How did the Indianapolis Colts division rivals improve in the offseason? Let’s start with Jacksonville.
We’ve talked a lot about how the Indianapolis Colts have improved throughout the 2020 offseason, from adding Philip Rivers and DeForest Buckner to lead the offense and defense, to signing Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie on prove-it deals to help out the secondary. General manager Chris Ballard also drafted to help out the offense early, getting Michael Pittman Jr. and Jonathan Taylor in round two of the 2020 NFL Draft. It’s clear the Colts have reloaded very well heading into 2020.
But what about the other teams in the AFC South? While Indy made strides, other teams have the same opportunity, and with the division being as competitive as any in recent seasons (especially with the Texans and Titans making the playoffs in 2019), nothing is guaranteed. In this mini series at Horseshoe Heroes, we will look at how everyone else improved in the offseason, and how that impacts them and the Colts as we turn to 2020.
First up will be the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team many aren’t high on as the 2020 season approaches.
Jaguars Big Additions In The Offseason
The Jaguars kicked off free agency with a big signing at the linebacker position, bringing in Joe Schobert on a five year deal worth $53.75 million with $22.5 million guaranteed at signing. Schobert had 100-plus tackles in three of his four seasons in Cleveland, and outplayed his 99th overall draft position back in 2016. His 2019 season features 133 tackles, four interceptions, nine passes defensed, and seven tackles for loss. Schobert’s reliability as a tackler and success in coverage will play down in Jacksonville.
It’s important to note some of the losses the Jaguars had through trades in free agency. Jacksonville shipped off A.J. Bouye to the Broncos for a fourth round pick and “Sacksonville” leader Calais Campbell for a fifth round pick. They also found a way to trade Nick Foles, as the Bears came calling to offer a fourth round compensatory selection.
Jacksonville also franchise-tagged edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue, but it’s clear that Ngakoue wants out. While a trade hasn’t happened yet, that will be the end result, unless Ngakoue sits out the season.
The Jaguars ended up with 12 selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, and we will go through notable selections here.
With their two first round picks, Jacksonville went to the defensive side of the ball. They selected Florida corner C.J. Henderson to help out the vacated secondary at nine overall. Henderson is a great cover corner with good ball skills and transitional quickness. Then, Jacksonville selected LSU rusher K’Lavon Chaisson, who brings an elite first step off the edge, along with good bend and edge setting against the run.
The Jaguars went the speed direction early on day two, selecting wide receiver Laviska Shenault. Shenault has the size speed, and YAC ability to be a big time weapon in the offense. He will work crossers a lot to help out Gardner Minshew.
Jacksonville addressed the trenches in round three and early in round four. They selected nose tackle Davon Hamilton who can push the pocket with strong hands and a good lower half. Then, they grabbed St. John’s tackle Ben Bartch, who provides a lot of developmental upside at left tackle in the future.
How Do They Stack Up With The Colts In 2020?
So, how do all these acquisitions stack up in the AFC South, and more importantly, against the Indianapolis Colts?
The Jacksonville Jaguars were clear sellers before the start of free agency, and they want to get younger across the board. In this instance, it’s fair to call it a rebuild. The trenches look pretty well set up for the future, especially with a defensive line consisting of Hamilton, Josh Allen, and Chaisson for the future. Having Schobert and Myles Jack at linebacker is good too, and adding Bartch to potentially play tackle oppostie Jawaan Taylor was a smart move. You can bet that the Jaguars want to see what Minshew can do for another season.
Many analysts believe this team is in “tank” mode to go get a top quarterback in next year’s draft, but don’t sleep on a young, talented defense with solid weapons around their quarterback. The Colts clearly have the advantage head-to-head, with a better quarterback and a fantastic offensive line. Expecting Indianapolis to come away with two wins is fair, especially with the Colts having much more experience as a unit, but divisional games often get interesting. Despite Rivers’ success in his career against the Jaguars, this isn’t a team to overlook in 2020.
Make sure to tune in for more division rival analysis and much more Colts content at Horseshoe Heroes in the future.