The Jacksonville Jaguars are arguably the most improved team from last season to this upcoming one. They addressed several holes on their roster via free agency and the draft, balancing an already potent offense and strengthening what was a very weak defense in 2015.
But as much as Jacksonville upgraded several of their starting sports, their depth at many positions could still prove troublesome. Especially if someone doesn’t live up to expectations or gets injured.
Jacksonville has quality depth at certain areas to be certain. Wide receiver and running back immediately come to mind, as does some of the linebacker positions. But other units, such as the offensive line and secondary, are in major trouble if they sustain any significant injuries at any point this season.
The Jaguars’ offensive line is already a bit of an issue. Last season, the Jags allowed 51 sacks, the fourth-most in the NFL. This after allowing an astonishing 71 in 2014. Jacksonville did address their line this offseason, bringing in Kelvin Beachum and Mackenzy Bernadeau in free agency. But the depth at most of the positions remains a major issue, especially at center where everyone but starter Brandon Linder has been having trouble snapping the ball during training camp.
And for the most part, what depth the Jaguars do have on the offensive line is very young. Aside from one or two key guys that could serve as key reserves, Jacksonville has little in the way of reassuring depth on the offensive line.
While depth at cornerback shouldn’t be too much of a concern this season, especially with the additions of 2016 No. 5 overall pick Jalen Ramsey and free agent signing Prince Amukamara, the safety positions aren’t particularly deep.
The Jaguars signed Tashaun Gipson this offseason to be their starting free safety and he should be able to flourish in that role in Gus Bradley’s defensive scheme. But the Jaguars have no reassuring backup behind him and Gipson has already had some injury concerns in the past, missing the final five games of 2014 due to an MCL injury and missing three games last season as well.
Josh Evans is expected to be behind Gipson and while he’s played plenty of significant snaps over his three years with the Jaguars, he hasn’t been particularly effective or disruptive. In 47 career games, Evans has no interceptions. None. Meanwhile, Gipson has picked off 14 passes in his 50 career games.
The same can be said for Jacksonville’s other safety position as well.
Jonathan Cyprien already isn’t the NFL’s greatest safety. In fact, Pro Football Focus rated Cyprien as the NFL’s 84th-ranked safety out of 86 qualifying safeties in 2015. But an injury to him would turn the reigns over to James Sample, a second-year player that hasn’t looked much better at the position.
Jacksonville has concerns at other positions too should injuries cut seasons short. Tight end and defensive tackle have a little depth, but the quality of players there behind the starters is mostly just serviceable at best.
Most NFL teams struggle with depth issues at several positions on their roster. That’s the nature of a 53-man roster. But Jacksonville’s depth concerns are at positions that have burned them over the last couple seasons and poor performances from their offensive line and secondary have been largely the reason Jacksonville has struggled to get out of the basement of the AFC.
If Jacksonville suffers significant injuries to anyone in either of those units, it could spell doom for their 2016 season.