Jacksonville Jaguars' Most Under- and Overrated Offseason Additions
And it showed.
They struggled to do anything on offense, ranking as the second-worst unit in the league last year both in rushing yards and total yards per game. The defense didn't fare much better, ranking 27th in total defense.
Changes needed to happen if the Jaguars are going to improve their 4-12 record in head coach Gus Bradley's second year at the helm. They made a number of moves in free agency and in the draft to bolster their roster.
Some of these moves got a lot of praise while others fell under the radar. Generally speaking, all of the moves made should help upgrade the team. However, some of these upgrades are by virtue of how low the talent level was last year, not necessarily because the player is that good.
With this in mind, let's take a look at some of the most overrated and underrated moves made by the Jaguars this offseason.
Toby Gerhart, Underrated
Toby Gerhart went from backing up a legend to replacing one.
Gerhart was a second-round pick in 2010 for the Minnesota Vikings but saw limited action backing up Peterson. In what snaps he did get, he made his impact known. In his career, he carries a 4.7 yards-per-carry average, including an impressive 7.9 average last year.
On the verge of a breakout season, Gerhart is a bruiser of a back whose power-running style will help the Jaguars dictate the pace of the game. Last year, Gerhart had 283 rushing yards, 136 of which came after contact, leaving him with a yards-after-contact average of 3.8 yards. To put this in perspective, Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson averaged 2.5 and 2.97 YAC, respectively.*
Gerhart has already been winning over his coaches. Jaguars running backs coach Terry Richardson said of him, "He's a horse. He's a big guy, and I talked to one of his former (position) coaches, and he was saying Toby had the strongest legs he's been around in terms of his leg drive and leg power. We're excited about that."
Gerhart hit the market at a time when there wasn't a true game-breaking running back available. Teams like the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants shelled out big money to fix their rushing attacks. The Jaguars, on the other hand, got their running back of the future for relatively cheap and without any baggage. Gerhart doesn't have a significant injury history (unlike Ben Tate of Cleveland), and he is still relatively young (27 compared to the Giants' Rashad Jennings, who is 29).
He figures to find plenty of opportunities carrying the ball, as the Jaguars won't want to rely too much on the passing game given the inexperience of their receivers. Now it is time for him to show everyone just what he is capable of.
*All stats from Pro Football Focus (subscription required)
Zane Beadles, Overrated
The Jaguars felt they made progress on shoring up their offensive line by signing Zane Beadles from Denver. Beadles, who is entering his fifth year in the NFL, was a four-year starter in Denver and was rewarded with a five-year, $30 million deal when he came to Jacksonville.
Despite his time spent as a starter, Beadles has been very inconsistent in his young career. Per Pro Football Focus, in his four-year career, he has finished with three negative grades: minus-2.0 in 2010, minus-18.1 in 2011 and minus-2.9 in 2013. He did finish well in 2012 with a plus-11.2 in 2012.
Beadles has struggled in pass protection throughout most of his career. This is something he must work on if he is to live up to the contractual expectations. This is heightened by the fact that the Jaguars paid Beadles more money than consensus top-ranked guard Geoff Schwartz, who got a four-year, $16.8 million from the New York Giants.
Bottom line, the Jaguars overpaid for a player who is a bit of an enigma. If he recaptures his 2012 form, then the money will be well spent. If not, then the Jaguars just spent a lot of money on a mediocre player, which is something they can't afford to be doing with such a young team with a lot of potential.
Ziggy Hood, Underrated
Ziggy Hood was a former first-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009. Try as he might, he was never able to live up to the billing as a first-round pick nor as a Steelers defensive lineman. Pittsburgh decided not to re-sign him and he wound up in Jacksonville as, what many people figured, a depth signing.
However, Hood has been making some good impressions early on with the coaching staff. This is very important for him since he is showing that he can make the transition from 3-4 defensive end to 4-3 defensive tackle. Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union said of Hood:
...he is going to be a part of a four- and five-man rotation. What they like about Ziggy is that first step. During these sessions, obviously no pads on, but the way he knifes through the line, you can tell he is going to be a guy who is going to be able to get up field and maybe make some plays against the run.
If Hood is able to keep this effort going with pads on, he will be a significant help to a defense that ranked 29th in the league against the run. The Jaguars are hoping all he needs to reach his potential is a change of scenery.
Chris Clemons, Overrated
Chris Clemons is the first of two Seattle rejects to find themselves on this list. Clemons was brought in by his former defensive coordinator to try and improve their pass rush.
Clemons saw his production go down last season as he battled injury and lost playing time to Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. He managed only 4.5 sacks in 14 games. His best years came under Bradley as Seattle's defensive coordinator. Over that three-year span, he tallied 33.5 sacks.
The Jaguars are hoping Clemons' familiarity with Bradley's system will yield immediate results for what was the league's worst pass rush a year ago. While Clemons does provide a good veteran presence for the Jaguars, especially after the release of Jason Babin, it is unlikely that he will find his form from his last stint with Bradley.
Clemons went into the 2013 season coming off a brutal ACL injury that caused him to miss the first two games of the season. This kind of injury at Clemons age is typically a devastating blow to a defensive end's explosiveness. He is not a long-term solution for the Jaguars and will likely make his biggest impact as a mentor to Andre Branch.
Red Bryant, Underrated
Red Bryant is the second of the two Seattle rejects to make this list. Like Clemons, he was brought in because of his familiarity with Bradley's scheme and because the Jaguars need help plugging up the run game. Unlike Clemons, Bryant is poised to have a much bigger impact for his new team.
In a league dominated by freakishly athletic defensive players like J.J. Watt, Jason Pierre-Paul and Aldon Smith, Bryant seems to be, fittingly, a JAG (just another guy). Bryant is a big guy who specializes only in run defense, lacking any real pass-rush threat (just 3.5 sacks in six seasons). However, the vaunted Seattle defense would not have been the same without his presence.
Bryant is an excellent run-stuffer, grading out with a plus-12.2 grade against the run per Pro Football Focus. He will team up with last year's free agent gem Sen'Derrick Marks to be the core of the Jaguars interior line. It remains to be seen whether or not he will be a defensive tackle or a run-stuffing defensive end in Jacksonville but regardless of which position, he will be an instant impact player for them.
Dekoda Watson, Overrated
Dekoda Watson is perhaps the biggest enigma of the Jaguars 2014 free-agent class. He has played in 60 games during his four-year career yet only started six of them. He now comes in with the expectations of being the newly created OTTO linebacker in the Jaguars defense.
Defensive coordinator Bob Babich explained what this new position would entail during a radio interview on Jaguars Today on 1010XL, per Big Cat Country, stating:
OTTO is kind of going to be on the edge, we'd like to have some pass rush ability, in a pinch he could go down in a third-down situation to blitz him off the edge. It's something that's new to us, so formulating exactly what he's gonna be. But, it's gone really well and our guys have adjusted to it and our guys are excited about it. He can be strong or weak and most of the time he's going to be on the line of scrimmage, standing up.
Watson has not gotten off to a good start so far in learning this position. According to The Florida Times-Union's Ryan O'Halloran, Watson has missed all 12 OTAs due to injury. His inability to learn this position could doom the Jaguars defense or at least put excess pressure on the other units to perform.
This move is really one of the big head-scratchers for the Jaguars during the offseason. To rely on such an inexperienced player to learn a brand new role and have others adapt to it was asking a bit much and now it is coming back to bite them.
For their sake, hopefully Watson will recover soon and prove why he was chosen to be their OTTO.