Wondering if and how your NFL team can make the playoffs in the coming season? Adam Rank and Marc Sessler have you covered in this ongoing series, as they provide five reasons why each of the league's 32 teams will make an appearance in the 2018 postseason. Today, Rank examines the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Before we begin here, let me say a few things to my friends down there in Duval County, Florida. Myles Jack was not down. That should have been a touchdown. The Jaguars should have gone to the Super Bowl. And right now, I should be telling some of the best fans in the world why the Jaguars are going back to the Super Bowl.
But that's not the world we exist in. And that's OK. Sometimes the thrill is in the chase. I mean, "Ocean's Twelve" would have been a pretty terrible movie if, 20 minutes in, Danny Ocean looked at the camera and said, "Yeah, we stole the egg out of the backpack on the train." That would be ridiculous. Oh, yeah, spoiler alert for those of you who haven't seen "Ocean's Twelve" yet.
1) Welcome to Sacksonville, population: your quarterback
Calais Campbell signed with the Jaguars last offseason. And not only were the Broncos' fans salty, even the players were kind of upset. Calais knew what was up. The Jaguars were about to become the It defense. The Broncos were trying to hang on to their former glory. Like that guy who graduated 20 years earlier still wearing his varsity jacket to a team party in "Varsity Blues." And in the end, Campbell ended treating those Broncos players much in the same way Tweeder treated that party crasher.
These Jaguars have moved past some of the top defenses of recent years, like Denver's No Fly Zone and Seattle's Legion of Boom. Some folks are getting really frisky and starting to compare this unit to the all-time great defenses of the 2000 Ravens and even the '85 Bears. Look, I love you Jacksonville ... but I'm gonna have to stop you right there.
That said, you're very good. Top D against the pass. Second in total defense, sacks and interceptions. So, very good. And not a lot of turnover. Aaron Colvin and Paul Posluszny are gone. But you kick Jack inside. And the Jags signed DJ Hayden to help in coverage. Plus, they drafted Taven Bryan. There are some concerns with the first-round pick, because he had just one good year at Florida and was considered maybe a bit of a workout warrior. But he's joining a team loaded on the defensive line and will be able to contribute situationally, instead of being asked to anchor the whole thing. When you talk about some of those elite defenses of yesteryear, like the Legion of Boom, one of the great things about them is the depth. The Jags have it.
2) Jalen Ramsey is ready to take over the world
When Ramsey rolled into EverBank Field after the Jaguars' win over the Steelers in the Divisional Round (don't you dare call it an upset) and implored fans to bring the noise because they were gonna go to the Super Bowl and win that [female dog] -- well, I was into it. I loved everything about it. The swagger. The killer jacket. It was classic Ric Flair. Stylin' and profilin' out there. Only this Space Mountain isn't the oldest ride in the park -- it's the best attraction, even though it's still relatively new.
Yes, what I'm saying is Ramsey is the best cornerback in the game. I don't care who knows it. He's entering his third NFL season. He's just getting started. And what's scary: This is the first offseason where he hasn't had surgery.
And if that's not enough, his partner, A.J. Bouye, is pretty [deity]damn good, too. If Ramsey is the Nature Boy, then Bouye is The Enforcer.
3) That running game, yo!
The Jaguars like to kick it old school. "Three yards and a cloud of dust" isn't just an expression -- it's a lifestyle. The man who empoys it isn't like the person who claims that he's trying to eat better one minute ... and then is out throwing down a pizza the next because it's a cheat day. He's the guy who is fully committed -- I'm never eating a carb again. You get what I'm saying. And if you don't, I'm saying the Jags run a lot.
Remember: The offensive line was kind of a liability in Gus Bradley's final season. And then Doug Marrone got in there and reworked not only the line, but the entire culture of the locker room. Like he was the NFL's version of Jon Taffer and this was his "Bar Rescue" or something. He got rid of the ping-pong tables, big screens and instilled a smash-mouth offense. It's going to be even better this year, with the free-agent addition of All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell. I saw one executive snipe about this deal, saying you don't throw all of your money at the guard position. But, um, you do if you want to win football games. Which is what the Jags are going to do.
That offensive line is now one of the strengths of the team. Leonard Fournette rushed for 1,040 yards last year with nine touchdowns. He should increase that total this in Year 2, even if he faces a bunch of eight-man fronts.
4) We love Playoff Blake Bortles
But much to the chagrin of everyone -- even the producers of "The Good Place" -- Blake made all football-watching Americans wear it during the playoffs last year, because he was freaking great. Oh, stop it; I know he passed for 87 yards against Buffalo. But he ran for 88 yards. And they were big runs, too. He showed a lot of athleticism against the Bills and the Steelers (wish he would have ran more against the Patriots). He was winging the ball out there against all three teams like the quarterback we've wanted him to be. He posted a passer rating of 91.0 in the three games and didn't throw a single pick. We get that Blake Bortles this season, and it's over, son. (And daughter.)
5) Let's be honest: They still have something to prove
And it's not just the motivation. Look at the roster. This is easily the most talented team in the league. Jacksonville's loaded everywhere. And before you say anything about the receivers, hear me out. I know it's shocking to lose a talent like Allen Robinson. He's amazing. How can they win without him? Well, uh, they did last year. Robinson tore his ACL in the first quarter of the season opener. Other receivers had to step up. I'm here for Marqise Lee. The Donte Moncrief signing doesn't really offend me all that much, because I'm bullish on DJ Chark. Love him. And LSU receivers, amirite? They always play better in the NFL.
This is a good team. And there is no doubt in my mind we will all be shouting Duuuuuval again during the playoffs. They might even win this (expletive).