Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks knows the ins and outs of this league, providing keen insight in his weekly notebook. The topics of this edition include:
But first, examining the rebuilding situations in Jacksonville and Los Angeles ...
ASK THE LEAGUE: Would you rather rebuild the Jags or Rams?
The firing season has started, with the Los Angeles Rams and Jacksonville Jaguarsdismissing Jeff Fisherand Gus Bradley, respectively, over the past few weeks. Despite the dismal records attached to both franchises in recent years, there are plenty of executives who view these jobs as quick-turnaround projects. With that in mind, I thought I would reach out to a few of my scouting buddies to see which job offers the best opportunity to quickly build a playoff contender. Here's my question and their responses:
If you had a chance to pick a team to rebuild, which one would you prefer: Jacksonville or Los Angeles?
AFC personnel executive: "I would take the LA job. They have a pretty good defense in place, which gives you a chance to win right away. You have to fill in some holes on offense (offensive line and wide receiver) and figure out if the quarterback can play, but the hopefully the defense is good enough to buy you enough time to get it right."
Ex-NFL general manager: "I would say the Rams. They have a better defense. I also like the running back and wide receiver group. Plus, the quarterback is unproven, but he has some upside ... I'm not in love with the Jaguars' quarterback. I don't think he can carry the load, and the Jags' defense is still a work in progress. I like the running backs, and you could argue that their receivers are better. Both offensive lines are unsettled, so the first one to answer that question has the upper hand."
AFC pro personnel director: "I think Jacksonville has better offensive weapons and better defensive personnel. Plus, the Rams just gave up a bunch of picks for an unproven quarterback, and they've wasted a bunch of picks on a dysfunctional offensive line."
This is one of the few instances where I don't know if there's a wrong answer. Jacksonville and Los Angeles have intriguing rosters with blue-chip playmakers at key positions. Not to mention, they have patient owners with deep pockets and "hands off" demeanors that allow the football people to work without interruption or distractions. Thus, we can expect an astute football man to be able to implement a plan and essentially see it to completion within a reasonable time.
I'm impressed with the Rams' defensive personnel, particularly the front seven. Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree represent a solid nucleus to build around at the point of attack. Trumaine Johnson is a quality CB1 with the potential to ascend to an elite level. Offensively, running back Todd Gurley is still an intriguing talent despite his dismal numbers in 2016. Tavon Austin isn't a true WR1, but he offers some playmaking ability as a WR2/return specialist. Rookie quarterback Jared Goff is an unproven commodity, but I saw a Matt Ryan-like passer when I evaluated him prior to the 2016 NFL Draft.
The Jaguars are loaded with impressive young talent on both sides of the ball. On offense, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee comprise a collection of "catch and run" playmakers who are dangerous on the perimeter. Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon are solid runners with a nice mix of speed, power and explosiveness. Defensively, rookie Jalen Ramsey (the No. 5 overall pick) is on his way to becoming a star corner with "shutdown" potential. He is joined by intriguing playmakers like Telvin Smith, Yannick Ngakoue and Malik Jackson on the defensive front.
When weighing the pros and cons of each job, I believe you have to determine which team offers the opportunity to win in the short and long term. Obviously, you want to make sure that a winning QB1 is in place to lead a long run. While it is too soon to determine whether Goff can be that guy in Los Angeles, I'm fairly certain Jacksonville's Blake Bortles is not a franchise quarterback. He turns the ball over too much and he's regressed to the point in Year 3 that he is a detriment to the team when he is on the field. Now, I'm not going to beat him up for his shortcomings, but I would opt for another option at the position if I took the job. Whether it's a veteran or an incoming rookie, I believe the Jaguars need to find a new quarterback to reach their potential. With that said, I believe they are in a better position to turn things around in less time than the Rams. They have a host of draft picks at their disposal to upgrade the talent on the offensive line, and they have a young defense that's starting to figure things out.
While the Rams can likely win eight or nine games on the strength of their defense, I believe they need a serous overhaul of their offensive-line personnel and wide receiver corps to have a chance. Considering how long it takes to acquire such talent at multiple positions, I would take the Jaguars' job if I had my choice.