Season grade: D
Season summary: Owner Shad Khan was pretty clear about what he expected out of the Jaguars in 2016 when he said a winning record is "everyone's reasonable expectation." Instead, the Jaguars set a franchise record for most consecutive losses in a single season (nine) and again finished in the AFC South cellar. The problems were, surprisingly, on offense. Quarterback Blake Bortles regressed mechanically, and receiver Allen Robinson was nowhere close to the player he was when he made the Pro Bowl in 2015. GM Dave Caldwell said the organization counted on the offense continuing to grow from 2015, and when it didn't -- coupled with a few injuries and Bortles' struggles -- things fell apart pretty quickly. Other than the emergence of receiver Marqise Lee, there weren't many positives on offense this season.
The defense made significant strides from the terrible units of coach Gus Bradley's first three seasons. The Jaguars still had issues with rushing the passer and forcing turnovers, but entering the final weekend, they ranked in the top five in total defense and pass defense. There is some good, young, building-block talent on the unit in defensive tackle Malik Jackson, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, linebacker Telvin Smith and rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey. By late October, it was evident that Bradley was going to be fired, but the team surprisingly didn't make the move after an embarrassing loss at Tennessee on national television. Instead, Khan and Caldwell waited until Dec. 18 to fire Bradley. Six days after that, the offense played its best game of the season in a rout of the Titans. It was too little too late, though, as the Jaguars finish with double-digit losses for the sixth season in a row.
Biggest draft need: Although the Jaguars might also address this in free agency, the offensive line should be their No. 1 priority. Right tackle Jermey Parnell has struggled in his second season as a starter, second-year right guard A.J. Cann did not play as well as he did as a rookie, and the Jaguars started six players at left guard. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum was inconsistent in his first year back from a torn ACL, and the Jaguars have to decide whether to pick up his option. If they do, his $7.5 million salary in 2017 is fully guaranteed. The group did a better job in pass protection (30 entering the season finale, down from 71 in 2014) but was inconsistent in the run game. Start with the tackles and then move inside and upgrade the talent level, which will keep the offense from being something the team has to overcome each week.
Key offseason questions
Is Bortles going to be the Jaguars' starting quarterback in 2017? Caldwell said the new head coach won't have to stick with Bortles next season, but it's hard to see him not being the starter, barring injury. There just aren't a lot of viable options out there in free agency (Brian Hoyer and Mike Glennon seem to be the best), and ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay has said the QB class is one of the worst in recent memory. New England might not want to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, and the Jaguars surely wouldn't be the only team interested, anyway. As such, Bortles has the job by default, though 2016 sixth-round pick Brandon Allen and veteran Chad Henne might be given the chance to compete. It's too early to give up on Bortles. Let him spend significant time at 3DQB in California working on his mechanics, and see how he looks when he comes back.
What will the Jaguars do with TE Julius Thomas and DE Jared Odrick? Certainly, the new head coach will have a say, but the vibe around the building is that Odrick won't be back. He's scheduled to count $8.5 million against the cap, which would be the second-highest figure on the team behind Jackson ($15.5 million). Odrick has played well when healthy, but he missed 10 games this season because of various injuries. He would like to play three-technique defensive tackle, but the Jaguars don't have room for him there behind Jackson, Sen'Derrick Marks and Sheldon Day -- and certainly not with the amount he's making. Thomas has been a disappointment since he signed a five-year, $46 million ($24 million guaranteed) contract in March 2015. He has missed 11 games in two seasons because of various injuries. He has nine TD catches, but the Jaguars don't use him the right way. He's more successful down the field and on seam routes, but the Jaguars have him catching short passes and trying to turn up field and break tackles. That's not what he does best. Thomas has a better chance of returning than Odrick, even with the fourth-highest cap figure ($8.3 million) in 2017, but it would be a waste if the Jaguars don't change the way they use him.