1. The Jags seem to have put together a really good class of non-first round picks this season with Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, Telvin Smith, and Allen Hurns. What is your outlook on everyone taken by Jacksonville outside of the first round in the 2014 NFL Draft?
In terms of value by round, I think the Jaguars are getting their worst return on investment from their first-round picks. Luke Joeckel hasn't been very good and you can't judge a quarterback in his first year. As far as the later rounds, it's been the opposite for more draft picks than it hasn't -- and even some undrafted guys as well.
Allen Robinson was a late second-round pick who has been one of the top rookie wideouts in the league. Brandon Linder is a top-10 guard in the league and he was a third-round pick. Telvin Smith was a fifth-rounder and he's impressing with his athleticism. Luke Bowanko was 205th overall and he's started all year.
If general manager Dave Caldwell hit on Blake Bortles, and if he can hit on another first-round pick or two in the coming years, we'll be even more excited.
2. Speaking of that first round pick, how has Blake Bortles looked this year since taking over for Chad Henne? Are you optimistic about his future?
Well, Chad Henne wasn't very good, but he was a veteran and we saw his ceiling. Bortles on the other hand hasn't been very good either, but he's a rookie who realizes he still has a lot to work on.
The difference is hope. We had seen Henne was mediocre at best for years. With Bortles, you see flashes that, if he turns it into consistently good performances, will make him a very, very good quarterback in the league.
Something else that goes unnoticed, I think, is Bortles' mobility. We haven't had a guy who could scramble and throw the ball down the field like that since Mark Brunell, and to a lesser extent David Garrard -- both of whom were top-15 guys and led the team to the playoffs. Bortles' athleticism and strength (both in shrugging off tacklers and throwing the ball downfield) gets me excited for the next few years... and makes me sad at the years we lost with Blaine Gabbert behind center.
3. How safe is Gus Bradley's job right now? How many more years, if any, will ownership give him to get J-Ville to contend for a playoff spot?
He's safe this year. And he's probably safe next year, although I don't like that. I get that he's not just rebuilding this team; he's building a whole new team. Even still... six wins in two years? We have one game left on the schedule that I think we win, and that's against the Tennessee Titans, so that'll be an average of 3.5 wins per year in his first two years.
Next year, I think is when you'll see the team (and Bradley) turn a corner. I don't think we contend for the playoffs in 2015, but you'll see more wins. And if you don't, I think Bradley will be held accountable. He might not be fired, but I think it'll be, "Gus, if you don't get us to the playoffs in Year 4, you're done."
4. What are the Jaguars' biggest weaknesses on offense and defense?
Their biggest weakness on offense is offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. Yes, having a rookie quarterback is a liability and forces you to limit your playbook, but Fisch is calling games that don't play to Bortles' strengths. Bortles plays best when he's given read-options, play-action passes, and the like at his disposal. Fisch has tried to make Bortles a strictly pocket passer and while he can be that at times, he needs more plays called that employ his mobility and improvisation.
On defense, the weakness is at linebacker. We lost middle linebacker Paul Posluszny for the year and while he wasn't a complete linebacker (in that he couldn't cover the pass worth a damn) he was a fine first- and second-down guy. J.T. Thomas has done well filling in as a backup, but he's not the long-term answer. Watch for the Jaguars to target some inside linebackers in the 2015 NFL Draft.
5. Jacksonville currently holds the fourth overall pick. If you were the GM, what player or what position would you spend it on?
Randy Gregory, a defensive end from Nebraska, but I doubt he'll last that long if the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft ahead of us. If that's the case, I'd take Clemson's Vic Beasley. If we can't get the best pass rusher in Gregory, I want Beasley, who I believe to be the second-best.
A big thank you to Ryan for taking the time to answer our questions. Head on over to Big Cat Country to check out all of their excellent work covering Florida's favorite glitter kitties, including but not limited to my answers to their questions about the Texans.
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