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The Jacksonville Jaguars have plenty of football to play in 2021, but their first seven games under the Urban Meyer tenure have been quite concerning despite owner Shad Khan being “all in” on the first-year coach. A big reason for that is because it appears the Jags have a lot of needs heading into 2022, though there is a lot of time for the roster to make strides.
What concerns fans, even more, is that a lot of the Jags needs still involve positions that the team addressed in the offseason (especially on defense) and are looking a bit more questionable than before. Then, when adding in the needs they couldn’t address in the offseason, the list simply gets hard to keep track of.
However, with the trade deadline over, that’s where we’ve come in and decided to take an early look into 2022. Starting with the offense, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to look at each position and evaluate where starters could be needed. Here are our thoughts after reflecting on the Jags’ 2021 season so far.
Quarterback (no starter needed)
Oct 17, 2021; London, England, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) reacts after an NFL International Series game against the Miami Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Jaguars defeated the Dolphins 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
For the first time in a long time, the most important position on the field is covered in terms of a long-term solution for the Jags. The team took Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick this April, and though his last game was forgettable, he previously showed week-to-week growth. With that being the case, it’s hard to find many who would deny he’s making the steps necessary to one day be one of the best at his position.
Running back (no starter needed)
Oct 31, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson (25) rushes against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Simply put, James Robinson is Lawrence’s best weapon and his success as of late is why the rookie quarterback has been able to get better. With his peers in the NFL naming him to the top-100 players list, 1,552 career rushing yards, 15 touchdowns, and a YPC average of 4.73 to his name, he’s everything a team would want in an RB1.
Offensive tackle (one starter potentially needed)
Jaguars offensive lineman #72, Walker Little steps over hurdles during warm up drills at Saturday’s Rookie Minicamp. The Jacksonville Jaguars held their Saturday 2021 Rookie Minicamp session at the practice fields outside TIAA Bank Field Saturday, May 15, 2021. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]
The Jags franchise-tagged left tackle Cam Robinson this offseason, but then they also selected left tackle Walker Little in the second round of the draft. The rookie has yet to start in a game, but one would have to think he’s penciled in as a future starter for the year 2022. Where he will be starting is probably the bigger question, but it feels like it would be a waste to not put him at the left tackle position that is natural to him.
On the right side, the Jags have former 2019 second-round pick Jawaan Taylor, who has been far from perfect, but is young and has a very affordable 2022 salary. For those reasons, it could be unlikely for the Jags to move on from him.
The best approach at right tackle may be to upgrade it if the opportunity presents itself in the offseason. The problem with that is that good right tackles are scarce in the league, and the odds are against the Jags to find someone worth investing in that’s significantly better. However, Taylor has positives to potentially build around (has a 70.4 pass-blocking grade) and there is a lot of time for him to grow in 2021. If he does, that would be tremendous for the Jags because they have too many needs as it is.
Guard (one to two starters needed)
Sep 19, 2019; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars offensive guard Andrew Norwell (68) is introduced during pregame against the Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
The Jags have two starters at guard who will be free agents next season in Andrew Norwell and A.J. Cann.
Of the two, the Jags should let Cann walk as it shouldn’t be hard to replace him, though he has a ton of experience. In fact, the Jags could have a player to replace him currently on the team in Ben Bartch, who will be the starter in Cann’s place with the veteran likely out for the season with a knee injury. In the Jags’ last game against Seattle, Bartch flashed and open lanes in the run game, exiting it with a Pro Football Focus score of 77.8 (a season-high).
Norwell, on the other hand, is an interesting option to return. As of the last two years he’s been the team’s best offensive lineman not named Brandon Linder. According to PFF, he currently has an overall grade of 73.8 and a pass-blocking grade of 84.4, and if the Jags view him in a similar light, an extension might be smart. Again, that’s especially the case when the Jags are set to go into 2022 with way too many needs.
Wide receiver (Need at multiple additions, especially a WR1)
Sep 19, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) celebrates with wide receiver Marvin Jones (11) after throwing a touchdown pass during the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Coming into the season, receiver was a position the Jags looked to be fine at, but that’s been far from the case. Their top player, DJ Chark, struggled at the beginning of the season and was lost for the season Week 4 after sustaining a fractured ankle. As a result, his future with the team is up in the air.
Even if the Jags are considering Chark as an option, it’s a chance he may not be a WR1. His ability to stay on the field also is concerning when looking at his last few seasons, so the front office will have a lot to think about in terms of options. Maybe signing Chark and acquiring a WR1 in the offseason would be smart, but regardless, the Jags need a big-time player at the position that’s currently not on the team. Luckily, the free-agent market could have options like Allen Robinson, Davante Adams, and Chris Godwin if they want a veteran.
Veteran Marvin Jones Jr. will have another year left on his deal next season and could be the Jags’ WR2. Meanwhile, Jamal Agnew has looked like Lawrence’s best weapon aside from Robinson and Jones and has flashed the potential to be a legitimate slot weapon.
Then lastly, the team has Laviska Shenault Jr., but he’s struggled mightily and doesn’t look like the player he was last season. Maybe using him more like a running back (as the Jags did last season) and a lighter snap count at receiver is truly what would work for him. After giving him a rushing attempt Sunday in Seattle, maybe the Jags will increase his usage as a running back in the future.
Tight end (likely no starter needed)
Oct 17, 2021; London, England, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars tight ens Dan Arnold (85) runs with the ball in the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
The Jaguars have had questions at the tight end position for as long as fans can remember, but they may have surprisingly found an answer. In an exchange that involved sending the Carolina Panthers cornerback C.J. Henderson, the Jags picked up journeyman tight end Dan Arnold, who shockingly has been good for the team.
He’s accumulated 25 catches for 188 yards, and when he gets more familiar with the system, it seems like he has the potential to be more of a factor. Week 8’s game reflected that as he accumulated a career-high (with the Jags) of 68 yards (through eight catches) in just his fourth game with the franchise.
It’s hard to say for sure if Arnold is the answer for the team, but he does have a mix of speed and ability that hasn’t been seen at the tight end position in the 904 in quite some time — if at all.