The Jacksonville Jaguars open training camp on July 28 at the practice facility adjacent to TIAA Bank Field. Here’s a closer look at a few storylines:
Quarterback Gardner Minshew is learning a new offense for the sixth time in six years. What does he have to do to convince the team he can be their long-term starter?
Win games. The Jaguars won just 51 games and had just one winning season the past decade. Minshew went 6-6 as a starter last season and that’s the third-most victories by any Jaguars quarterback in the past 10 years behind Blake Bortles (24) and David Garrard (eight). Limiting turnovers is a major part of winning games, and so is better production in the red zone. Per ESPN Stats & Information, no team had fewer drives reach the red zone than the Jaguars from 2010-19; they ranked 28th in red-zone TD percentage and 31st in red-zone scoring percentage. Minshew had 13 turnovers (seven fumbles) but threw 16 TDs and only one interception in the red zone last season, so if he can cut down on the turnovers and continue to play well in the red zone the Jaguars should have a chance to win more games.
After signing oft-injured Tyler Eifert in free agency, is the tight end position going to be a real factor in the passing game for the first time since 2015?
That depends on whether Eifert can stay healthy. He played a full season for the first time in his career in 2019 and caught 43 passes, but played in just 14 games the previous three seasons because of injuries. When he’s on the field, Eifert has been productive (11.6 yards per catch, 24 TDs) and he gives Minshew an experienced target in the middle of the field. There’s not much behind him, though. James O’Shaughnessy had emerged as the top tight end in the season’s first month but suffered a torn ACL in Week 5, so his effectiveness is in question. Josh Oliver was one of the team’s two third-round picks last season, but he played in only four games because of hamstring and back injuries. So he’s essentially a rookie again.
The Jaguars’ two first-round draft picks: C.J. Henderson and K’Lavon Chaisson. The Jaguars traded both their starting corners from the 2019 opener -- Bouye and Jalen Ramsey -- so Henderson really has to play well as a rookie. Tre Herndon stepped in for Ramsey last October and played solidly, but Henderson is supposed to have elite man-cover skills. The hope is he can travel with the opponent’s top receiver the way Ramsey did. Campbell was the best free-agent signing in franchise history (31.5 sacks in three seasons) and he’s a huge loss. Campbell was a true defensive end but Chaisson will play strongside linebacker on first and second down near the line of scrimmage and rush the passer on third down. He’s got all the physical tools, but didn’t have great numbers at LSU (9.5 sacks in 24 games). The Jaguars are banking on his potential.
Yannick Ngakoue isn’t likely to report for camp and he’s been adamant that he won’t play for the team this year. How do the Jaguars compensate for his expected absence?
Josh Allen is the team’s top pass-rusher and the Jaguars will try to replace Ngakoue’s production with a mix of Chaisson, Cassius Marsh (14 career sacks), and Aaron Lynch (20 career sacks). Don’t overlook Dawuane Smoot, either. After making little impact his first two years, he had 6.5 sacks last season. Ngakoue might end up reporting at some point, though, if no team steps up and is willing to trade for him. He could be faced with the choice of sitting out or playing under the franchise tag ($17.8 million). It's tough to leave that kind of money on the table, especially with the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.