AFC South: Justin Blackmon

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The upcoming NFL draft will be the 20th in Jacksonville Jaguars history, not counting the expansion draft.

To commemorate that milestone, I'm looking back at each draft and giving you the best and worst selections in each round. Today is the first round.

These rankings are based on what the player did with the Jaguars. If they failed to produce with the Jaguars but had success somewhere else -- whether they left as free agents, were cut and caught on somewhere else, or traded -- that's a negative.

I'm expecting some disagreement, which is fine. Your feedback is welcome (click the email link at the bottom), and I'm going to post some of the best comments (read: those without profanity) on April 16.

Here we go ...

Round 1: Best pick

[+] EnlargeTony Boselli
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsTony Boselli made five pro Bowls during his seven-season NFL career.
The first pick the Jaguars ever made still remains their best.

Tom Coughlin selected offensive tackle Tony Boselli with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1995 draft and Boselli became one of the cornerstones of the franchise's surprising early success. He went on to make five Pro Bowls and was voted to the All-Pro team three times in his seven-year career with the Jaguars.

Boselli started 12 games as a rookie and all 16 in his second season. By his third season, he was regarded as one of the best tackles in the game. That soon changed into him being regarded as the best tackle in the game. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury cut short a career that could have ended with Boselli being the first Jaguars player inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Honorable mention

RB Fred Taylor (1998) holds Jaguars career records in rushing yards (11,271) and attempts (2,428) and single-game records in yards (234) and attempts (37). He is currently 15th on the NFL's all-time rushing list.

LB Kevin Hardy (1996) ranks fourth on the Jaguars' all-time sack list (28.5) and fourth in team history with 789 tackles. He had 10.5 sacks and was voted to the All-Pro team and the Pro Bowl in 1999.

DT John Henderson (2002) is third on the Jaguars' all-time sack list (29), which is a significant achievement for a defensive tackle. He also ranks fifth in team history in tackles (563) and is a two-time Pro Bowler.

Round 1: Worst pick

The Jaguars took receiver R. Jay Soward with the 29th overall pick in 2000. It turned out to be the biggest bust in team history.

Soward eventually admitted that he battled alcohol issues throughout his career and smoked marijuana regularly while he was at USC. That's why his NFL career ended with just 14 receptions for 154 yards and a touchdown, three carries for 28 yards, and 18 punt and kickoff returns.

Soward struggled just getting to practices and meetings on time. Coughlin sent limos to pick Soward up to make sure he made it on time. He was suspended multiple times for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Honorable mention

DE Derrick Harvey (2008) never came close to living up to the hype of being the eighth overall pick. He was an elite pass-rusher at Florida but managed just eight sacks in his three seasons with the Jaguars.

QB Blaine Gabbert (2011) was 5-22 as a starter and threw 22 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions in 28 career games. The No. 10 overall pick also couldn't stay healthy. He missed games because of injuries to his shoulder, forearm (the final six games of the 2012 season), thumb, hamstring, and a cut on his hand. He failed to finish six of his last 10 starts (including preseason) because of those injuries.

WR Justin Blackmon (2012) has already violated the league's substance abuse policy three times in his first two seasons and is currently suspended indefinitely.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The next five days are not going to be easy for Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley.

At any moment, they may find out that the Cleveland Browns have decided to match the offer the Jaguars made to Pro Bowl center Alex Mack. That news could come Friday night or they may not find out until 4 p.m. ET Wednesday, which is the deadline for the Browns' decision.

Until then, all they can do is wait and hope that the potential contract is structured in a way that will deter the Browns from accepting despite having the significant cap room available (roughly $30 million). ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that the contract is for $42 million over five years, including $26 million guaranteed. The contract also allows Mack to void the deal after the first two years and includes clauses that prohibit him from being traded or tagged again.

That deal isn't exactly team friendly, but it's much worse for the Browns than it is the Jaguars -- and for that the fans can thank former general managers Shack Harris and Gene Smith. Caldwell can afford to pay Mack that much guaranteed money because he doesn't have to worry about having to pay big money to re-sign any current Jaguars players within the next three to four years.

None of the players from Harris' final two drafts (2008 and 2009) remain on the roster. Eight of the 26 players that Smith drafted from 2009-12 are still with the team, but none will deserve big contracts. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert is gone and receiver Justin Blackmon is currently serving an indefinite suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. A team would be foolish to sign Blackmon to anything but a minimum deal.

With the rookie salary structure keeping signing bonuses and contracts reasonable, the Jaguars will be able to handle Mack's front-loaded contract over the next three seasons. Even if players from the 2013 draft class like safety Johnathan Cyprien, cornerback Dwayne Gratz, left tackle Luke Joeckel or receiver Ace Sanders do become elite players, they are on four-year deals that won't expire until after the 2016 season.

The Jaguars added seven free agents (not counting Mack) but some of those contracts include bonuses tied to playing time and most are front-loaded, especially for older players such as defensive end Chris Clemons and defensive tackle Red Bryant.

So the Jaguars can certainly afford Mack, and if the Browns decline to match the offer the Jaguars will have solidified the left side of their offensive line for at least the next three years until Joeckel' s rookie deal is up after 2016.

Caldwell deserves a lot of credit if he can pull this off, and it should be a message to the rest of the league that the Jaguars aren't going to be last guy picked for the dodge ball game any longer. Caldwell has rapidly improved a roster that was the worst in the NFL the past two seasons. This potential Mack signing shows he's not a na´ve, easy mark, either.

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and GM Ray Farmer, who is in his first season with the team, certainly didn't handle the Mack situation as deftly as Caldwell. Instead of giving Mack the franchise tag, which guaranteed Mack a salary of $11.6 million in 2014 and meant any team that signed him would have to part with two first-round picks, they used the transition tag. That saved the Browns about $1.5 million in salary in 2014 and they had the right to match any offer that Mack received, but it also meant they wouldn't get any compensation if they didn't.

It was a gamble, and regardless of their decision on Mack they've lost. They either lose one of the best offensive linemen in the game or they agree to a contract that they can afford now but will impact their ability to extend the contracts of some of their other stars, like cornerback Joe Haden, receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron. Plus, they could get Mack for 2014 and 2015 and lose him with no compensation if he exercises the clause that allows him to void the deal after two seasons.

The Browns may very well decide to match the Jaguars' offer, at which point the Jaguars will be no worse off than they were before Mack signed his offer sheet on Friday. But credit Caldwell for taking a calculated shot, one that could play a significant role in changing the franchise's direction.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Jaguars coach Gus Bradley would like to be able to sit down with suspended receiver Justin Blackmon and have a conversation the way they did during Blackmon's early-season suspension in 2013.

But the two have had only minimal contact via text messages because NFL rules prohibit Blackmon from visiting the team's facility while serving an indefinite suspension for his third violation of the league's substance abuse policy.

Blackmon
Blackmon
"I wish I could have a more extended conversation with him," Bradley said Tuesday. "My feelings toward him haven't changed. I still care about him.

"To be able to sit down and visit with him, that part I miss."

That used to be a regular occurrence. They would sit down each week during the season and have conversations that sometimes lasted more than an hour. Most of those talks had nothing to do with football. But Bradley hasn't had any contact with Blackmon for several weeks.

Bradley had heard that Blackmon was back in Jacksonville and that was confirmed when he heard about Blackmon's early-morning, one-car accident on March 15.

The Jaguars are still unsure of Blackmon's availability for the 2014 season -- he will be able to petition NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement before the season begins -- and the team is planning on being without him.

The Jaguars already added receiver Tandon Doss in free agency and Bradley said the team will likely draft at least one more receiver.

"It's something that we will address," Bradley said. "We looked at [Emmanuel] Sanders and didn't get him. Somewhere in those 11 picks, yeah, you'll probably see us take a wide receiver. We'll see. We've got to take best available."
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Sometimes the popular decision isn't the correct decision, and that's the case with the Jacksonville Jaguars and quarterback Chad Henne.

The team needs a franchise quarterback and fans are clamoring for the team to draft Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles and hand over the keys to the offense. The last thing fans want is the status quo at quarterback.

However, that's likely what they're going to get now that Henne and the team have agreed to a two-year extension. General manager David Caldwell has been hinting at it over the past two months. Even if the Jaguars do draft a quarterback, Caldwell said it's unlikely he'll be ready to play right away. Caldwell also said that with another year in the offense, some additional playmakers, and better offensive-line play, Henne could keep the team afloat.

That's a pretty good indication Henne will take the first snap in the 2014 season opener and for a significant length of time after, as well. Possibly even the entire season.

If Caldwell is correct and whichever quarterback the team drafts is not ready to play for the first part of the season or longer -- whether it's one of the big three in the first round or someone else in the second or third round -- then sticking with Henne is the correct decision. He gives the team the best chance to win games in that scenario.

Henne did a solid job under less-than-ideal circumstances last season: He started 13 games and threw for 3,241 yards and 13 touchdowns with 14 interceptions, becoming the first Jaguars quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season since David Garrard in 2009. The 28-year-old Henne led the Jaguars to a 4-4 record in the second half of the season after an 0-8 start, and he had nine TD passes and five interceptions in the final five games.

He did it with a depleted cast, too. He lost his best receiver (Justin Blackmon) to an indefinite suspension, didn't get much from tight end Marcedes Lewis because of a calf injury, and then lost his second-best receiver (Cecil Shorts) for the final three weeks because of a sports hernia.

Henne's signing doesn't guarantee the Jaguars won't take a quarterback in the first round, but the team could choose to address a similarly pressing need by taking a pass-rusher, whether it's Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack.

If the Jaguars do take a quarterback in the second or third round -- which seems a near certainty if they draft a pass-rusher in the first round -- Henne can serve as a mentor to the young quarterback, a role that wouldn't be suited for Blaine Gabbert.

Henne isn't the long-term answer, but he is the team's top option heading into the 2014 season -- popular or not.

Free-agency series: Wide receivers

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
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Here is the third of a 10-part series breaking down the Jaguars’ free-agency needs, position by position:

Wide receivers

Who’s on the roster: Justin Blackmon, Mike Brown, Chad Bumphis, Jeremy Ebert, Stephen Burton, Taylor Price, Denard Robinson, Jabin Sambrano, Ace Sanders, Cecil Shorts, Kerry Taylor, Lamaar Thomas and Stephen Williams.

Blackmon
Blackmon
Analysis: This position group is solid provided Blackmon is on the field. However, nobody knows when, or if, he’ll get back on the field. He is eligible to apply for reinstatement from his indefinite suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy just before the 2014 season begins. Even if he’s reinstated, there’s no guarantee he’ll avoid another suspension. He is clearly the Jaguars’ best receiver, catching 29 passes for 415 yards in the four games in which he played in 2013. Shorts has played well the past two seasons (121 catches for 1,756 yards), though he has missed five games because of injuries and missed the final three games of this past season and went on IR with a sports hernia. He’s not a No. 1 receiver, though, and had some trouble when he was thrust into that role when Blackmon was suspended. Taylor came on at the end of the season and is intriguing as a No. 4/5 receiver. Brown and Sanders, who caught 51 passes last season as a rookie, are dependable slot receivers. In addition to Shorts, Burton, Ebert, Price and Williams finished the season on injured reserve. Bumphis and Sambrano are on the practice squad. Price’s contract expires next month and he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.

NFL free agents of interest: Hakeem Nicks, Eric Decker, Riley Cooper, Brandon Tate and Golden Tate.

Need meter: 5. The Jaguars could get by without adding a receiver in free agency, because it’s likely they’ll draft at least one. The position group needs an upgrade at the top end, but to get a big-time player the Jaguars will have to spend big-time money, and it doesn’t seem likely they’ll do that on a receiver. Regardless of whether it’s a free agent or a draft pick, it’s likely to be a bigger, more physical receiver, because that’s one thing the Jaguars lack. Burton (6-foot-1, 224 pounds) fits the description, but has just 15 catches in three seasons and battled a concussion much of last season.
With the NFL combine starting Wednesday, here's a look at the Jacksonville Jaguars' positions of need on offense and which prospects the team might be looking to take a closer look at in Indianapolis. Positions of need are listed in order of importance. A look at the defense comes Tuesday.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars have a lot of holes to fill on the roster and the next part in the process comes this week when general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley evaluate, watch and interview prospects at the NFL combine.

Here's a breakdown of what the Jaguars need, in order, on offense and some potential targets:

Quarterback: There's no question this is the Jaguars' top need, although pass-rusher is only slightly behind. Caldwell wants to re-sign Chad Henne before free agency begins next month, but Henne is a bridge player or someone who can mentor a young quarterback and begin the season as the starter if the rookie isn't ready. The Jaguars haven't completely given up on Blaine Gabbert, either, but he's entering the final year of his contract and it would be surprising if he were re-signed after 2014.

Potential targets: Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Jimmy Garoppolo, Derek Carr, Aaron Murray.

Interior offensive line: The Jaguars have to find a center to replace the retired Brad Meester and a left guard to upgrade from Will Rackley. The Jaguars will address this area in free agency as well but the team also wants to add some young talent. The Jaguars appear set at both tackles (Luke Joeckel and Austin Pasztor) and right guard Uche Nwaneri has two more years remaining on his contract. He's scheduled to make $4.775 million in each year, though, and could be a cap casualty after 2014. Mike Brewster and Jacques McClendon can play guard and center but neither appears, now anyway, to be the long-term answer. It wouldn't be surprising if the team took an interior offensive lineman in the third round, especially if the Jaguars took a quarterback earlier.

Potential targets: G Gabe Jackson, G David Yankey, G Brandon Thomas, C Marcus Martin, C Weston Richburg, C Russell Bodine.

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
Stephen Morton/AP PhotoThe Jaguars need to find a feature back in the event they do not re-sign Maurice Jones-Drew.
Running back: The Jaguars are more than likely going to lose Maurice Jones-Drew in free agency, which leaves them with Jordan Todman, Denard Robinson, Delone Carter, and Justin Forsett on the roster. Forsett is likely going to be cut, but even if he's retained none of those players is a feature back. The Jaguars don't need to invest a high pick at this spot because good backs can be found in the later middle rounds.

Potential targets: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Jerick McKinnon, Tre Mason, Lache Seastrunk, Dri Archer, Andre Williams.

Receiver: The Jaguars aren't planning on getting anything from Justin Blackmon in 2014 because they don't yet know his status, which is the correct way to approach his situation. Cecil Shorts is entering a contract year but has yet to stay healthy for a full season. Ace Sanders, Mike Brown, Kerry Taylor, Lamar Thomas, and Stephen Burton are complementary players. The Jaguars need to find a bigger, physical receiver. If they do that in free agency, this area drops to the bottom of the offensive needs list.

Potential targets: Josh Huff, Odell Beckham Jr., Davante Adams.

Tight end: Marcedes Lewis came on strong at the end of the season and he should be a 50-catch player in Jedd Fisch's offense if he stays healthy. After Lewis, though, there isn't much. Clay Harbor is a flex tight end but he's a free agent and the Jaguars will have to decide if they want to re-sign him. Danny Noble is raw and needs more work. The Jaguars want a bigger tight end who can line up next to Lewis in two-tight-end formations.

Potential targets: Marcel Jensen, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Crockett Gilmore, Jake Murphy.
Each day this week I'll provide an answer to a key question facing the Jaguars in the offseason.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars are projected to be roughly $50 million under the salary cap in 2014, so GM David Caldwell doesn't have to worry about re-negotiating any deals or cutting high-priced players to fit under the cap.

Posluszny
Lewis
But that doesn't mean the Jaguars don't have any out-of-whack salaries. They certainly do, and it begins with linebacker Paul Posluszny.

Posluszny is scheduled to count $9.5 million against the cap in 2014. Though he has been the Jaguars' best defensive player since he signed a six-year deal with the team in 2011 and is coming off his first Pro Bowl, that's a pretty significant cap number for a middle linebacker. In fact, he'll be the Jaguars' highest-paid player in 2014.

That's not much of an issue now because the Jaguars don't have a high-paid quarterback, receiver or defensive back to worry about within the next few years. But Posluszny will count $9.5 million against the cap in 2015 and $7.5 million against the cap in 2016 and those are numbers that are too high and it's likely the team will try to re-work the deal at some point after 2014.

Tight end Marcedes Lewis will be the Jaguars' second-highest paid player in 2014 with a cap number of $8.35 million. It appeared during the 2013 season that Lewis would be a cap casualty because he missed nearly six full games with a calf injury and really didn't make much of an impact in the passing game when he did return. But he was certainly a weapon over the final five games, catching 16 passes for 242 yards and four touchdowns.

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch got Lewis more involved over the final five weeks and with a full season in the lineup Lewis could reach 50 catches in 2014.

Even so, it'd be a surprise if Lewis were back in 2015 because he is scheduled to count $8.3 million against the cap and that's a lot of money to invest in a tight end not named Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski.

Other players with high cap numbers in 2014 are defensive end Jason Babin ($6.175 million), right guard Uche Nwaneri ($5.894 million) and receiver Justin Blackmon ($5.048 million). Babin led the Jaguars with 7.5 sacks in 2013 but he's making elite defensive end money and he's not an elite defensive end. He has said he'd be willing to re-negotiate his contract because he likes it in Jacksonville, but he also can declare himself a free agent because of a clause in the new CBA.

It'd be a surprise if Babin is on the roster in 2014 under his current contract.

Blackmon is under an indefinite suspension and won't count against the cap unless he is reinstated. He can apply to commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement before the 2014 season begins.
MOBILE, Ala. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars, like every team in the NFL, have their share of trash-talkers.

Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks and suspended receiver Justin Blackmon probably top the list, but neither has taken it to the level that Richard Sherman did last Sunday. They yip at opponents during games but leave it on the field.

And that’s just the way Jaguars coach Gus Bradley wants it. A little dialogue on the field is fine during the game, but nothing dramatic or outrageous that puts someone in the spotlight because of what he said. No public feuds, bulletin board material or boasts allowed.

"I think that generally we talk about really focus on the team and try to keep the attention on the team, but we understand things like that can happen," Bradley said. "It’s a heated moment and sometimes it can happen. As quickly as possible we want to bring it back to the team."

The Jaguars haven’t had any instances of out-in-the-open trash talking under Bradley, which isn’t surprising considering the team lost its first eight games by double digits and finished 4-12 in 2013. The closest thing you could find is defensive end Jason Babin tackling Arizona running back Andre Ellington by his dreadlocks and ending up with a handful of hair from Ellington’s head.

Babin downplayed the incident after the game.

"Seems like everyone’s making a big deal about it," Babin said. "But it’s just one of the plays in the football game."

The Jaguars have done some in-house trash talking, though. Marks recovered a fumble against Cleveland and appeared headed for his first career touchdown when he was caught from behind by Browns guard John Greco. Marks’ teammates really let him have it for getting run down by an offensive lineman.

But Marks didn’t mind and even admitted he deserved it.
Each day for the next two weeks we’ll review how each position group performed in 2013, and take an early look at 2014. Today we’ll examine the wide receivers. We did quarterbacks on Monday, running backs on Tuesday, tight ends on Wednesday, and we will do the offensive line on Friday.

Wide receivers

Breakdown of starts: Cecil Shorts (13), Mike Brown (6), Justin Blackmon (4), Ace Sanders (4), Kerry Taylor (4), Stephen Burton (2).

Shorts
Recap: For four games -- the only four in which Blackmon played -- the Jaguars were in pretty good shape. It was a little rougher in the other 12, however, especially after Shorts went on IR with a groin injury. By the end of the season, though, there were a few pleasant surprises.

Shorts still led the team with 66 catches for 777 yards and three touchdowns despite battling shoulder and groin injuries throughout the season. He struggled in the role as the team’s No. 1 receiver when Blackmon was suspended for the first four games but handled it much better during Blackmon’s second suspension.

He was the only other proven receiver on the roster when the season began but fourth-round draft pick Ace Sanders and first-year player Mike Brown developed into solid complementary receivers. Sanders, drafted mainly to be the team’s punt returner, got more work early because of Blackmon’s suspension and a back injury that kept Brown off the field for four of the first five weeks. His 51 catches were the third-highest among rookie receivers this season.

Brown (32 catches, 446 yards, 2 touchdowns) had the best per-catch average (13.9 yards) among the Jaguars’ wide receivers. He was impressive in his return to the lineup after a four-week absence due to a broken vertebra, catching five passes for 120 yards in his second game back, making him the only receiver beside Blackmon to have a 100-yard receiving game.

Taylor was perhaps the most pleasant surprise. He was signed Nov. 4 and caught 16 passes for 162 yards in the last three games.

Looking ahead to 2014

Players under contract: Blackmon, Shorts, Burton, Sanders, Brown, Taylor, Stephen Williams, Jeremy Ebert, Lamaar Thomas, Chad Bumphis, Jabin Sambrano.

The skinny: Shorts will be in the final year of his contract so he’ll have that as some added motivation to reach 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. Sanders, Brown and Taylor will go into camp as the Nos. 2-4 receivers and should be improved in their second season in the offense.

The wildcard is Blackmon. He can apply for reinstatement before the season begins. If he is reinstated, the Jaguars have to decide whether to cut or keep him, knowing that if they do keep him they run the risk of him failing another drug test and being suspended again.

It’s likely the Jaguars also will draft a receiver or try to add one in free agency. It’s also likely that whoever they add will be a bigger, physical receiver, which is something they do not have on the roster. They need a receiver that can go up and win the 50-50 battles for balls, especially in the red zone. Right now tight end Marcedes Lewis is the only player on the roster who has proven he can do that.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Each week this season I put together a list of the top 10 playmakers from the previous week's game.

Sometimes it wasn't easy, especially in the first half of the season. With the Jaguars going 0-8 I had to dig deep, and twice I had to use mascot Jaxson DeVille for his dramatic pregame entrances.

Thing were much easier in the second half of the season, though. The Jaguars played significantly better and went 4-4.

At the midway point I gave you a list of the top 10 playmakers for the first half of the season. Now that the season is over, here's the final list.

Remember, this isn't a list of the MVP candidates, but a compilation of the players who made the biggest difference this season.

Following each player's name will be three numbers: their final point total, their first-half point total, and second-half point total. Points were assigned to each spot on the weekly list. The No. 1 playmaker each week got 10 points, the No. 2 got nine, the No. 3 got eight, etc.

[+] EnlargePosluszny
AP Photo/Scott A. MillerPaul Posluszny was the Jaguars' best defensive player and arguably their top player overall.
1. LB Paul Posluszny (83 total, 46 first half, 37 second half): It's no surprise that he tops the list. He was the Jaguars' best defensive player all season and you could argue that he was the team's best overall player. His 161 tackles (121 solo) were second in the NFL. He also had three sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

T2. RB Maurice Jones-Drew (77-41-36): It wasn't his best season, but he still was the Jaguars' leading rusher (803 yards) and was the third-leading receiver (43 receptions for 314 yards). He only scored five touchdowns and his 3.4 yards per carry average was the lowest of his career, but he still was the offense's biggest playmaker. He did that despite being less than a year removed from Lisfranc surgery and battling through ankle, knee and hamstring issues.

T2. QB Chad Henne (77-45-32): He finished with 13 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions, but he threw for nine touchdown passes and five interceptions in the last five games. He also threw for 3,241 yards, making him the first Jaguars quarterback to surpass 3,000 yards since David Garrard in 2009. Though he wasn't spectacular, he made a lot of good plays and rarely put the Jaguars in a bad situation.

4. WR Cecil Shorts (57-44-13): He fought through shoulder and groin injuries to catch a team-high 66 passes for 777 yards and three touchdowns. He missed the final three games because the groin injury became too severe for him to play through. For nine of the 13 games he was the team's No. 1 receiver and struggled with that role in the first month but handled it much better after Justin Blackmon's second suspension.

5. K Josh Scobee (46-30-16): He missed only two of his 25 field goal attempts. One was a 60-yarder and the other was blocked. He scored 94 points, which led the team for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons.

6. P Bryan Anger (45-34-11): He was the team's best offensive player in the first month of the season. His gross average was down 2.1 yards from his rookie season but he equaled his rookie mark of 31 punts inside the 20-yard line.

7. TE Marcedes Lewis (41-6-35): A calf injury kept him out for all but two plays in the first six games and he needed time to get used to the offense and figure out his role. Once he got comfortable, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch made him a significant part of the game plan and Lewis caught 16 passes for 242 yards (15.1 yards per catch) and four touchdowns in the last five games.

8. WR Ace Sanders (40-13-27): He was drafted to be the team's punt returner and because of injuries and Blackmon's suspension ended up playing a key role on offense. His 51 receptions for 484 yards were second on the team. For comparison, Shorts caught only two passes as a rookie and Blackmon caught 64.

9. DT Sen'Derrick Marks (37-15-22): He was the Jaguars' best defensive lineman all season and put together a career year. He set career highs in sacks (four), passes defensed (eight), forced fumbles (two) and fumble recoveries (three) in 2013. He had three sacks, eight passes defensed, three forced fumbles and no fumble recoveries in his first four seasons with Tennessee. He was rewarded with a four-year contract extension last month.

10. WR Justin Blackmon (34-0-34): He played in just four games but he was the Jaguars' best offensive player in those four. He caught 29 passes for 446 yards and one touchdown. His 29 receptions are fifth on the team and the 415 yards are fourth. He will be eligible to apply for reinstatement before the 2014 season begins.

Here are the players who finished 11th-20th:

11. RB/KR Jordan Todman (32-5-27): He finished as the Jaguars' second-leading rusher (256 yards) but made his biggest mark as a kickoff returner. His 27.4 yards per return average was seventh in the NFL. He proved he could be a complementary back as well, rushing for 109 yards against Buffalo when Jones-Drew sat out with a hamstring injury.

12. S Johnathan Cyprien (31-23-9): He finished second on the team with 104 tackles and progressively improved throughout the season.

13. LB Geno Hayes (29-6-23): Played through a knee injury all season and finished third with 78 tackles and two interceptions.

14. WR Mike Brown (26-26-0): He missed four games with a fractured vertebrae but rebounded to finish fourth with 32 catches for 446 yards and two touchdowns.

15. CB Alan Ball (24-3-21): He led the team with 14 pass breakups to go along with 45 tackles and two interceptions.

16. CB Will Blackmon (21-11-10): He was a late-August acquisition who became the leader in the secondary. His strip-sack and return for a touchdown was instrumental in the Jaguars' first victory. He finished with 10 pass breakups, one interception, and 40 tackles.

17. DE Jason Babin (19-6-13): He led the team with 7.5 sacks to go along with 40 tackles.

18. WR Kerry Taylor (18-0-18): He joined the team on Nov. 4 and caught 16 passes for 162 yards in the last three games.

19. LB LaRoy Reynolds (17-0-17): The sight of him assisting on a tackle on a punt return despite losing his helmet will be one of the lasting images of the season.

20. LB J.T. Thomas (15-11-4): He had 17 tackles and a forced fumble. He started the last two games of the season and had seven tackles and a forced fumble against Indianapolis.

 

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 29
Preseason Power Ranking: 29

Biggest surprise: When the Jaguars signed defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks to a one-year, $1.5 million contract last April, they thought he’d be a good fit in coach Gus Bradley’s system. Turns out he was a perfect fit. Marks plays the three-technique, which means he lines up on the guard’s outside shoulder, and that position is supposed to provide interior pass rush. Marks finished with four sacks, nine quarterback pressures and eight pass breakups -- all numbers that equaled or surpassed the totals from his first four seasons. He seemed to make at least one impactful play every game and he accounted for two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. His play earned him a four-year contract extension as one of the building blocks of the defense.

Biggest disappointment: The Jaguars’ inability to consistently run the ball, especially early in the season, was vexing. The Jaguars switched from a predominantly man-blocking scheme to a zone-blocking scheme, and the offensive line had trouble with the transition. Four of the five starters at the beginning of the season also started in 2011, when Maurice Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing. The Jaguars mixed in more man-blocking schemes as the season progressed and things got better, but the problem wasn’t “fixed.” In addition, Jones-Drew clearly was not the same player he was two years ago. He missed all but six games last season with a Lisfranc injury and also battled ankle, knee and hamstring issues this season.

Biggest need: The Jaguars have a pretty long list of needs, but two stand out above all others: quarterback and pass-rusher. Quarterback is the top need because former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert isn’t the answer and neither is Chad Henne, who will be a free agent but wants to return to Jacksonville in 2014. The Jaguars haven’t had a bona fide threat at quarterback since coach Jack Del Rio put Mark Brunell on the bench for Byron Leftwich in 2003. New general manager David Caldwell and Bradley need a player around which to build the franchise, and the Jaguars will have the opportunity to possibly find one when they pick third overall in May’s draft.

Team MVP: The first impulse is to go with middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, whose 161 tackles ranked second in the NFL. He was clearly the team’s best defensive player and arguably the best overall player. However, what Henne did to stabilize the offense earns him MVP honors. Gabbert had played terribly in the first part of the season (seven INTs, one TD) and Henne stepped in and played the most consistent football of his career. He didn’t always light it up and he made some poor decisions and mistakes, but he kept the Jaguars in games in the second half of the season and made enough plays to go 4-4 after the bye. He threw nine touchdown passes -- including the game winner against Cleveland with 40 seconds to play -- and five interceptions over the final five games.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It’s obvious that the Jacksonville Jaguars made significant progress in the second half of the 2013 season.

But it is just as obvious that they still have a long way to go to be competitive in the AFC South.

It was painfully evident in Sunday’s 30-10 loss at Indianapolis. The Jaguars were not dominated as much as they were in a 37-3 loss to the Colts in Jacksonville in Week 4, but it was ugly, especially early. They were down 17-0 and the game was essentially over after the first quarter.

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
AP Photo/AJ MastMaurice Jones-Drew fumbled on the Jaguars' first drive, setting up Indianapolis for a touchdown.
"I just didn’t think that we executed very well today," coach Gus Bradley said. "We missed some opportunities, we missed some reads, we missed some wild combinations, we missed tackles, some assignments. I don’t want to make it sound like it was just a complete disaster. It wasn’t. But it wasn’t up to our standard. It wasn’t the consistency that we’re looking for."

It’s going to take a lot more than just another draft and a couple of free-agent signings before they can compete with the Colts, who are clearly the class of the division. Granted, the Jaguars have been banged-up in the final month -- especially on defense, where they were without four starters -- but so are the Colts. They were missing 15 players who were placed on IR this season, including receiver Reggie Wayne. That means injuries cannot be used to explain away Sunday’s rout.

Jaguars general manager David Caldwell and Bradley have gotten off to a good start in revamping the roster, but there are still major holes to fill. There are some building blocks in place on defense, especially in the secondary with safety Johnathan Cyprien and Dwayne Gratz. Defensive tackles Sen’Derrick Marks and Roy Miller and middle linebacker Paul Posluszny give the Jaguars a solid foundation up the middle, too. But the Jaguars have to add a pass-rusher, find another cornerback and get help at outside linebacker.

It’s on offense where more work needs to be done, though. Rookie left tackle Luke Joeckel showed promise before he suffered a fractured ankle in Week 5 and was lost for the season, but he still has to prove himself capable of being an elite player. The staff likes right tackle Austin Pasztor, but is he the answer there?

The interior of the offensive line needs an upgrade, too, especially at center now that Brad Meester has retired.

But it’s at the skill positions where the Jaguars really need work, starting at quarterback. Chad Henne had a solid season as a starter, and his 331 yards passing against the Colts made him the first Jaguars quarterback to surpass 3,000 yards since David Garrard in 2009. Henne’s a caretaker, not a franchise quarterback, and there’s no guarantee he’ll be back next year anyway because he’s an unrestricted free agent. Even if he re-signs, the Jaguars have to address that position in the draft.

The situation at running back also is unclear because of Maurice Jones-Drew’s situation. His contract is set to expire, and while he says he wants to return, it’s likely that he wants to test the free-agent market to see what kind of offers he can generate. Jordan Todman has proven capable of being a complementary back but not a feature back.

The Jaguars have a solid No. 2 receiver in Cecil Shorts, who missed the last three games because of a groin injury, but no No. 1 with Justin Blackmon suspended indefinitely for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Ace Sanders, Mike Brown and Kerry Taylor (eight catches, 75 yards, one TD against the Colts) are complementary pieces.

The Jaguars need to find a big-play -- and big -- receiver. Only one receiver who has a catch this season is taller than 6-foot, and he’s now on IR (the 6-1 Stephen Burton).

That sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but the task ahead shouldn’t overshadow the work that has already been done. The Jaguars (4-12) are a better team now than they were in September, especially when it comes to the culture in the locker room and around the facility.

"There was growth," Bradley said. "I feel like we competed the whole way through. Sometimes you have those days where it doesn’t go exactly how you had hoped, and we’ll learn from it. I asked the team to reflect on everything that we had done this year, and I think some tremendous growth has taken place. I give credit to our team and that our whole objective was to create a new standard, a new standard of excellence and they helped in that, what’s acceptable.

"We’ll take this season, we’ll grow from it and we’ll add to it."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars' lineup in the regular season finale on Sunday is going to look very little like it did in the season opener.

Depending on how some players respond to injuries this week, the Jaguars may only start nine players in Week 17’s game against Indianapolis that started against Kansas City in Week 1. All teams have to deal with injuries to key players throughout the season -- the Denver Broncos just lost linebacker Von Miller with a torn ACL -- but turning over more than half of the starting lineup in four months doesn’t happen on a regular basis.

The Jaguars (4-11) didn’t exactly have a deep roster to begin with, but they’ve somehow managed the through the personnel losses to win four games in the second half despite having to rely on some young, unproven players -- especially at linebacker and receiver.

"We really didn’t make that big of a deal about it, but what we did talk about was to really go in there and sometimes special stories take place with opportunities," coach Gus Bradley said. "We really taught our whole team the mindset you’ve got to have to go in there."

The results have been hit and miss, which is what you’d expect from those players. Good plays -- like receiver Kerry Taylor catching four passes for 45 yards against the Titans -- and bad, like Taylor dropping an easy reception that would have converted a first down against Buffalo.

"You’ve just got to do it all the time," Bradley said. "There’s going to be times when young guys get [out of position or make a mistake] but we just need to limit that. That’s what we’re seeing right now and that’s what happens sometimes with younger players especially if they’re getting their first opportunity."

Here’s a breakdown of the missing starters:

WR Justin Blackmon: Suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, played four games, and then was suspended indefinitely for violating it again.

WR Cecil Shorts*: Placed on IR on Dec. 17 with a groin injury.

LT Eugene Monroe*: Traded to Baltimore on Oct. 2.

LT Luke Joeckel* (started Week 1 at RT): Suffered a fractured ankle against St. Louis on Oct. 6.

G Will Rackley*: Placed on IR on Dec. 17 with a concussion.

LB Russell Allen*: Placed on IR on Dec. 18.

G Mike Brewster: He replaced Rackley in the lineup and suffered a fractured ankle against Buffalo on Dec. 15.

DT Brandon Deaderick: He was on the field for starting DT Roy Miller, who did not play against Tennessee on Sunday, and suffered a dislocated elbow.

Here’s a breakdown of other starters who may miss Sunday’s finale:

LB Geno Hayes*: He did not play last Sunday because of a knee injury. He likely won’t practice this week.

DT Roy Miller*: He has battled a shoulder injury all season and did not play last Sunday. He likely won’t practice this week.

CB Dwayne Gratz*: He suffered a high ankle sprain last Sunday and likely won’t practice this week.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew*: He fought through a hamstring injury and started against Tennessee last Sunday but will be limited this week.

LT Cameron Bradfield: He joined the starting lineup after Joeckel was injured and suffered a high ankle sprain last Sunday and will be limited in practice this week.

*Denotes started season opener.

Jacksonville Jaguars mailbag

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
4:45
PM ET
 
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Speed and quickness are what got Ace Sanders drafted.

It's his intelligence that's getting him on the field.

The Jaguars have had Sanders line up outside, in the slot, and in the backfield. That's a tough spot for any receiver, but for a rookie to handle the multiple roles and become a key part of the offense is remarkable.

"He really did better early than I thought he would do for the type of situation he was in," receivers coach Jerry Sullivan said. "Then there was a lull in there where nothing much was happening for him and then all of a sudden we began incorporating him a little bit more and he began to respond. The game slowed down a little bit for him now."

[+] EnlargeJacksonville's Ace Sanders
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesRookie receiver Ace Sanders has 23 catches for 215 yards in his past four games.
It's not easy for rookie receivers to make an impact in the NFL. But to do it at multiple spots is a testament to Sanders' football IQ. Rookies have to learn to read keys to identify coverages before the snap and adjust routes accordingly and learn the proper technique to run routes correctly and consistently. Now add shifts and motion, beating press coverage, and figuring out who to block if it's a running play or screen (which depends on the coverage).

That's just for, say, the slot receiver, which is Sanders' natural position and where he spent most of preseason. He also had to do that for playing outside, which he was forced to do because Justin Blackmon was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

That's a lot of work for someone who was only expected to return punts this season.

But Sanders handled it pretty well. He caught 14 passes for 162 yards in the first four weeks of the season, an average of 11.6 yards per catch.

When Blackmon returned, Sanders went back to the slot, but he has played inside and outside after Blackmon was suspended indefinitely for another violation of the substance abuse policy. Blackmon's return coincided with a mini-slump as Sanders adjusted to being back in the slot again. He caught just two passes for 20 yards in four games and missed a game with a concussion.

In his last four games, though, Sanders has 23 catches for 215 yards.

"I feel way more comfortable," Sanders said. "I'd be in my second season if this was still college, so definitely have had some time to get used to the game speed and I'm just finally starting to find my way."

That lull in which he wasn't doing much was actually beneficial, Sanders said. It helped him reflect and refocus after a hectic first half of the season.

"I actually hit my rookie wall a little earlier than most people just because with us being down players early in the season I had to do more stuff than expected," Sanders said. "I just had to realize that you're going to be a big part of this team. You're going to have to help. You've got to buckle down and really get in your playbook and just figure out a way to make it work."

He is a big part of the team. In addition to his 39 catches (second only to Cecil Shorts' 66) for 397 yards, Sanders has carried the ball twice after lining up in the backfield, and he threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Todman on a trick play against Houston last week.

Next year he may be an even bigger part, Sullivan said.

"Going into next year he'll be much more experience in terms of the multiplicity [of playing different positions]," Sullivan said. "The only thing that's not fast in the NFL is the commercials. Everything else is fast. Fast timeouts, and the speed of the game in pro football is fast. That's a transition not a lot of young guys [can handle]."

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