Dave Caldwell: Jags in win-now mode with Fournette


No team has lost more games than the Jaguars' 63 over the past five years.

After witnessing general manager Dave Caldwell's enduring rebuilding project, it can be jarring to hear that expectations are suddenly soaring in Jacksonville.

Appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio Tuesday night, Caldwell trumpeted his organization's shift into contending mode with first-round power back Leonard Fournette augmenting a bountiful crop in free agency.

"Leonard's a guy that we've penciled in -- in terms of a guy that can come in and make an immediate impact," Caldwell said. "We are kind of in a win-now mode, as we should be, and Leonard is a guy that can come in and hopefully make the biggest difference here."

Similar to Reggie McKenzie's recent turnaround in Oakland, Caldwell has had to prove he can reconstruct the roster after deconstructing the derelict structure left by the previous regime.

At this point in the offseason two years ago, defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks was the team's lone standout. Bereft of blue-chip players, Caldwell was left to hope young talents such as wideout Allen Robinson, linebacker Telvin Smith and quarterback Blake Bortles would emerge as a foundation for the next AFC contender in Jacksonville.

Ah, but therein lies the rub.

As the Around The NFL Podcast pointed out in Tuesday's AFC draft review, the Jaguars' roster is now playoff-caliber with the exception of quarterback, the most important position in professional sports.

Between free agency and the draft, the Jags now boast Pro Bowl-caliber stars in Robinson, Smith, the cornerback duo of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye and the veteran defensive-line tandem of Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson. Defensive prospects such as Dante Fowler, Yannick Ngakoue and Myles Jack have the potential to join that group as nucleus players this season.

Quarterback aside, Caldwell's roster stacks up well with any in the AFC South.

That caveat begs obvious questions: Is Bortles salvageable? If not, can the coaching staff minimize his potential to sabotage a second consecutive season?

The Jaguars addressed the latter question by drafting of Fournette and second-round tackle Cam Robinson, signaling an intention to bolster the ground attack while reducing Bortles' weekly impact.

Hiding the quarterback only goes so far, though.

As much natural talent as Bortles possesses, he made the shocking admission during last season's extended slump that he's simply "not a natural thrower of the football." If he's ever going to guide this team to the division title, he must embrace eternal vigilance about fixing an awkward, hitch-filled throwing motion that too often subverted Jacksonville's 2016 offense into a dysfunctional, chaotic mess incapable of moving the chains while the game remained competitive.

For all of Caldwell's handiwork in reconstructing his roster, he's running headlong into the same conundrum that has haunted his divisional counterparts in Houston: How does a loaded team squarely in win-now mode overcome an albatross under center?