JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Don’t expect the Jacksonville Jaguars to change course now.
Just about every move they have made since top executive Tom Coughlin’s return last year has been to bolster the defense and running game. Those old-school ideals are so much a part of Jacksonville’s identity that Coughlin even helped fashion new uniforms to match the team’s on-field style.
The NFL draft probably will adhere to the franchise’s throwback philosophy.
Take a quarterback in the first round? Highly unlikely. Select a receiver? Probably not.
Look for Coughlin and the Jaguars to continue building a smash-mouth team early in the draft, beginning with the 29th overall pick Thursday night. Offensive line, tight end or maybe another defender would be the safest bets.
“Inevitably people fall. Who’s it going to be? Who knows?” Coughlin said. “But according to the work that we’ve done, we feel that we will get a good football player at that spot.”
Here’s the best way to look at Jacksonville’s upcoming draft: The Jaguars led New England 20-17 with a little more than five minutes to play in the AFC championship game and failed to close it out. So what can they do to avoid that happening again?
Being able to run the ball better with Leonard Fournette would be a good start. That’s why Jacksonville acquired the most coveted offensive lineman in free agency last month. Former Carolina All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell signed a five-year, $66.5 million deal that included $30 million guaranteed.
Norwell will play between blossoming left tackle Cam Robinson, a second-round draft pick in 2017, and solid center Brandon Linder.
The right side of Jacksonville’s line could use a makeover.
Guard A.J. Cann, a third-round pick in 2015, is entering the final year of his contract, and 31-year-old right tackle Jermey Parnell has two years remaining on his deal after playing most of last season with a knee injury.
Jacksonville likely won’t be in position to take Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, widely considered the most polished offensive lineman in the draft, but could land Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, UCLA‘s Kolton Miller or Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn.
No one would be surprised to see the Jaguars choose a tight end with their first pick, either.
Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell cut veteran Marcedes Lewis last month, and although they signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins in free agency, they’re still looking for someone who can be as productive blocking as catching passes. Those guys are rare these days, with South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst and South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert seemingly the best available.
“You see so many people today spread them out and go to the smaller guy,” Coughlin said. “We want to run the ball. So to run the ball, we need a little bit more power in the back pocket to come off the ball, do all the combination work. … Not easy to find, but they’re out there.”
Some other things to know about Jacksonville, which is positioned to pick outside the top 10 for the first time since 2007.
Veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny retired, and nickel cornerback Aaron Colvin signed with Houston. But the Jaguars drafted linebacker Blair Brown in the fifth round last year and signed free agent D.J. Hayden to replace Colvin.
“We have needs, don’t get me wrong, but there’s not a glaring need for this upcoming season for us,” Caldwell said.
The Jaguars let Chad Henne walk, leaving them without a backup quarterback until trading for Cleveland’s Cody Kessler late last month. Kessler’s arrival did little to alter Jacksonville’s desire for a developmental backup. But how high will the Jags take one?
HITS, MISSES AND BARGAINS
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey (first round, 2016) and running back Leonard Fournette (first round, 2017) are two big hits for a team with a history of draft woes. No one from Jacksonville’s 2013 draft class remains on the roster. Linebacker Telvin Smith (fifth round, 2014) and defensive Yannick Ngakoue (third round, 2016) are two of the biggest draft bargains the Jags have found in recent years.