Jaguars begin 2016 campaign looking for playoff spot


The Jacksonville Jaguars begin their NFL regular season at home Sept. 11 against Green Bay. Expectations are high this year – for players, coaches and fans. Some media even have them winning the AFC South.

The offense will be led by QB Blake Bortles. Last season, he threw for 4,428 yards with 35 touchdowns. Veteran Chad Henne is expected to backup Bortles, whose favorite targets last season were second-year receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.

 Robinson led the club with 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Hurns had 64 catches, 1,031 yards and 10 scores. It marked just the fifth time in franchise history that a pair of receivers both topped the 1,000-yard plateau in a single season.

 Receiver Marqise Lee is also in his third season. Rashad Greene missed seven games last year due to an injury. Julius Thomas and Marcedes Lewis are the tight ends.

 The hit and miss ground game will be bolstered by former New York Jets running back Chris Ivory, who put together his best season as a pro last year as a member of the Jets. He combined for 1,287 yards and nine touchdowns and averaged 4.65 yards per touch, catching and running the ball. T.J. Yeldon, Denard Robinson and Ivory should give the Jaguars a formidable running attack.

 The defense looks solid, with veterans and draft picks ready to contribute, including rookies Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey, along with free agents Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson, the reliable Paul Posluszny. and Dante Fowler Jr., who missed last season with an ACL after being drafted in 2015.

 Jackson, a Super Bowl-winning defensive lineman, signed a six-year, $90-million contract. The Jaguars’ secondary improved with the additions of corner Prince Amukamara. They also added defensive-line depth in Yannick Ngakoue and Sheldon Day, taken in the third and fourth rounds, respectively.

 Tackle Kelvin Beachum, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, has joined the Jaguars. If he is healthy, Luke Joeckl, the No. 2 overall pick in 2013 out of Texas A&M, could be moved. Brandon Linder is in line to become center.

 The Jaguars signed free agent offensive lineman Jacques McClendon last week.

McClendon, 28, played for the Jaguars in 2013-14. Wide receiver Rasheed Bailey was waived to make room for McClendon. Jeremy Parnell and rookie A.J. Cann will both be looking for playing time on the offensive line.

  Kicker Jason Myers was inconsistent as a rookie but did make three of four field goals from beyond 50 yards.

 The schedule has three of the first four games at home, including the Colts in London. They also finish with a very favorable slate that includes road games in Detroit and Buffalo, followed by home dates with Denver and Minnesota before facing their three AFC South rivals to close the season.

 The AFC South was the weakest division in the NFL in last season. The Jaguars should gain ground on the Colts and Texans. After winning just eight games the past two seasons, many are expecting them to win more than that in 2016.

 The Jaguars finished 25th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA per-play metric and 31st in Jeff Sagarin’s ratings at USA Today. They were 5-11 and lost five of their last six games.