The Jacksonville Jaguars did not win many football games last season. They were outscored by almost 13 points per game, averaged 4.6 yards per play (third worst in the league) and made just 271 first downs (second fewest in the league) en route to a 4-12 record that would have put them in the AFC South cellar if not for the existence of the Houston Texans (2-14).
The future doesn’t appear much brighter. According to the latest Las Vegas Hilton’s latest futures odds, the over/under for Jacksonville wins in the 2014 season is just 4.5. However, the Jaguars could beat that number and surprise the league with a strong effort because of the third-down rebound effect.
Teams which are strong on first and second down, but weak on third down, will tend to improve the following year. Teams which are weak on first and second down, but strong on third down, will tend to decline the following year.
Last season, the Jags were the worst at converting on third down, getting to the sticks just 22.7 percent of the time in a league where the average was 38.6 percent. However, each of the worst teams at third-down conversions over the last five seasons saw major strides in the following season:
And these aren’t all good teams: Carolina won two games in 2010 and Detroit didn’t win any in 2008, showing it doesn’t take much to get some improvement year to year. Plus, Jacksonville underwent an offensive facelift during the offseason.
The Jags selected Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles at No. 3 overall in the first round of the NFL draft and then followed up with two picks at wide receiver in the second round, selecting USC star Marqise Lee (39th) and Penn State’s Allen Robinson (61st). They continued focusing on offense in the third round, trading up to take Miami guard Brandon Linder.
There is also a new mind-set under head Coach Gus Bradley. “To me, when you come here [now], you absolutely feel the drive and the hunger, whether it’s on the business side or on the football side,” owner Shad Khan said. “You need that to become successful.”
Expect that successful mind-set to carry the Jags to five or more wins in 2014.