The Jacksonville Jaguars made a curious hire to fill the vacant offensive coordinator job by turning to fired former Minnesota Vikings play-caller John DeFilippo. Formerly a quarterbacks coach for the 2017 Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, his success carried him to Minnesota to work under Mike Zimmer. However, after a lack of commitment to the running game became a sore spot for Zimmer, DeFilippo was relieved of his duties with three games remaining in 2018’s regular season.
Said lack of rushing dependency boiled down to 274 carries in 13 games, or 21 times a contest, albeit mostly without running back Dalvin Cook. In the three games without DeFilippo calling plays, interim OC Kevin Stefanski increased that number to 27.67 per week, or up 24 percent. In 2017, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur dialed up 31.3 totes a game, which was good for the second most in football.
Minnesota spent a king’s ransom to land quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency, so throwing the ball was already in the cards. Over the course of DeFilippo’s 13 games, Cousins averaged 40.3 attempts. Ben Roethlisberger ranked tops in the league with 42.2 lobs a week.
DeFilippo was a one-year play-caller under Mike Pettine in Cleveland during the 2015 season. Cleveland finished 27th in rushing attempts, 22nd in rushing yards, and 29th in ground scores. With a hodgepodge of signal-callers making starts, including nine appearances by Johnny Manziel, the passing game generated the seventh-fewest touchdowns and ranked 21st in passing yards on the 11th-most attempts.
Personnel moves will make all of the difference. The Jaguars have to solve their quarterback crisis. DeFilippo previously specialized in coaching the position, so it stands to reason he will have a say in the matter. The logical place for the Jags to turn is to reunite DeFilippo with Nick Foles. Until the position is addressed, there really isn’t much certainty we can place on any positional assessment.
Impending free agents include running back T.J. Yeldon, wideout Donte Moncrief, right tackle Josh Wells and running back Corey Grant. The offensive line was decimated by injuries in 2018 and will need improved depth.
Tight end is a mess. Wide receiver drastically needs a top-flight playmaker. Leonard Fournette is a walking injury and has been at odds with the organization, even though both sides supposedly settled their differences. The defense was a shell of itself in 2018 compared to the prior year. One of the major reasons the defense and team itself succeeded in 2017 was the running game. Fournette allowed them to control the clock, keep the defense fresh, and limit opposing offensive possessions.
Fantasy football outlook
There really isn’t much to say about the quarterback spot until we know the 2019 starter. Say it is indeed Foles, he’ll need a major upgrade at receiver to be worthy of more than a matchup play off of waivers in fantasy. Even if the Jaguars manage to improve the personnel in the aerial game, Foles is a sketchy No. 2 draft option. He is a much better real quarterback than fantasy play.
Fournette is about as risky as they come. He has elite potential and nearly as much downside due to injury concerns, a pass-friendly system, arbitrary coaching decisions, and offensive line worries. Fournette will need a partner in crime since the bruiser is only an adequate receiver. He’s a borderline No. 1 in deep leagues but far more safely drafted as a second back, especially in PPR.
Jacksonville spent a second-round pick in 2018 on deep threat D.J. Chark — he was a huge letdown and dealt with injuries. While he cannot be written off just yet, Chark’s career definitely started on poor footing. Dede Westbrook took a step forward and has considerable upside, although it will take a considerable leap of faith to view him as more than a WR3 in fantasy. Keelan Cole disappeared after flashing in 2017. Moncrief was respectable but, as mentioned, is set to enter free agency in March. There won’t be a lot of notable receivers on the open market come March, and acquiring disgruntled star Antonio Brown would shatter an already cracked salary cap figure (currently $10 million over).
Austin Seferian-Jenkins was an intriguing addition last offseason but played only five games and was ineffective in that time. The position has few proven free agents expected to hit the market. There really isn’t value in Seferian-Jenkins at this time, although the DeFilippo system is mostly friendly for tight ends.
The potentially strong aspect of this hiring is the Jaguars have been in dire need of creative play-calling, which DeFilippo should offer. The other side of the coin is if head coach Doug Marrone really wants to run the ball, it appears DeFilippo is headed for another oil-and-water philosophical relationship with his boss. Jacksonville executive vice president Tom Coughlin gave DeFilippo his first coaching job in New York, and Marrone says he is comfortable with the 40-year-old OC’s play-calling tendencies. Time will certainly tell if that holds true.