JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Free agency, the combine and the owners meetings are in the rearview mirror and the NFL draft is just a few days away. But it’s time to get back to football on the field. Here’s a quick look at the Jacksonville Jaguars as they open their offseason workout program Monday.
Biggest challenge facing head coach Gus Bradley: Owner Shad Khan said in February that a winning record in 2016 is “everybody’s reasonable expectation.” For that to happen, the Jaguars have to get off to a better start than they have in Bradley’s first three seasons. The Jaguars are 3-20 in September and October under Bradley. They’re not much better in games played in November, December and January (9-16), but another slow start in the season’s first two months would make it hard for the Jaguars to approach a winning record.
Player on the rise: Receiver Rashad Greene made several impact plays as a punt returner in 2015, but he made minimal impact as a receiver. He did have two touchdowns among his 19 catches, but he averaged only 4.9 yards per catch. The Jaguars need someone to emerge as their primary slot receiver and the two most likely candidates are Greene and Marqise Lee. The latter still has to prove he can stay healthy -- he hasn’t completely participated in an offseason or training camp in his first two seasons -- so Greene has a chance to take control in the competition to be the team’s No. 3 receiver.
Player who has the most to prove: Left tackle Luke Joeckel has not played at a high level after being drafted second overall in 2013. The Jaguar say he played well last season until giving up five sacks in the season finale, yet they signed former Pittsburgh left tackle Kelvin Beachum in free agency and said those two will compete to the be starter in 2016. Athleticism has not been Joeckel’s problem. He has had some fundamental issues, such as ducking his head and lunging, and needs to continue to get stronger. Beachum is coming off a torn ACL and will be limited into training camp, so Joeckel can gain an advantage with a good offseason.
Surprise player to watch: It will be interesting to see how much cornerback Nick Marshall has developed. The former Auburn quarterback went undrafted in 2015 and the Jaguars signed him and moved him to the position at which he began his college career. The Jaguars like his size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds), length and athleticism and used him a lot late in the season over Dwayne Gratz and Demetrius McCray. He was still raw and got beat several times, but the Jaguars see a lot of upside. With Aaron Colvin suspended for the first month the Jaguars will need someone to take over as the team’s No. 3 corner. Marshall will be in that competition.
Position that should be addressed in the draft: They may not do it in the first round, but the Jaguars need to add speed at linebacker. Other than signing Dekoda Watson and drafting Telvin Smith in 2014 and signing Dan Skuta in 2015, the Jaguars haven’t done much to address the position. Watson was cut in November 2014 and Skuta was bothered by a sports hernia in 2015 and is going to spend more time at leo (pass-rushing end). Smith is the team’s fastest linebacker and has played well but needs to be more consistent. The Jaguars have to add more depth here rather than relying on undrafted players and other teams’ castoffs.