The Professor’s 2021 NFL Preview: AFC South – Jacksonville Jaguars


Jacksonville Jaguars

Team Projection

TeamPoints ForPoints AgainstGames FavoredPythagorean Expected Wins

No team will look more different in the 2021 NFL season than the Jacksonville Jaguars. With a new GM (Trent Baalke), head coach (Urban Meyer), and franchise quarterback (Trevor Lawrence), it’s the start of a new era for the Jags.

An interesting part of football is the vast difference in philosophies around the league, and the comparison of the Detroit Lions rebuild alongside the Jacksonville rebuild is a fascinating case study. Setting the quarterback direction aside (Detroit would likely have done things differently if they had the first overall pick), the Lions have emphasized building their foundation on the lines, while the Jaguars have focused far more attention on the perimeters.

The Jaguars did use the 13th pick of the 2nd round on offensive tackle Walker Little, so they didn’t completely neglect the lines, but the Walker selection came after they added Lawrence and one of his teammates from Clemson, running back Travis Etienne. They have since suggested that they see Etienne in a hybrid running back/receiver role, which is a curious reflection on Laviska Shenault, a second-year player who showed some juice on a bad offense last year and has a hybrid skillset. The Jaguars also signed wide receiver Marvin Jones to be the second receiver behind D.J. Chark, and signed running back Carlos Hyde to complement James Robinson.

Issues on the offensive line are likely. Left guard Andrew Norwell and center Brandon Linder are both standouts when on top of their games, but the duo has dealt with injuries in recent seasons that have slowed them. Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor were the worst starting tackle tandem in the league last season, and guard A.J. Cann has long been a liability. With only Little added to the mix, it’s difficult to envision this group getting out of the bottom third of the league.

On defense, the Jaguars have ensured that they won’t be as vulnerable to the deep pass as they were last season when they fielded some of the worst safety play in the league. There were a few pieces in place: C.J. Henderson had an outstanding first game before his play tailed off across the rest of his rookie season, which was cut short by injury, Sidney Jones played at a far higher level than he ever did in Philadelphia in his first year as a Jag, and Jarrod Wilson was the one safety who provided solid play, though injuries were an issue.

They’re joined by free agent signees Shaquill Griffin (CB), and Rayshawn Jenkins (S), as well as draft-picks Tyson Campbell (CB, 2nd RD, 1st pick), and Andre Cisco (S, 3rd RD, 1st pick). Even if injuries hit, the Jags should be able to field a competent secondary out of this group, and the highly paid linebacker duo of Myles Jack and Joe Schobert is capable of providing above-average play.

The big question is on the defensive line, where edge Josh Allen struggled with injuries in his second year, and 2020 first rounder K’Lavon Chaisson struggled to make an impact on the edge on a defense that was in disarray. Jacksonville brought in role players such as Malcolm Brown, Jihad Ward, and Roy Robertson-Harris to fill out this group, but they’re unlikely to get notable impacts from anyone but Allen and Chaisson.

With Houston in disarray, Tennessee potentially on the decline, and Indianapolis rolling the dice at quarterback, the Jags could theoretically contend for the division title if Lawrence is ready to make an impact out of the gate, but there’s a lot that needs to come together. This team will be a much more difficult group to play against in 2021, but whether they are a viable playoff contender depends almost entirely on Lawrence’s performance.

QB Passing Projections

Trevor Lawrence1717391.8618.10.636.694137.827.91517.35

QB Rushing Projections

Trevor Lawrence171771.16426.60.917.59.617.35

Skill Projections, Rushing

Travis EtienneRB8017143.34.84692.83.435.337.59.01
James RobinsonRB9117150.74.39662.13.637.139.38.43
Laviska Shenault Jr.WR103178.15.0541.
Carlos HydeRB3111732.84.20137.

Skill Projections, Receiving

DJ Chark Jr.WR491757.972.514.311037.57.920.228.611.02
Marvin Jones Jr.WR581760.273.612.83944.17.819.828.210.47
Travis EtienneRB801767.642.76.17263.52.610.29.39.01
James RobinsonRB911774.837.07.44275.
Laviska Shenault Jr.WR1031772.264.79.78633.25.014.518.17.63
Collin JohnsonWR2241760.526.311.39299.
Phillip Dorsett IIWR2581759.115.515.07233.
James O’ShaughnessyTE2691758.425.97.99206.
Chris ManhertzTE2791761.317.59.49166.
Jamal AgnewWR3301762.316.34.8578.
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Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.