Another season has nearly come and gone for the Jacksonville Jaguars and once again Jacksonville is forced to look to the future after a deflating 17 weeks.
The Jaguars (5-10) are at a crossroads as a franchise as it stands today. Two years ago the team brought in a new power structure led by executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin and it paid off early. Jacksonville went 10-6 and advanced all the way to the AFC Championship, coming a quarter away from making the first Super Bowl in team history.
But only about 23 months since the best season in Jaguars owner Shad Khan's tenure, the team has collapsed at the seams. The once bright future of the roster is now murky thanks to the jettisoning of talented players like Jalen Ramsey, Allen Robinson, and others. The tight-knit culture of the team also deteriorated thanks to Coughlin's strict rule over all things football at TIAA Bank Field.
Coughlin has since been fired by Khan, an outsing last Wednesday that changed the outlook of the team moving forward. Now questions remain about the direction of the Jaguars, its leadership, and ultimately its roster.
So with the offseason only days away, what should the Jaguars make their top priorities moving forward? We have a few ideas.
1. Sort out head coach and general manager
First of all, Jacksonville needs to decide who is going to lead the franchise moving forward. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network suggested Sunday that head coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell could realistically stay in their current roles following the Coughlin firing, but this is something that will need to be definitively decided very soon. For Jacksonville to map out their offseason and how to fill their needs, they need to know what scheme and philosophies they are following.
Jacksonville is heading in a new direction one way or another in 2020. Simply subtracting Coughlin and his overwhelming presence creates enough of a change to make that true. But just what that new direction depends on who is leading the team and its front office.
2. Choose which quarterback to build around
For the Jaguars to know how they are going to restock the roster in free agency and the draft, they need to know which offense they will be running in 2020. That hinges on whoever is starting at quarterback between Nick Foles and Gardner Minsew II. The two passers have dramatically different skillsets so whichever one Jacksonville decides to roll with will play a large role in what kind of players Jacksonville acquires to build around them.
Jacksonville will likely hold a true quarterback competition next training camp, but it would serve them better to decide on their 2020 quarterback sooner than later.
3. Resign Yannick Ngakoue to a long-term deal
Through 15 games, fourth-year defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and rookie Josh Allen have combined for 18 sacks and five forced fumbles. That is terrific production for a pass-rushing duo in their first season together and with how badly Jacksonville has needed a pass rush in the last decade, there is no reason Jacksonville should look to break up that duo.
Ngakoue turned down an extension offer for an undisclosed amount during the 2019 training camp, but Jacksonville can't let that happen when his contract ends after Week 17. For a team that lacks talent as badly as the Jaguars do, they are in no position to low-ball Ngakoue and not keep him in the fold for as long as possible.
4. Revamp defensive coaching staff
If Marrone is fired then this move will almost certainly happen automatically as a new coach looks to add his own staff. But this is such a dire priority that it needs to be considered regardless, but especially so if Marrone remains.
Defensive coordinator Todd Wash has overseen Jacksonville's defense for the last four seasons but he hasn't shown enough to keep the Jaguars from putting out feelers around the league for a new defensive coordinator. Wash's best defense came in 2017 when Jacksonville had arguably the most talented starting defense in the NFL. In the other three years, Wash's units have been up and down, especially vs. the run and explosive pass plays. Jacksonville could switch to a 3-4 under a new staff but at the end of the day the scheme matters much less than who is teaching it. As of late, it just seems like Wash's lessons aren't working.
5. Sign Joe Schobert and Eric Ebron
Two of the biggest needs for Jacksonville heading into this offseason will be the linebacker and tight end positions. Luckily for the Jaguars, there are quite a few options in free agency that may not require breaking the bank but would still be massive upgrades.
Cleveland Browns linebacker Joe Schobert has experience in 3-4 and 4-3 schemes and is at worst a serviceable run defender, totaling 386 tackles and seven forced fumbles in four seasons as a starter. He could start right away at inside linebacker and be a breath of fresh air.
As for Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron, he is a supremely flawed player but he would simply be the most talented pass-catching tight end Jacksonville had seen in years. He has caught 16 touchdown passes over the last two seasons but due to his inability as a blocker, he is unlikely to fetch a big contract in the offseason. Jacksonville's tight ends have only scored one touchdown since Week 5, so bringing Ebron into the mix as a red-zone threat would be a smart move.