The Jacksonville Jaguars move on after four years with head coach Doug Marrone logging a 10-6 record that won the AFC South in 2017. They advanced to the Conference Championship that year but the wheels quickly came off. The Jaguars went 5-11, 6-10, and then finally 1-15 last season. While this will be the first new head coach since 2017, it will also be a different offensive coordinator for the fourth straight season.
The Jaguars lured Urban Meyer into the NFL after he was the head coach at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, and Ohio State over 17 years. Meyer totaled up a 187-32 record at those colleges that included most recently 83-9 at Ohio State (2012-2018). He is one of the most successful coaches in college football history and he goes to a rock-bottom 1-15 Jaguars franchise.
That NFL-worst record in 2020 was a part of why Meyer agreed to head up the team. The Jaguars hold that No. 1 overall draft pick that Meyer can use to build the exact sort of team that he wants. He spent the last year studying the NFL and spoke with former players about the differences between college and the pros. Unlike most coaches that jump from one fire to another, Meyer did not coach last year and used the time to study the NFL and how to optimize a team there.
There’s a monumental difference in the NFL in how players are obtained, taught and motivated than in college. At Ohio State, Meyer could rely on attracting the highest caliber players from across the country. In the pros, he’ll have to wait his turn though he holds that No. 1 pick. The Jaguars also own several chances to rebuild quickly through the NFL draft holding the 1.01, 1.25, 2.01, 2.14, and 3.01 over the first two days.
He’ll need the help. The franchise is on a three-year stretch of losing records and contains no star power. They ranked no better than average in all offensive categories and featured no wide receiver with more than 706 receiving yards. They have ranked in the Bottom-5 in rushing attempts and touchdowns for the last three years.
Head Coach Urban Meyer – The feeling is that this is either going to work very well with a quick turnaround, or it will be yet another instance of a successful college coach unable to adjust to the complexities and challenges of the NFL. Meyer built an identity of excellence in college that culminated in Championship teams for both Florida and Ohio State. Meyer never lost more than two games in any of his seven seasons with the Buckeyes.
Meyer is a perfectionist and demands excellence. He will bring in a culture of accountability. It is easier to reap a fresh crop of outstanding players each year and then tell them that excellence and buying into the program is the only way to play. It is another to inherit a 1-15 team stocked with mostly mediocrity. But to his credit, he’s spent time figuring out how the transition from college to the pros differs and what he needs to do to succeed.
Meyer’s teams at Ohio State were noted for being relentless and tough. He recruited the speediest players possible and said he intends to do the same thing with the Jaguars since he wants the fastest team in the NFL. If he hits well on those four picks in the first two rounds of the draft, Meyer can turn this franchise around but he’s starting out with a roster full of mediocrity – something that he’s never willing to accept.
Defensive Coordinator Joe Cullen – The Jaguars hand the defense off to Joe Cullen who was an NFL defensive line coach for fourteen years. He coached the Lions (2006-2008), Jaguars (2010-2012), Browns (2013), Buccaneers (2014-2015), and most recently the Ravens (2016-2020).
This is the second stint with the Jaguars for Cullen. He inherits one of the worst defenses in the NFL last year. The Jaguars were below average against all fantasy positions and ranked in the Bottom-5 versus quarterbacks (No. 28) and running backs (No. 30).
Cullen has been lauded for his work with defensive lines and that is a weakness for the Jaguars. His five seasons with the Ravens produced stellar units but this will be the first time that he’s called the plays for a defense. He’s been a high-energy, “in your face” coach that succeeded in developing players and his ascension into being a coordinator was praised by both ex-players and fellow coaches.
There’s little to go on regarding what his defense will look like as a first-time defensive coordinator, but he’ll be groomed by Urban Meyer and will have a positive impact on the previously anemic pass rush in Jacksonville. The biggest success factor will be drafting or signing better talent. Urban Meyers said his primary job on both sides of the ball is finding a scheme that fits his players and using coordinators with extensive NFL experience.
Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell – Early expectations were that Scott Linehan would be hired but Darrell Bevell was selected after 15 years as an offensive coordinator in the NFL. He coached the Vikings (2006-2010), Seahawks (2011-2017), and Lions (2019-2020). He served as the interim head coach for the Lions last year after Matt Patricia was fired.
Bevell was the Seahawk’s offensive coordinator through two Super Bowls with Russell Wilson. He was brought onto the Lions for the last two years in the hopes that he could revamp a mediocre rushing attack but the Barry Sanders curse remains in place for the Lions, despite spending the 2.03 pick on D’Andre Swift. He was saddled with a team that couldn’t stop most opponents, so the rushing effort too rarely was an option.
The Lions did cobble together three running backs to total 17 rushing scores, and they maintained a Top-10 passing attack despite constant injuries over the last two seasons.
Bevell oversaw the passing game while in Seattle while Tom Cable was the offensive line coach and run-game coordinator. He was eventually fired in Seattle for an offense that started slowly with Russell Wilson at the helm. The Jaguars also hired Brian Schottenheimer as their pass-game coordinator who was the offensive coordinator that replaced Bevell in Seattle. This offense will lean more towards the pass than the run as have the offenses by both Bevell and Schottenheimer. The lack of balance with the run was a reason why Pete Carroll fired both of them.
Bevell is in line with Meyer’s plan to hire coordinators with extensive NFL experience and then adopt the offensive scheme to the players. There’s plenty to fix in all facets of this team, but the one unquestioned move is drafting Trevor Lawrence and installing a fast, high-powered passing game.
There is enough salary cap space to make free agent moves and use five draft selections in the first 65 picks to restock the team. Trevor Lawrence is expected to be the Week 1 starter so his learning curve is paramount to team success. He’s expected to be an elite if not generational-level player with both the athletic skills and intelligence to make the transition into the NFL.
James Robinson earned his spot as the starting running back and there’s little reason to expect him to share more this season. There’s no one else on the roster that merits much playing time and far too many other needs to worry about a No. 2 running back.
Bevell has to sort through a menagerie of potentially talented players. There’s a good chance he adds another wideout to the mix and he’ll be looking for a speedster when he does.
Fantasy football takeaway
The first season for any rookie quarterback is usually a disappointment in fantasy terms. Justin Herbert exceeded expectations to be sure, but he also had Keenan Allen. The only players with locked-down roles are the rookie Lawrence, D.J. Chark and James Robinson.
Chark broke out in 2019 with 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns but then suffered a down 2020 along with the rest of the offense. He fits into the style of receiver that Meyer used in Ohio State and ran a 4.34/40 in the NFL combine. An upgrade at quarterback should get him back into the fantasy starter picture.
Laviska Shenault led the receivers with 58 catches last year but only gained 600 yards for an anemic 11.2 yards per catch. His draft stock dropped him into the second round last year after running a 4.58/40 at the combine. That may not fit into the fast team that Meyer wants. Keelan Cole is another slower player that only managed a 4.59/40 at his college Pro Day.
Collin Johnson started coming on later last year, but the ex-Longhorn only ran a 4.58/40 and used his 6-6 frame to make a difference. Free agency and the NFL draft are likely to add to the receivers since other than Chark, the rest of the productive wideouts all rate as slow in NFL terms and Meyer wants the fastest crew in the league.