Jags bouncing back with solid foundation
After a 3- 13 season in 2016, the Jaguars didn’t seem like a team to watch in 2017. They lost 10 of their last 11 games. They fired Gus Bradley and promoted Doug Marrone with two games to go. And in the offseason, they made the mystifying decision to pick up the fifth- year option on quarterback Blake Bortles’ rookie contract — for $ 19 million. In three seasons, Bortles looked like a classic tease at best and a failed No. 3 overall pick at worst.
Bortles is better than he has been but hardly having a Jared Goff or Carson Wentz kind of breakout season. Yet the Jaguars are 5- 3 — winning as many games in the first half of the season as they have in a full season since going 8- 8 in 2010 — and tied with the Titans for first place in the AFC South. Despite losing lead- ing receiver Allen Robinson, who suffered a torn ACL in Week 1, the Jaguars are ninth in the NFL in total offense and third in total defense. The Steelers ( 10th/ fifth) are the only other team in the league in the top 10 on offense and defense.
That the Jaguars are doing it with a solid running game behind rookie Leonard Fournette ( 130 carries, 596 yards, 4.6 average, six TDs) and a defense that ranks No. 1 against the pass and has scored four touchdowns bodes well for sustaining their renaissance. They’re not doing it with mirrors.
It would be a long time coming. The Jaguars’ 22- 74 (. 229) record in the previous six seasons is the worst in the NFL. They’ve had 10 consecutive top- 10 draft picks — the last six in the top five. And they whiffed twice on quarterbacks, though Bortles might become a hit yet. And if he does, the Jaguars might take an even bigger step when Robinson returns next year.
Pick: Jaguars 30, Chargers 17.