JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars made their surprising run to the AFC Championship Game last season in large part because of major contributions from their free-agent class.
Defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Barry Church helped turn the Jaguars' defense into one of the NFL's best. Campbell set a franchise record with 14.5 sacks, Bouye led the team with 18 pass breakups and six interceptions and Church provided a steadying hand in the secondary and had eight pass breakups and one of the team's seven defensive touchdowns.
This year's group of free agents, however, has not made the same kind of impact. Injuries have definitely played a large role in that, but the six major additions that the Jaguars signed in the first few days of free agency haven't been able to help the team avoid a disappointing 3-5 record heading into its bye week.
Andrew Norwell, left guard: The Jaguars gave him a five-year, $66.5 million contract ($30 million guaranteed) that at the time made him the highest-paid guard in NFL history (Dallas' Zack Martin surpassed that in June) after he was a first-team All-Pro for Carolina last season. He has dealt with a foot injury that had him in a walking boot early in the week at times and has had to deal with the fact that the Jaguars are down to their third-string left tackle.
Maybe the expectations were exceedingly high for Norwell; after all, Pro Football Focus reported that he didn't allow a single quarterback hit last season with the Panthers. But Norwell hasn't competed at that high of a level with the Jaguars. He has played solidly most of the time and has had stretches during which he has been really good. But he's also part of a line that coach Doug Marrone said he had no confidence in being able to get the run game going last week against Philadelphia; and the Jaguars are averaging 95.0 yards per game rushing (without Leonard Fournette), after leading the NFL in the stat last season.
D.J. Hayden, cornerback: He was signed to a three-year, $19 million contract with $9.45 million guaranteed to replace nickelback Aaron Colvin, who signed with Houston. Hayden played well in the first two games of the season (eight tackles, one sack, one pass breakup), but he suffered a toe injury the Friday before the team's Week 3 game against Tennessee and hasn't practiced since. The hope is he can return after the bye week and play against Indianapolis on Nov. 11.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, tight end: He fought through a core muscle injury that he suffered during training camp and caught 11 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown in the first 4½ games, before aggravating the injury and going on injured reserve. He had surgery, and the team is hopeful he can return at some point this season. He didn't sign a big-money deal (two years, $10 million with $4 million guaranteed), but he was a big loss because he was the Jaguars' best blocking tight end by a wide margin.
Niles Paul, tight end: He was signed mainly as a special-teams player, but the Jaguars used him more extensively in the pass game after Seferian-Jenkins left the Kansas City tilt late in the first half. Paul caught seven passes for 65 yards that day -- the second-highest single-game total of his eight-year career -- and the Jaguars tried to get him even more involved the following week against Dallas.
That fell apart when he suffered a season-ending knee injury on an end around midway through the first quarter. James O'Shaughnessy has missed past two games with a hip injury, so the Jaguars have had to rely on David Grinnage, who originally signed with Green Bay as an undrafted rookie in 2016 and had never played in an NFL contest until the Dallas game, and street free agent Blake Bell, who joined the team on Oct. 16.
Donte Moncrief, wide receiver: The Jaguars signed him to a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $9.6 million, hoping that would help motivate him to put together a big season in what is essentially a contract year. He had an ankle injury early in camp, but he has been healthy since, which makes his numbers even more disappointing.
Moncrief has 29 catches for 379 yards and two touchdowns, but roughly a third of that has come in the past two games (11 catches for 130 yards). He already has surpassed his catch total and equaled his TD total from last season in Indianapolis (12 games), but he's averaging 3.6 catches and 47.3 yards receiving for the Jaguars. That's not good enough -- especially with Marqise Lee out for the season with a knee injury. Moncrief is the most experienced receiver on the roster, and the Jaguars need him to emerge as a playmaker, because second-year players Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook have not become the consistent players the team needs. Cole has been especially disappointing, with six drops and two lost fumbles in eight games.
Cody Davis, safety: The Jaguars signed Davis as a special teamer, and he has helped lead an improvement in the units in special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis' second season in his second tenure with the team. The Jaguars lead the NFL in kickoff coverage and are second in punt coverage, and Davis has four tackles.