What Kind of Identity Does Doug Marrone Want the Jaguars to Have in 2020?
Doug Marrone knows what kind of football team he wants to field in Jacksonville in 2020. Now, it is up to Marrone and Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell to shape the team's roster in that image.
2019 was a turbulent and often disappointing year for the Jaguars despite a few positives such as the emergence of Josh Allen, DJ Chark, Jawaan Taylor, and Gardner Minshew. The team saw cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the face of the franchise for the previous three seasons, force his way out of Jacksonville via a messy divorce from the organization. Add an injury and benching to big-money free agent quarterback Nick Foles and a string of losses that led Jacksonville to a 6-10 record, and it was mostly a year to forget.
Now, Marrone and Caldwell have been given the mandate to win in 2020 and to do so, they will need to ensure the team is built with the proper identity. Too many times in the last three seasons were there disconnects inside the walls of TIAA Bank Field, whether among executives or among players and franchise itself. The hope is by having Caldwell and Marrone work cohesively together, these disconnects will be eliminated.
What kind of specific vision and identity do the Jaguars have in mind for their squad in 2020?
"We want to be a big, strong, tough and smart football team," Marrone told local media this week. "I think we want players that really enjoy playing, that love the game. We don’t want a lot of drama. We want people to be on the same page, as far as everything we’re doing is all about just trying to win."
No drama would be a welcomed change in Jacksonville after issues with players such as Ramsey, Yannick Ngakoue, Dante Fowler, Leonard Fournette, and others in past seasons. Having so much noise around the team is counterproductive to winning, and it is clear Marrone wants those days to be behind the Jaguars.
"All the individual things will come if we win football games," Marrone said, That’s the one thing that I’ve always tried to preach from the beginning, from when I first started coaching, whether it be as a position coach or as a coordinator or as the head coach, those are the things that I’m looking for."
With a specific mindset for the character of players Marrone wants to see the Jaguars bring in, what kind of attributes on the field is the head coach looking for on the field?
All offseason long, Marrone has harped on adding run defenders to the roster in an attempt to fill a void that left the Jaguars' defense vulnerable in 2019. Last season, the Jaguars' defense allowed 23 rushing touchdowns (second-most in NFL) and 5.12 yards per rush (second-most in NFL).
They have also lost key run defenders such as nose tackle Marcell Dareus and defensive lineman Calais Campbell, though the Jaguars have added cheaper replacements in free agency with Al Woods and Rodney Gunter.
But even with these signings, Marrone still wants his team to have an identity that has focused on stopping the run, which requires bringing in even more reinforcements. Too often last season, the Jaguars' defense looked vastly undersized and vulnerable to being bullied by more physical offenses. It is clear Marrone wants this trend to reverse in 2020.
"Obviously defensively we’re looking to bring in people that obviously can stop the run," Marrone said. Usually, bigger people can tackle better, they’re a little big bigger, and as long as they’re athletic enough, and they can run their feet and run their hands and get people down on the ground, so that’s a priority for us and what we’re trying to accomplish there."
And on offense? Marrone is looking to make his team more explosive, which means adding more playmakers at the skill positions to join DJ Chark, Leonard Fournette, Tyler Eifert, and others.
"I think offensively we’re expecting our offensive line to take a big jump from what they did last year, but again, how many weapons, how many playmakers do we have surrounding the quarterback position? Do we have enough of those guys that can make plays? That’s really the key when you look at it, explosive plays are coming from playmakers," Marrone said.
It remains to be seen if the areas Marrone and the Jaguars are placing priorities on will result in filling enough of the team's various needs, but the Jaguars at least seem to have a clear vision for what they are looking for this offseason. That isn't an argument that could be made in the last few offseasons, so it is at least one step in the proper direction.