Our 2015 NFL preview series ranks every team, from worst to first. Today: the No. 27 Jaguars.
2014 Record: 3-13
Head coach: Gus Bradley (third season, 7-25 regular-season record)
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Key arrivals: Sergio Brown (strong safety), Julius Thomas (tight end), Stefan Wisniewski (center), Dan Skuta (outside linebacker), Bryan Walters (wide receiver), Davon House (cornerback), Jeremy Parnell (tackle), *Dante Fowler, Jr. (outside linebacker), *TJ Yeldon (running back)
(Note: *- denotes rookie)
Key departures: Alan Ball (cornerback), Will Blackmon (cornerback), Cecil Shorts (wide receiver) JT Thomas (outside linebacker), Teddy Williams (cornerback) Red Bryant (defensive end)
2015 Schedule (ET):
Sept. 13: Carolina 1:00 pm
Sept. 20: Miami 4:05 pm
Sept. 27: at New England 1:00 pm
Oct. 4: at Indianapolis 1:00 pm
Oct. 11: at Tampa Bay 1:00 pm
Oct. 18: Houston 1:00 pm
Oct. 25: Buffalo 9:30 am
Nov. 1: BYE
Nov. 8: at New York Jets 1:00 pm
Nov. 15: at Baltimore 1:00 pm
Nov. 19: Tennessee 8:25 pm
Nov. 29: San Diego 1:00 pm
Dec. 6: at Tennessee 1:00 pm
Dec. 13: Indianapolis 1:00 pm
Dec. 20: Atlanta 1:00 pm
Dec. 27: at New Orleans 1:00 pm
Jan. 3: at Houston 1:00 pm
TRAINING CAMP QUESTION: How will the running game come together?
The Jaguars have averaged only 88.8 rushing yards a game over the past three seasons. Better production would greatly help take some of the pressure off quarterback Blake Bortles in his second NFL season. Jacksonville selected Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon in the second round to pair with Denard Robinson, the converted Michigan quarterback who had an impressive three-game stretch midway through his rookie season. Two free-agent signings -- right tackle Jermey Parnell (Dallas) and center Stefen Wisniewski (Oakland) -- will add veteran experience to a young offensive line. The hiring of Doug Marrone to handle that unit might be the most valuable offseason acquisition of them all. Before becoming Buffalo's head coach, Marrone was one of the NFL's top o-line gurus with New Orleans.
IF EVERYTHING GOES RIGHT:
The Jaguars continue to grow their considerable young talent on defense and Bortles takes the reins as the franchise quarterback. The team also sees Allen Robinson transform into a go-to receiver and rookie Yeldon grab the role as the every-down running back. They key word here is patience. This isn't a playoff team, but could become a contender in the near future if the right buttons are pushed. It's up to Bradley to find that right combination and push this team to somewhere between 6-to-8 wins in 2015.
IF EVERYTHING GOES WRONG:
Bortles collapses, injuries start piling up and the youth movement in Jacksonville hits a brick wall. Instead of growing, the team regresses and puts Bradley's job in jeopardy. A coaching change and a reboot would probably come next and nobody wants that.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Quarterback Blake Bortles
If there isn't a breakthrough, the Jaguars are in trouble. Bortles was thrust into action prematurely last season and the result was 13 interceptions in his first eight starts. Bortles did greatly reduce his turnovers over the final month of the season, which the Jaguars hope is a sign of development. Bortles also will be surrounded by a much better supporting cast this season as the Jaguars try to finish with their first winning record since 2007.
CIRCLE THIS DATE ON THE CALENDAR GAME: vs. Carolina in Week One (1 pm ET/September 13):
Yes, the Week 3 matchup against New England is a biggie. But getting off to a good start is a must for the Jaguars, which haven't won a season-opener since 2011 and opened the past two seasons with 0-6 records.
ALEX MARVEZ'S PREDICTION: 5-11, third place
A five-win season usually isn't considered a sign of progress, but even that low threshold is something the Jaguars haven't hit since 2011. Jacksonville went 3-13 last year as quarterback Bortles took his lumps after being prematurely thrust into a starting spot. Bortles made fewer big mistakes as the season unfolded and now has a top red-zone target in Julius Thomas, who was signed away from Denver.
Robinson leads a promising group of young wide receivers while second-round pick Yeldon has the chance to start at running back if he impresses during the preseason. The offensive line should be better with former Marrone handling a young group. The defense suffered a massive blow when first-round pick Dante Fowler Jr. went down with a season-ending knee injury during his first NFL offseason practice. Fowler was expected to become the elite pass rusher that Bradley's defense has sorely lacked during his first two seasons in Jacksonville.
Instead, the Jaguars must hope that 33-year-old Chris Clemons still has enough left in the tank to effectively rush the quarterback. Things could get ugly quick if the Jaguars don't get off to a fast start, which is a perennial problem for this franchise. After home games against Carolina and Miami, the Jags head to New England and Indianapolis as part of a three-game road trip.