In 2016, the Jacksonville Jaguars finished with a 3-13 record.
In 2017, they assembled the best defense in the league, went 10-6, and nearly delivered on Jalen Ramsey’s promise: “We’re going to go to the Super Bowl, and we’re going to win that b—-!”
How did that happen?
The 2016 Jaguars were not very good, to say the least. The changes made in 2017 are nearly impossible to overstate. For reference, these are the differences in rank from 2016 to 2017 in some important categories.
– Passing: 20th to 17th (3,593 yards)
– Rushing: 22nd to 1st (2,262 yards)
– Rushing Touchdowns: 29th to 2nd (18 touchdowns)
– Points Scored: 25th to 5th (417 points)
– Interceptions: 32nd to 2nd (21)
– Passing Yards Allowed: 5th to 1st (2,718 yards)
– Rushing Touchdowns Allowed: 24th to 6th (9 allowed)
– Points Allowed: 19th to 1st (268 allowed)
They also went from one defensive touchdown to seven. Seven. There are starting receivers that do not score that many times in a year.
There were also several offseason pickups before the 2017 season. In the draft they took Leonard Fournette in the first round. He turned out to be the star of the offense, performing like he has been in the league for years. In the second round the Jags selected Cam Robinson, who has very high expectations for his sophomore season after boasting an impressive rookie year.
After the draft, Jacksonville decided to make enormous moves in free agency. Barry Church, Strong Safety (4 interceptions, 1 touchdown), A.J. Bouye, Cornerback (6 interceptions), Branden Albert, Guard (2x pro-bowler).
Perhaps the most important signing of 2017, however, is Calais Campbell. Six tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, a career-high 14.5 sacks, and a touchdown. By signing Campbell, the Jags also brought in a veteran presence. He came into Jacksonville and immediately asserted himself as one of their top players and as someone who deserves respect. He simultaneously produces big numbers and teaches the younger defensive linemen behind him, making the team better at positions other than his own. He is giving future generations of the team knowledge that will be valuable even after he retires.
The last factor in Jacksonville’s success in 2017 is the swag. Swag is a term many people have heard before, but what does it actually mean?
Swagger (noun): Bold confidence, generally the source of trash-talk or audacious claims, usually prevalent in top players. Only effective if said player consistently performs well.
– (see: “Jalen Ramsey”)
There has been a marked correlation between a player’s swag and their production on the field. Even Joe Namath earned the nickname “Broadway Joe” due to his flashy clothes, unending self-confidence, and some luck. Now he is usually considered an all-time great.
Swag is not always a “ha ha, I am better than you” attitude, however. Sometimes it is an “I am better than you, and I will hurt you” kind of attitude. This was the case for Jack Lambert, one of the most feared linebackers in NFL history. This approach has been deemed just as effective.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have both in 2017. Jalen Ramsey has the ability to get into his opponent’s head, being one of the more known trash-talkers of the league. Blake Bortles can repeatedly ignore his critics, focus on his task, and perform well because he requires no justification. Calais Campbell can strike fear in the heart of any quarterback. They all know exactly how good they are, and that confidence allows them to produce each and every game. This is what will make them a perennial contender in the NFL.
Do the Jags have a top-tier, consistent offense? Maybe not.
Do they have the best defense in the league? Debatable.
Do they have the most swagger? Absolutely.