The Broncos, Bengals, Falcons, and Packers won in week 5 to get to 5-0, while New England blew out Dallas to reach a 4-0 mark. So why, today, would I write about a Jaguars team that is now 1-4?
Because while Jacksonville is again in the NFL cellar, it’s anything but business as usual. I’m not quite sure how long it is going to take, but it feels like the next great NFL offense could be germinating in northern Florida. That’s because a young trio that has emerged this year while the team generally flies under the radar.
Blake Bortles has thrown for 1,299 yards and 10 touchdowns this year, against just 4 interceptions. As a rookie, Bortles threw for over 270 yards just twice; he’s done it three times in five games this year. As a rookie, Bortles had multiple touchdown passes in a game twice; he’s also done that three times in five games in 2015 so far, including a career high four on Sunday. Bortles is on pace to complete 346 passes for 605 yards (57.1%) for 4,157 yards, with a 6.87 Y/A average and an impressive 12.03 yards per completion rate. He’s also on pace for 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, along with 45 sacks (but for only 198 yards). He’s averaging 6.19 ANY/A — that’s right around league average, a pretty big jump from his 3.81 ANY/A average as a rookie.
But that’s only half the equation: the other half is the pair of young Allens on the receiving end of Bortles’ throws. Both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns have already hit 400 receiving yards this year; in fact, they are one of just two pairs of teammates (Denver’s wide receivers being the other) to hit that mark so far this year. That puts them both on pace to finish with around 1300 receiving yards this year, which is kind of insane.
Why is that kind of insane?
Bortles doesn’t turn 24 years old until December 16th. Hurns won’t be 24 until November. And Robinson just turned 22 in August. That gives the Jaguars a pretty incredible trio of young, productive players. How incredible? I ran a search for all teams with a quarterback who threw for at least 3,000 yards and two players who gained at least 800 yards receiving. Do you know many teams had three of those players where all three were under 25?
Just one. Now, that one isn’t going to make Jaguars fans scream for joy — that trio was Derek Anderson, Braylon Edwards, and Kellen Winslow on the 2007 Browns. If we change the age limit to 25 or younger, we get seven more combos:
- Russell Wilson, Golden Tate, and Doug Baldwin on the 2013 Seahawks;
- Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and Eddie Royal on the 2008 Broncos;
- Jeff Blake, Carl Pickens, Darnay Scott and also Tony McGee on the 1995 Bengals;
- Drew Bledsoe, Ben Coates, and Vincent Brisby on the 1994 Patriots;
- Vinny Testaverde, Mark Carrier, and Bruce Hill on the 1988 Bucs;
- Randall Cunningham, Cris Carter, and Keith Jackson on the 1988 Eagles; and
- Dan Marino, Mark Clayton, and Mark Duper on the 1984 Dolphins
OK, somewhat of a mixed bag there, too. But there’s a good chance Bortles and the Allens will blow past the 3000/750 barriers; in fact, of this group, only the ’07 Browns and ’84 Dolphins had both receivers hit the 1000-yard mark. Obviously, having a young quarterback and two young receiver excel is enough to generate some excitement for a fanbase, but there are quite a few more reasons for optimism:
- Running back T.J. Yeldon turned 22 just ten days ago. The rookie has 364 yards from scrimmage through five games.
- Marqise Lee, Rashad Greene, and Denard Robinson have been banged up this year, but they are 24, 23, and 25 years old, respectively.
- Julius Thomas, at 27, is the old member of the group. And while he may not be part of the youth movement, he should provide a safety net for Bortles over the next few years. Thomas has missed most of the season following surgery on his finger, but caught two passes for 20 yards against Tampa Bay in his first game of the year. Considering the numbers Bortles has put up without him, that’s got to be encouraging for the Jaguars.
So yeah, the Jaguars are 1-4, and haven’t exactly looked great getting there. But Jacksonville was by far the youngest offense in the NFL last year, and should run away with that title again in 2015. But the 2014 Jaguars ranked last in points, and 31st in both total yards and passing yards. In 2015, Jacksonville should at least approach league average in those yardage categories, and at least have a respectable offense overall. Which means 2016 could be the breakout year for the offense. If that’s the case, Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay will go down as one of the first signs we had that the potential was there for it all to come together.