there’s nothing left to lose. That’s often when things fall apart. But Head Coach Doug Marrone insists this team has the attitude to continue to fight. Combine that with the 'nothing to lose' realization while guys and coaches assemble tape for next season and the final six games should at least be entertaining; not as entertaining as Keelan Cole almost successfully converting an onside kick attempt though because God doesn’t give with both hands.
At Least You’re Not the Jets
The New York Jets have a worse record than the Jags—which could hurt in April—but also seem more out of touch, obtuse, stubborn and unrelenting in the face of a sure painful fate. Also, it’s 21 degrees colder in Florham Park, New Jersey today than it is in Jacksonville. That’s no fun.
Question whatever decision you want from the front office and coaching staff this season. But also give them credit for recognizing the steal of the 2020 rookie class. James Robinson runs, catches out of the backfield, picks up blitzes and even chases down safeties returning interceptions better than anyone else on the team or those in his position in ages.
The Defensive Rookies
The Jaguars are the youngest team in the league (take a shot for every time you hear that the rest of the season) and nowhere is the more evident than on defense. There, the first-year guys are starting or at the very least pushing for extended playing time at their positions and making a noticeable difference when there. Despite missing two games with injury, corner CJ Henderson is still fifth on the team with 36 tackles and second with six passes defended. The next closest is three.
Safety Daniel Thomas has proven a game-changer on special teams and his two passes defended and one interception in one half versus the Pittsburgh Steelers make him someone to watch when he returns from IR (arm).
Chris Claybrooks was brought in to be a returner on special teams but injuries have pushed him into the starting lineup at corner. There he’s accumulated 28 tackles and three defended passes. Up front, Davon Hamilton has become a force in place of Abry Jones.
Let these and others—like defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson, learning under the tutelage of Josh Allen—grow around Allen and linebackers Joe Schobert and Myles Jack and the pieces are in place for a dominant defense.
The NFL Draft
The chances of the Jags having a Top 5 pick is all but set in stone and the possibility for the coveted first pick is still very much in play. One of Trevor Lawerence, Justin Fields or Zach Wilson are almost assuredly becoming a Jaguar, with the fourth and fifth quarterbacks on the board not a far drop off in talent. That can become a reality in exactly five months and three days. Coincidentally my birthday is that same week. I take packs of Diet Dr. Pepper, Barnes and Noble gift cards and No. 1 overall picks.