Jacksonville Jaguars: Geno Hayes

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With more than $50 million in salary-cap space at the beginning of the month, the Jacksonville Jaguars had plenty of ammunition to go on a spending spree.

Michael Johnson, Michael Bennett and Aqib Talib were available. So were Alex Mack, Eric Decker and Jared Veldheer. The Jaguars had enough money to sign three or four of those players, and they certainly would have made the team significantly better in 2014 -- maybe even a playoff team.

But the Jaguars didn’t pursue any of them. General manager David Caldwell resisted the lure and signed seven second-level free agents to responsible, team-friendly contracts. He and coach Gus Bradley are adamant about not taking a shortcut in the second year of the franchise’s rebuild.

"We all know there’s expectations and we get that," Bradley said. "But I think for me it’s more the city of Jacksonville deserves an opportunity to be a part of something really good. I think [owner] Shad [Khan] deserves that and so does Dave. In order to do that, I think we have to be really strict and disciplined to go on our journey this way."

[+] EnlargeGus Bradley
AP Photo/Michael ConroyDespite a 4-12 record, coach Gus Bradley said the Jaguars made significant strides in 2013.
Sometimes it’s hard not to stray, but being patient and building the franchise through the draft is what sold Khan on Caldwell and Bradley. He learned that was the best approach pretty quickly after purchasing the team in November 2011.

Khan listened to then-general manager Gene Smith and opened up his considerable pockets and splurged in his first free agency. The Jaguars signed receiver Laurent Robinson to a five-year, $32.5 million contract and cornerback Aaron Ross to a three-year deal worth up to $15.3 million. They also signed defensive end Jeremy Mincey to a four-year extension worth $20 million, including $9 million guaranteed.

They signed several other players, too, and Khan sat back and eagerly awaited the playoff appearance that Smith said would come because of those signings.

The Jaguars went 2-14.

"Certainly, I’ve learned my lesson," Khan said. "If you look at the teams that are successful, they’re going to be built through the draft and some missing pieces are going to be filled in through free agency. I think that is the formula for success."

Khan fired Smith and then-head coach Mike Mularkey after the season and hired Caldwell away from the Atlanta Falcons. Caldwell in turn hired Bradley away from the Seattle Seahawks and the two put together their plan to rebuild the franchise.

They signed 10 new free agents in March and April and hit big on four: linebacker Geno Hayes, cornerback Alan Ball, defensive tackle Roy Miller, and defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks. None were in high demand and the most expensive was Miller, who signed a two-year deal worth $4.5 million. The four combined to start 59 of a possible 64 games.

Among the team’s eight draft picks were offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, safety Johnathan Cyprien, cornerback Dwayne Gratz and receiver Ace Sanders. All four started as rookies and showed they are foundation pieces moving forward.

Despite those additions, the Jaguars went 4-12 and started the season by losing their first eight games by double digits. Yet Bradley said the 2013 season was important because it helped establish the culture and the standards by which the team operates.

"We had valuable, valuable lessons that we could teach our team," Bradley said. "We talked about not getting consumed in defeats. We talked about not reveling in accomplishments. All these conversations came up -- celebrating victories, getting better for everybody, being unselfish, learning trust, all these things came up in our conversations last year, and I loved every aspect of that.

"If my sole focus was on winning or losing, I would have missed all that, and we would have missed all those lessons for our team."

It was evident the roster in 2013 was even less talented than anticipated, which produced the temptation to try and speed the process along by splurging in free agency this March. Caldwell and Bradley didn’t waver even though they know expectations are bigger in their second season and they’ll be bigger in 2015 and 2016, as well.

Short-term rewards are not more valuable than long-term success.

"We want to have a consistent winning team moving forward," Khan said. "I think with this rebuilding over and over again is brutal for the fans. I mean, it’s brutal if you have anything to do with it. Just think about it. There are maybe a dozen teams that are always in contention that always manage to be competitive.

"Our goal is we consistently we want to be there."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars certainly have been busy in free agency, though things calmed down over the weekend.

General manager David Caldwell has signed five new players, brought back two others, and signed quarterback Chad Henne to an extension. But Caldwell said last week he’s not done yet.

Here are some areas which still warrant his attention:

Center: If training camp started today the Jaguars would be working Mike Brewster, Jacques McClendon and a drafted rookie at center. That’s not ideal, since Brewster and McClendon have not played a snap at center as pros. The Jaguars need to upgrade here but there aren’t many option available, with the best being Rich Ohrnberger, Brian De La Puente, Ryan Wendell and Mike Gibson. If the Jaguars don’t feel good about any of those players then center becomes a bigger priority in the draft. The player to watch there is Arkansas’ Travis Swanson, who is a player the Jaguars liked at the Senior Bowl.

Guard: The Jaguars signed Zane Beadles on the first day of free agency but they still need another starter because Will Rackley was unable to seize the job last season. Like center, there are slim pickings at guard, with John Jerry, Paul McQuistan (hey, another Seahawks player!), Wade Smith and Davin Joseph topping the list. Expect the Jaguars to draft a guard even if they do add one in free agency.

Receiver: The Jaguars brought in Emmanuel Sanders for a visit, but he ended up signing (after a lot of drama) with Denver. It’s not a big whiff because he doesn’t give the Jaguars anything more than they already have in terms of style of receiver. The Jaguars need a bigger, physical receiver, but there aren’t many of those available, either. One possibility is Sidney Rice (6-foot-4, 202 pounds). He’s had injury issues the last several years and is coming off a torn ACL so he won’t cost a lot of money. If he gets healthy he’s a 50-catch receiver the Jaguars got cheap. If not and he’s cut, it’s not a wasted investment.

Outside linebacker: Signing Dekoda Watson could be one of those under-the-radar moves that people around the league are praising in October. He’s going to play strongside linebacker on first and second down and leo on third down. He instantly upgrades the linebacker spot with his speed, which is something the defense desperately needs. Other than Geno Hayes, the Jaguars’ other outside linebackers are below average. The Jaguars need to continue to upgrade this spot both in free agency and the draft.
The Jacksonville Jaguars added six players in the first few days of free agency. But what about the players already on the roster at those positions?

Are they still part of the team's plans? Are they backups now or potential trade bait? The Florida Times-Union's Ryan O'Halloran examines the fate of these players: Will Rackley, Mike Brewster, Tyson Alualu, Russell Allen, Geno Hayes, Mike Harris and Andre Branch.

Here are some additional pieces of Jaguars-related content from around the Web in our Reading the Coverage feature:

Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus writes that the Jaguars' signing of Red Bryant is one of five underrated free-agent signings that could pay big dividends .

NFL.com's Kevin Patra writes that the Jaguars' pipeline into Seattle and their subsequent signing of several players is among the best moves in free agency.

On the other side, Pro Football Focus' Steve Monson writes that the Jaguars' signing of Zane Beadles is one of five free-agent signings that make no sense .

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah writes that Teddy Bridgewater is the best fit for the Jaguars with the No. 3 pick.

WJXT TV-4 sports director Sam Kouvaris and Cole Pepper talk about the Jaguars' work in free agency in their latest podcast.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Red Bryant is never going to forget what it felt like to win the Super Bowl earlier this year.

He also isn't going to forget the 2008 and 2009 seasons, either.

What he experienced then -- going 4-12 in '08 and 5-11 in '09 -- was just as much a part of Seattle's championship run as anything they did last season, he said.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsRed Bryant, who signed a four-year deal with the Jaguars, believes his new team has a similar level of commitment that his former team had.
"A lot of people talk about the great season we had this past season, being able to win the Super Bowl, but a lot of people forget the journey that led up to the Super Bowl," Bryant said Monday, two days after he signed a four-year contract worth $17 million with the Jaguars. "It was a lot of shortcomings, hard falls, and we persevered and I was there during that whole process."

One of the main reasons Bryant signed with Jacksonville is he believes the Jaguars are on a similar path under general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley, who was the Seahawks' defensive coordinator from 2009-12. He sees the Jaguars at the same point the Seahawks were in his first two seasons and believes he can help as the franchise attempts to maneuver its way through the same building process.

"They've got a vision from the owner to the general manager to the head coach to everybody in the program," Bryant said. "They know what their vision it. They're going to be committed to it and they're not going to [deviate from it]. When you have that type of commitment to winning, commitment to excellence, only good things can happen.

"...I know what it takes. I know what type of commitment you have to have from the front office on down and that's the same commitment that I see the Jacksonville Jags have."

That's a pretty big leap of faith considering Caldwell and Bradley are only in their second year in Jacksonville and inherited a roster that was one of the worst in the NFL. The Jaguars lost their first eight games of 2013 by double digits and finished the season ranked 22nd or worse in the six major statistical categories (yards per game, rushing yards per game, and passing yards per game). They were 29th against the rush and 31st in total offense and rushing.

But there is optimism because early returns are solid on the duo's first draft class and they were able to add several free agents who turned into key players, such as defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, cornerback Alan Ball, and linebacker Geno Hayes. Marks signed a four-year extension in December and is one of the players around which the defense will be built.

Bryant is another one of those players. He's a five-technique defensive end, meaning he lines up over the offensive tackle and is responsible for the gaps on either side. The 6-foot-4, 323-pound Bryant began his career as a tackle before moving to end in 2010 and he said he's willing to play inside and outside with the Jaguars.

"I'm pretty sure Gus will have a plan and the defensive coordinator will have a plan on how to use me," Bryant said. "I definitely feel like I can play inside if given the opportunity and I hope moving forward that's in the plan to utilize me inside as well."

Bryant, whom Seattle cut on Feb. 28, had planned on visiting Green Bay and Kansas City and said the Washington Redskins also expressed interest, but when he got to Jacksonville and spent time with Bradley, Caldwell and defensive line coach Todd Wash he felt the Jaguars were the perfect situation.

"I just think it's a great fit for me all the way around," he said. "I know where the vision starts from the top down and I believe Jacksonville is definitely moving in the right direction and I'm excited about being able to help their franchise turn it around."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The class of free-agent linebackers in the NFL isn't very impressive and that's why the Florida Times-Union's Ryan O'Halloran writes that the Jacksonville Jaguars are expected to address that position in the draft and not in free agency.

O'Halloran writes that there's only one available linebacker who is younger than 30 and played at least 1,000 snaps last season: Washington's Perry Riley.

The Jaguars have seven linebackers under contract for 2014, including the three starters from last season: Paul Posluszny, Russell Allen and Geno Hayes. The team hopes to get faster and more versatile at outside linebacker to add to the pass rush and help in coverage.

Here are some additional pieces of Jaguars-related content from around the web in our Reading the Coverage feature:

ESPN debuted the Bill Polian Free Agent Tracker Insider on Wednesday. Polian and Insider's NFL analysts evaluated the free agents and gave them grades. You can sort the list by various categories and keep track of signings pretty easily.

The Jaguars released their season-ticket campaign on Wednesday and O'Halloran writes it includes five new seating areas and a program the team hopes will keep the fans engaged year round.

The T-U reports that Jaguars owner Shad Khan has donated $50,000 to mayor Alvin Brown's re-election campaign, making him the top individual donor.

ESPN's Kevin Seifert writes that the qualities that made Johnny Manziel so good in college don't project to the NFL.

NFL media insider Ian Rapoport reported that the Houston Texans have an interest in pursuing Matt Cassel. If they sign Cassel, it could mean they're targeting Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick.
Here is the eighth of a 10-part series breaking down the Jacksonville Jaguars' free-agency needs, position by position:

Linebacker

Who’s on the roster: Russell Allen, Geno Hayes, John Lotulelei, Paul Posluszny, LaRoy Reynolds, Nate Stupar and J.T. Thomas.

Analysis: Posluszny had another great season in 2013 and capped it with a Pro Bowl appearance. He has led the team in tackles every season in Jacksonville and is the team’s best defensive player. His strength is playing the run and he’s not as effective in coverage. Hayes was a solid free-agent signing last season and played through a chronic knee problem that required offseason surgery. He should be completely healthy by the time organized team activities begin in April. The problem is the outside linebackers didn’t make many big plays and the lack of speed also contributed to the team’s trouble with tight ends. Thomas, Stupar, Allen and Lotulelei have been mainly special teams players though Thomas and Lotulelei did get more playing time toward the end of the season.

NFL free agents of interest: Brian Orakpo, Jason Worilds and Mike Neal.

Need meter: 7. The Jaguars have to get faster on defense and it starts with the linebackers. Posluszny is a machine in the middle but they need to upgrade the outside. Orakpo may cost more than they’re willing to spend but Worilds and Neal should have much more reasonable price tags. Expect the Jaguars to drat at leafst one linebacker as well.
With the NFL combine starting Wednesday, here's a look at the Jacksonville Jaguars' positions of need on defense and which prospects the team might be looking taking a closer look at in Indianapolis. Positions of need are listed in order of importance. We looked at the offense on Monday.

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 defense and some potential targets:

Babin
Leo: Call this need No. 1A, just barely behind quarterback. The Jaguars have finished last in the NFL in sacks in each of the last two seasons and desperately need someone that can affect the quarterback on a consistent basis. Jason Babin and Andre Branch manned this spot in 2013 but Babin is scheduled to make $6.175 million in 2014. The 33-year-old 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. Branch really improved in 2013 because defensive coordinator Bob Babich and defensive line coach Todd Wash got him to become more consistent with his effort. He’s a long way from being a 15-sack player, though, and that’s what the Jaguars need.

Potential targets: Jadeveon Clowney, Dee Ford, Anthony Barr, Khalil Mack.

Outside linebacker: Geno Hayes turned in a solid year in 2013 (78 tackles, two interceptions, three pass break-ups) despite playing through a nagging knee injury that eventually forced him to miss the last two games. But the Jaguars still need to upgrade both outside spots. It was partly due to his knee injury, but Hayes didn’t make very many impact plays and Russell Allen, the starter on the other side, made none. The leo spot is a hybrid end/outside linebacker that specializes in rushing the passer, so the outside linebackers don’t need to be elite pass rushers. They need to be athletic enough to play in coverage and have the ability to blitz if needed.

Potential targets: Ryan Shazier, Telvin Smith, Lamin Barrow.

Defensive end: This is the spot opposite the leo in the Jaguars’ defense and it doesn’t call for an elite pass-rusher. The Jaguars want a big, physical end who can anchor the line of the scrimmage in the run game. Tyson Alualu held the job last season and was solid (44 tackles, eight QB pressures, three tackles for loss), but the Jaguars need more production there. The only other player at that spot is Ryan Davis, who spent most of last season on the practice squad. They’re also hoping for a little more pass rush production than what Alualu had, but it’s not the primary responsibility.

Potential targets: Brent Urban, Jackson Jeffcoat, Scott Crichton.

Defensive tackle: The Jaguars’ two starters are set with Sen'Derrick Marks and Roy Miller, but the Jaguars need to add some quality depth here. Marks is coming off a career year and was awarded a four-year extension. Miller battled a shoulder problem all season but underwent surgery after the season concluded and should be fine by the time OTAs begin in April.

Potential targets: Will Sutton, Caraun Reid, Deandre Coleman.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars general manager David Caldwell can be very aggressive in free agency if he chooses because the Jaguars are projected to have the third-most cap room available when the free-agency period begins next month.

According to a Feb. 7 report from Roster Management System, the Jaguars will have nearly $30 million in cap space. The team's cap number -- which includes salaries, penalties, dead money, and futures contracts -- for 2014 is $96,517,190, well below the estimated 2014 salary cap of $126 million.

That leaves the Jaguars with $29,482,810 to spend on free agents and draft picks.

Only two teams in the NFL have more projected cap room: Indianapolis ($33,096,844) and Oakland ($58,242,920).

But just because the Jaguars have a significant amount of money to spend doesn't mean Caldwell will be writing a lot of big checks. The Jaguars will target some offensive and defensive linemen in free agency, especially a center, and will be somewhat aggressive early and then back off in the hopes of finding a bargain later in free agency.

That doesn't mean the Jaguars are going to jump into the competition for Alex Mack, who is one of the league's top centers. Ryan Kalil signed a six-year, $49.12 million deal in 2011 with Carolina that made him the NFL's highest-paid center and Mack's deal is expected to top that.

He may not even be available, either, because Cleveland could sign him to an extension before his contract expires last month. Mack also said he would give the Browns the chance to match any offer he received.

"Some of these guys [available linemen] are going to get signed before free agency becomes available," Caldwell said. "We'll just have to wait and see who becomes available and who's out there. You have the franchise tag and some other methods that teams use to keep their guys so we'll see.

"There will be another influx of guys that become available when teams have to get under the salary cap."

Waiting paid off for the Jaguars last year. They signed four unrestricted free agents from other teams (linebacker Geno Hayes, cornerback Alan Ball, running back Justin Forsett and defensive tackle Roy Miller) from March 13-15 and then added defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks on April 2.

Marks had a career year and ended up signing a four-year contract extension in December.

Injured Jags on track for OTAs

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
11:00
AM ET
MOBILE, Ala. -- The Jaguars should be nearly completely healthy by the time OTAs begin in late April.

Coach Gus Bradley said offensive tackle Luke Joeckel (ankle), receiver Cecil Shorts (sports hernia), defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder), linebacker Geno Hayes (knee), running back Justin Forsett (foot), guard/center Mike Brewster (ankle) and defensive tackle Brandon Deaderick (elbow) are progressing in their rehab and are on pace to return to the field when OTAs start on April 21.

"Luke Joeckel, I just saw him right before he left and he was walking around doing pretty good," Bradley said. "He’s working his tail off. Those guys are really going at it, so it’s great."

Joeckel said he’s eager to get back on the field because he got very little experience at left tackle before suffering a fractured bone in his ankle against St. Louis in Week 5. He had played right tackle the first four games before being switched to the other side – his natural position – after the Jaguars traded Eugene Monroe to Baltimore.

"I’m going to be excited about next year and hopefully being a left tackle again," Joeckel said. "I’m excited about being in my position and becoming better at that and blocking the guys I’m going to be blocking."

Joeckel did a solid job in the short time in which he was a left tackle. He didn't allow Robert Quinn, who finished with 19 sacks, or Chris Long to pressure quarterback Blaine Gabbert. That's a good start, but he'll essentially be a rookie again in 2014 since he spent so little time at left tackle. He'll be ahead of where he was physically, especially after a full offseason in an NFL weight program, but he'll still have to prove he can be a foundation piece on the offensive line.

2013 position review: Linebackers

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
11:00
AM ET
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 linebackers. We did defensive ends on Monday and defensive tackles on Tuesday.

Linebackers

Breakdown of starts: Paul Posluszny (15), Russell Allen (14), Geno Hayes (14), John Lotulelei (1), J.T. Thomas (1).

Recap: There was no more consistent player on the roster than Posluszny, who led the Jaguars in tackles for the third consecutive season. His 161 tackles was second in the NFL and he also added three sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and a career-high 10 pass breakups.

He was the lone Jaguars player that deserved Pro Bowl consideration yet he said he felt he didn’t deserve to make the Pro Bowl because he didn’t make enough big plays. However, coach Gus Bradley said Posluszny was affecting about one in every 3.5 plays, which is a very good ratio for a linebacker.

The problem was that the Jaguars were terrible against the run, giving up 131.8 yards per game rushing (29th in the NFL).

Posluszny was on the right path when he said he didn’t make enough big plays. None of the linebackers did, though Posluszny was by far the most significant contributor there. Hayes had 78 tackles but just one sack, two interceptions, and three pass breakups, although he did play through a knee injury for nearly the entire season. Allen didn’t have an interception or a sack but did recover two fumbles.

Still, that’s not enough of an impact.

Looking ahead to 2014

Players under contract: Posluszny, Allen, Hayes, Lotulelei, Thomas, LaRoy Reynolds, Nate Stupar.

The skinny: Lotulelei, Thomas, Reynolds and Stupar were mainly special teams contributors and that’s likely to be their main role in 2014 as well, though Thomas flashed a bit at the end of the 2013 season. Posluszny will again anchor the middle of the defense and Hayes, who underwent knee surgery at the end of the season, likely will go into camp as the starter.

The unit does need an upgrade, however. Whether it’s in free agency or through the draft, the Jaguars need to find athletic outside linebackers who can rush the passer and at the very least hold their own in coverage. That makes Allen’s spot on the roster tenuous unless the Jaguars are willing to keep him as a special teams player.

Jacksonville Jaguars mailbag

January, 9, 2014
Jan 9
5:30
PM ET
Got questions about the Jaguars? I’ll try to answer a representative selection of them every Thursday. Submit your questions via Twitter to @ESPNdirocco.
 
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.

NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

 
The Jaguars may not have had anyone voted to the Pro Bowl, but the team is pretty well represented on the All-AFC South team.

Linebacker Paul Posluszny, defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, linebacker Geno Hayes, kicker Josh Scobee, and kick returner Jordan Todman made the team, which was chosen by the reporters covering the four teams.

Posluszny finished second in the NFL with 161 tackles (Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict had 171) to go along with 3 sacks, 10 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, 6 quarterback pressures and 2 interceptions. He clearly was the Jaguars’ best defensive player and arguably was the team’s best overall player.

He was the lone Jaguars player who should have earned Pro Bowl honors, but he was hurt by playing for a small-market team that finished 4-12.

Marks posted a career year in his first season with the Jaguars, making 34 tackles, breaking up eight passes, forcing two fumbles, and recovering three fumbles to go along with four sacks and nine quarterback pressures. He had 3 sacks, 8 passes defensed, 3 forced fumbles and no fumble recoveries in his first four seasons with Tennessee.

The team was so pleased with his performance that last week they signed him to a four-year contract extension reportedly worth up to $22 million.

Hayes played through a right knee injury much of the season and made 78 tackles, intercepted one pass, and broke up three others. The injury got progressively worse but he missed just one game, the season finale against Indianapolis, and will undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage damage and remove some loose particles in his knee.

Scobee made 23 of 25 field goal attempts this season. His only miss came from 60 yards and he had a 49-yard attempt blocked. Scobee was 15-for-15 from 39 yards and in. Todman averaged 27.4 yards per kickoff return, seventh-best in the NFL. That was the best mark in the division. Houston’s Keshawn Martin finished eighth in the league (26.3 yards per return.)

Breaking down Jaguars' draft needs

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
3:30
PM ET
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The draft is nearly five months away, but it's not too early to start breaking things down. That's what Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. did for the AFC South.

He discusses each team, lists their top three needs and provides a list of players worth keeping an eye on at each of those positions. Here's a snippet of what Muench writes about the Jaguars .
If the Jaguars don't take a quarterback, they need to improve their pass rush and add an offensive tackle who can start opposite 2013 second-overall pick Luke Joeckel so they would do well to land [Jadeveon] Clowney, [Anthony] Barr or [Jake] Matthews. Like Houston, the Jaguars could then target a quarterback like UCLA's Brett Hundley in the second round.

I don't agree with Muench when he lists the Jaguars' top three needs, though. I'm in agreement on Nos. 1 and 2 -- quarterback and defensive end -- but Muench lists offensive tackle as No. 3. I'd list outside linebacker, interior offensive line and possibly receiver ahead of offensive tackle.

Joeckel solidifies things at left tackle and the Jaguars should be able to get by with Austin Pasztor/Cameron Bradfield at right tackle for another season. The Jaguars don't have playmakers at linebacker (other than Paul Posluszny in the middle) and they need to upgrade there. Geno Hayes has been solid but he had three pass breakups and two interceptions and didn't force or recover a fumble.

The Jaguars were next to last in total offense and rushing in 2013 and need to upgrade the interior of the offense, which is something they'll most likely do in free agency. If that's the case, then the Jaguars should try to add a big, physical receiver. Cecil Shorts is a solid No. 2 receiver and there's so much uncertainty surrounding Justin Blackmon's status for 2014. The Jaguars have a slew of receivers 6-foot-1 or smaller. It's time to add a bigger receiver.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider