Detroit Lions 2016 Opponent Preview: Jacksonville Jaguars

Jun 14, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars players sign autographs after minicamp workouts at Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 14, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars players sign autographs after minicamp workouts at Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Lions come out of their week ten bye with a week 11 home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

If the Jacksonville Jaguars don’t turn out to be the team on the rise so many seem to think they are, they might turn into an easy game to overlook for the Detroit Lions.

As the one opponent between the Lions’ bye week and their annual Thanksgiving game, it would be easy to come out flat in their week 11 game against the Jaguars at Ford Field.

To check up on the Jaguars, I got together with Luke Sims of Black & Teal. Below are my questions followed by his answers.

1. How would you assess the Jaguars’ offseason? Did they do what they needed to do through the draft and free agency?

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The offseason for the Jacksonville Jaguars has gone superbly. With an excellent draft class highlighted by Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey to complement key free agency additions like Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, and Chris Ivory, the Jaguars are poised to be a completely different beast in 2016.

2015 finally revealed the positives we, as fans, have been waiting for over the years under head coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell. Blake Bortles and the offense were, frankly, on fire. While there are certainly ways to improve, they showed they can be something more in the future, finally giving the Jags a unit that can catch up and out-score opponents. The defense, however, was a mess.

The draft and free agency were everything Jags fans could hope for in that regard. While the key “leo” pass rushing role wasn’t directly addressed, the defensive additions in the secondary and defensive line should be more than enough for 2015 first rounder Dante Fowler Jr. to shine.

2. Which rookie are you most excited to see play in 2016 and why?

Myles Jack.

Of the big draft picks the Jags had this season there’s no better one to watch than Jack. The drama surrounding his injury, his subsequent recovery, the last-minute hint toward surgery as the draft was set to begin, the fall to the second round, and now he’s hungry to prove that no team should have passed on him in the 2016 NFL Draft and he should have been a top three pick.

Jack is something special. While it’s important that he’s a complementary piece with first rounder Jalen Ramsey, Jack is the more intriguing player to keep an eye on right now.

3. What is the biggest question that still needs to be answered heading into training camp?

Who will fill what roles on defense?

Prior to the draft, the Jags went on a spending spree. Players like Prince Amukamara, Malik Jackson, and Tashaun Gipson are starting caliber players. They join a relatively busy, if unimpressive group of players. Then the Jags added Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack in the draft.

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How will Amukamara play? What impact will the struggling safeties under Gipson have? Where will Ramsey be deployed? Will Paul Posluszny still man the middle of the defense or is Jack capable of filling in? Will he instead be relegated to the “otto” (weakside) linebacker spot? What does the team do with Sen’Derrick Marks, who was a stud in 2014 but missed most of 2015?

The questions are almost unending on the defensive side of the ball. It’s going to be completely rebuilt and for now we only have speculation and extrapolations based on coach speak. Expect training camp to answer some of those questions and start to fill out the roles on defense.

4. What are your expectations for the Jaguars in 2016?

Everyone is eyeing 8-8 or better. Playoff talk is running rampant, but that may just be optimism in the midst of an exciting offseason.

Gus Bradley has to win this season and get to .500 or better or he’s out. David Caldwell is on thin ice, even though he’s rebuilt the entire roster from a group that would lose to a high school squad to a group that can actually compete. The time to win is now.

But needing to win isn’t the same as actually having what it takes to win. The talent is now available and Bradley has to prove he can actually coach this team to a winning season. There are exciting new pieces in place and he’s more than capable, but can he execute? While the optimism is nice, a mark closer to 8-8 is probably more likely than a sudden run to the playoffs at something better than 9-7.

5. Right here, right now, are you marking down the game against the Lions as a win, loss or toss-up for the Jaguars?

Honestly, marking it as a win.

Growing up, my brother was a Lions fan. I have a bit of a soft spot for them and I would like to see them do well, but I have very little faith in Jim Caldwell as a head coach, losing Calvin Johnson is a major blow and he quite literally is irreplaceable as one-person talent, and the Jags are surging. That said, the Lions put together an impressive late-season run in 2015 and could surprise some people in the coming season.

This one is going to be a close one, but I think the Jags take it. I’d like to see it be high-scoring game with Bortles and Stafford showing just how great they are as quarterbacks. That’s just exciting football to watch.

Next: Checking in on the Minnesota Vikings

For more on the Jacksonville Jaguars, head to Black & Teal.