The Jaguars fired Doug Marrone in January after the worst season in franchise history. They made headlines early this offseason when they hired former Ohio State and Florida coach Urban Meyer to be their next head coach. Trent Baalke was also named their GM on a full time basis after David Caldwell was fired midseason.
With the number one pick in the 2021 draft also in tow, there are some silver linings to a trying 2020 season. Another of which was undrafted rookie RB James Robinson out of Illinois, who took over the starting job from Leonard Fournette, who was released.
Just three years removed from an AFC Championship game appearance under Doug Marrone, Jacksonville is now in full rebuilding mode. Expectations weren’t high in 2020, with an NFL Betting O/U win total of 4.5 but the Jags weren’t necessarily expected to be as bad as they actually were. Jacksonville entered the season with +50000 sports betting odds to win the Super Bowl.
The highlight of the Jaguars’ season came, ironically, in the season opener. Jags QB Gardner Minshew completed a ridiculous 19 of 20 passes for 173 yards and three touchdown passes in a 27-20 win against the Colts.
The Jags won as seven-point underdogs and they looked like a team that could show signs of progress despite trading away DE Calais Campbell, CB A.J. Bouye and backup QB Nick Foles. In his NFL debut, Robinson ran for 62 yards on 16 carries.
The Jaguars kept things close against divisional foes Tennessee in Week 2, covering the seven point spread in a 33-30 loss. Robinson picked up 102 yards on 11 carries in the loss, marking the first 100-yard rushing game of his career. However, the Jags both lost and failed to cover the spread against Miami and Cincinnati in the following weeks. But, Robinson set a record for the most yards from scrimmage for an undrafted rookie in his first three games, with 339.
Point Spread: 2-2
Total: Over-Under: 3-1
During this period, the Jaguars dropped all four games and only one game was particularly close. At 1-7, the Jaguars were certainly in position to be one of the worst teams in the league and potentially receive the first pick in the draft.
While its offense certainly wasn’t good, Jacksonville’s defense was even worse. The Jaguars gave up 30 points and lost to the 0-4 Texans in Week 5, who had just fired GM and coach Bill O’Brien. This was the back end of a two-game stretch in which the Jaguars allowed an inexcusable 991 yards. They followed it up by giving up 34 and 39 points to struggling Lions and Chargers squads. To add injury to insult, Minshew fractured his thumb and would be out indefinitely.
Houston beat Jacksonville for the second time in four weeks in Week 9, as sixth round draft pick Jake Luton made his first career start. WR D.J. Chark notably picked up 146 yards and a touchdown on 12 receptions.
Point Spread: 1-3
Total: Over-Under: 2-2
Jacksonville didn’t pick up any wins in the third quarter of the season, but they did reward spread bettors. Jacksonville went 3-1 ATS in these four games and could have conceivably won any of the three games where they covered, against stiff competition. In Week 12, Robinson picked up a season-high 128 rushing yards on 22 attempts, along with a TD.
The Jaguars defense was a bit better here and held all of their opponents to under 30 points. In the three games in which they covered, they were a combined 31 point underdog but only lost by a combined 8 points.
They were, however, blown out 27-3 by the then-undefeated Steelers in Week 11. After a four-interception performance, Luton was replaced by Mike Glennon in Week 12 even though Minshew was cleared to return. Glennon kept the Jags competitive but couldn’t bring them a second win.
Point Spread: 3-1
Total: Over-Under: 1-3
In a move which signaled the Jaguars’ willingness to tank, Minshew was still on the bench to start Week 14 despite pleading with Marrone to play. This was despite Glennon’s three-turnover performance the week prior. After Glennon completed just 13 of 23 passes for 85 yards and an interception, Minshew replaced him mid-game in Week 14 but the Jags still lost 31-10 to the Titans. Surprisingly, it was the first time since Week 7 that Jacksonville allowed 30 points or more.
Minshew started in Week 15 against the Ravens and completed 22 of 29 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns in the 40-14 loss. However, Glennon was named the starter for the last two games of the season, which the Jaguars lost by a combined 38 points. QB issues and all, the Jaguars had the worst season in franchise history, finishing with 15 straight losses after winning the season opener. Benching Minshew did have the effect of clinching the first pick of the 2021 draft, as the 0-13 Jets won two of their last three games to finish above the Jaguars.
Marrone was fired at the conclusion of the season and the Jags will most likely be focused on rebuilding their team around the QB they’re expected to take with their first round pick. Getting the first pick is the only thing that saved this season from being a complete failure.
Point Spread: 1-3
Total: Over-Under: 2-2
Divisional Record: 1-5
Conference Record: 1-11
Full Season Grade: D
Looking Ahead to Next Season
The Jaguars absolutely need to draft a QB. Jacksonville fans have suffered long enough with poor QB play and getting the pick right could change the course of the franchise. It’s looking likely that the Jaguars will select Trevor Lawrence in their search for a franchise QB but BYU’s Zach Wilson has also been gaining traction.
PFF’s Top 50 Prospects since 2015:
1. Trevor Lawrence
4. Baker Mayfield
11. Chase Young
Complete PFF Era Draft Big Board 👇 https://t.co/kZWvDTNhEw
— PFF (@PFF) March 3, 2021
A quarterback alone won’t fix the issues with this team as they desperately need to improve their pass rush and offensive line. Jacksonville was tied for last in the league in sacks, and allowed the eighth most sacks. Protecting whichever QB the Jaguars draft should certainly be a priority.
The Jaguars found an absolute gem in Robinson and he’s under contract for two more seasons. Robinson was second to just Colts RB Jonathan Taylor in rushing yards among rookies and finished fifth in the NFL.
Predicted Record for 2021 Season: 5-11
Remarkably, the Jaguars have better Super Bowl Odds than five other teams at +7500. While I don’t expect them to be close to the playoffs next year, they should be much better than they were in 2020 after what figures to be a busy offseason.