This article is part of our Team Previews series.
The Jaguars returned to the AFC South cellar with a 5-11 record in 2018, a massive step back after coming up just short of a Super Bowl berth a year prior. It's a pivotal season for head coach Doug Marrone, buoyed by hopes that quarterback Nick Foles can bring new life to the offense.
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
FOLES TO THE RESCUE
Nick Foles started only eight regular-season games for the Eagles over the past two years but managed to cement a legacy in Philadelphia with clutch playoff performances and an improbable Super Bowl victory. Meanwhile, Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler rotated behind an injury-plagued offensive line last season, which led to the NFL's 31st-ranked scoring offense (15.3 points per game). The end result was a busy offseason in Jacksonville that included a massive change of direction for the franchise. Foles completed 72.3 percent of his passes for 1,413 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions in the five games in which he filled in for Carson Wentz in 2018. The Jaguars lack top-level pass catchers like Alshon Jeffery or Zach Ertz, and likely will attempt to lean on Leonard Fournette and the run game. Marqise Lee and Dede Westbrook figure to be the primary options on the outside, but the receivers behind them haven't shown they can be consistently impactful at the NFL level. The Jaguars also added Geoff Swaim in free agency and drafted Josh Oliver to address last season's poor production at tight end, and a return to health should make a major difference for the offensive line. Foles won't have quite the supporting cast he did in Philadelphia, but this still represents a move toward stability under center for the Jaguars.
STAYING THE COURSE AT RECEIVER
The Jaguars approached 2018 with a mostly unheralded collection of wide receivers, and it didn't help that top option Marqise Lee wound up missing the entire season after tearing his ACL in training camp. The unit ended up struggling along with the rest of the offense. The team returns a quartet of key wideouts this coming season, though Donte Moncrief did depart after spending one up-and-down campaign in Jacksonville. Lee and Dede Westbrook figure to head the depth chart and profile as fairly reliable options for new quarterback Nick Foles, while DJ Chark, Keelan Cole and free-agent signees Chris Conley and Terrelle Pryor should battle for reps behind them. Somewhat surprisingly, the Jaguars didn't use any draft capital on a receiver, as they are apparently content with the current nucleus. What to expect beyond Lee and Westbrook remains a bit of a question mark, as Chark looked raw during his rookie campaign, Cole took a major step back in his second year, and Conley made minimal contributions down the stretch for the Chiefs in 2018. Upgrading to Foles at quarterback provides a presumed boost to the offense's overall outlook, but the team lacks the type of pass-catching options opposing coordinators need to game plan around.
The free-agent acquisition of Nick Foles has much of the offseason focus on Jacksonville's offense, but the defense remains the heart and soul of the team. The Jaguars boasted one of the better groups in 2018, as they ranked tied for fourth with an average of 19.8 points per game and fifth in yardage (311.4), though they understandably couldn't recreate their dominant effort from a year prior. The unit wasn't without its issues, as it ranked in the bottom third of the league in sacks (37) and takeaways (17), often suffering from a dysfunctional offense that routinely put them in compromising field position. Calais Campbell and Marcell Dareus will anchor things up front, while No. 7 overall pick Josh Allen provides some high-end talent to help cover the departure of Malik Jackson. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye should once again be one of the top cornerback duos in the NFL, but there could be some growing pains in between them at safety. Ronnie Harrison and special teams ace Jarrod Wilson will enter camp in the starting roles, a vast departure from the veteran presence Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson provided over the last few years. Leading-tackler Telvin Smith also has stepped away from football in 2019, but the Jaguars still feature a talent-laden defense that could be limited by the progression of their young safeties.
PIVOTAL PLAYER: Leonard Fournette
Between injuries and a one-game suspension, Fournette missed eight games last season. When available, though, the 24-year-old averaged a paltry 3.3 yards per rushing attempt. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 draft is thus at a career crossroads, but he'll look to rebound as the main offensive weapon in an attack now helmed by QB Nick Foles.
RISING: Dede Westbrook
The 25-year-old led the team with 717 receiving yards and five touchdown catches, but a volatile offense led to weekly inconsistency. Westbrook has a chance to take a step forward in 2019 with Nick Foles now at quarterback.
FALLING: Leonard Fournette
The 2017 first-rounder fell short of massive expectations last season as he rushed for only 439 yards. Fournette had the remaining guarantees on his contract voided last year and has a lot riding on his 2019 performance.
SLEEPER: Josh Oliver
Jacksonville's tight end corps received an overhaul with the drafting of Oliver and free-agent signing of Geoff Swaim. The rookie third-rounder could carve out a role in an offense without any elite pass catchers.
KEY JOB BATTLE – STARTING TIGHT END
The Jaguars saw minimal production from their tight ends in 2018 (59 catches for 530 yards and one TD) so they brought in some fresh blood by signing Geoff Swaim and drafting Josh Oliver in April's draft. Swaim is hardly an established starter, but he's coming off somewhat of a breakout season in Dallas after catching 26 passes for 242 yards and one TD in only nine games. Oliver was a major producer at San Jose State in his senior season with 56 receptions for 709 yards and four TDs. The 6-5, 250-pound rookie has certainly flashed more upside as an option in the passing game during his brief time with the team, but Swaim's ability as a blocker could provide him the edge when it comes to every-down usage. The offense should be revamped around new quarterback Nick Foles, but it's still likely to feature Leonard Fournette and the running game as a focal point. In the end, both tight ends could end up playing sizable roles given Jacksonville's lack of established depth at wide receiver.
NICK FOLES – QB (from Eagles)
Joins Jags for $50 million guaranteed after heroic stint with Philly.
GEOFF SWAIM – TE (from Cowboys)
Perched atop the tight end depth chart heading into Week 1.
CHRIS CONLEY – WR (from Chiefs)
Logged five TDs last season, but averaged a career-low 10.4 YPC.
JOSH OLIVER – TE (Rd. 3, No. 69 – San Jose State)
First tight end taken by the team before the sixth round since 2006.
BLAKE BORTLES – QB (to Rams)
Let go one season after inking three-year, $54 million extension.
DONTE MONCRIEF – WR (to Steelers)
Had 668 receiving yards, three TDs in lone campaign with Jacksonville.
AUSTIN SEFERIAN-JENKINS – TE (FA)
Struggled through five games after two hernia tears in training camp.
THE INJURY FRONT
Marqise Lee, WR – Lee is still working his way back from knee surgery after tearing his ACL and PCL late in the preseason last year, causing him to miss the entire 2018 season. The 27-year-old isn't expected to be ready for the start of training camp and is aiming to return to practice sometime in August, but there remains a chance that he'll begin the regular season on the PUP list. Even if he's cleared to play Week 1, Lee may not be a reliable fantasy option early on if he ends up facing a limited snap count.
Ryquell Armstead, RB – Armstead was drafted during the fifth round by the Jaguars in April, and while he was limited to side work at June's minicamp due to a hamstring issue, he's expected to be fully cleared at some point in training camp. Leonard Fournette should begin the season as the team's unquestioned starter in the backfield, but he's missed 11 games due to injury and disciplinary issues during his two seasons in the league. A healthy and productive training camp could go a long way toward securing Armstead's role, especially should Fournette struggle early in the season.
Cam Robinson, OT – Robinson missed almost the entire 2018 season after tearing his ACL in Week 2, and there's no guarantee he'll be ready for the start of the upcoming campaign. The 2017 second-rounder could very well begin the regular season on the PUP list, but there likely won't be a firm idea on his status until the beginning of training camp. Cedric Ogbuehi or Josh Wells figure to see added work at at left tackle if Robinson's season debut is delayed.