The latest Jaguars loss, this time against the Indianapolis Colts, featured the long-awaited return of QB Nick Foles after a 10-week absence after suffering a broken left collarbone back in Week 1. The former Super Bowl MVP looked good early on but Jacksonville ultimately fell 33-13, with their record of 4-6 raising serious questions regarding the team’s position this season in a very tight AFC South division.
Foles’ return was rightfully one of the most widely discussed topics surrounding the Jaguars between their loss to the Texans in London and yesterday – a period, which included a Week 10 bye. His performance between now and the end of the regular season could be a deciding factor about the direction the organization could take next offseason as the QB market heats up and multiple struggling teams (We hear you, Bears fans) could be looking at a change under centre.
Despite the 4-year deal that targeted a quick, short-term return to contention, the plan could be left behind given particular circumstances. The Jaguars felt like they could go a step further compared to their 2017 campaign when their season ended with an AFC Championship Game loss to New England with Blake Bortles at quarterback.
New factors have entered TIAA Bank Field. Gardner Minshew, a 7th-round pick out of Washington State, shook up the NFL coming in for the injured Foles and is now considered “the future of the franchise”, in spite of Foles having three more years on his contract beyond 2019. Jalen Ramsey, one of the best cornerbacks in the league and a centerpiece of a solid defensive unit, was traded to the Los Angeles Rams shortly before the NFL trade deadline.
What could the future hold for the Jacksonville Jaguars? We examine that, based on Foles’ display on Sunday and the Jaguars’ possible position come the end of the 2019 season.
Can the Jaguars make a push for the playoffs? Nick Foles was certainly a part of a very inefficient offense on Sunday as his running game had only 9 carries for 29 yards. Foles has made a living winning games when having to throw the ball for the majority of the time on offense.
Last season, Foles started a total of five games for the Eagles, three of which were at the end of December. He made more than 30 throws in each of the five starts, completing 70.0+% of his passing attempts in four of those games. Interceptions were present in all but one game, yet Nick Foles won Philadelphia’s last three meetings of the season en route to an NFC Divisional Round loss to the Saints.
However, the Jaguars are supposed to be very different from what Foles has experienced in Philly in the past two years. Before his no-show at Lucas Oil Stadium, Leonard Fournette entered the week with 6th-most rushing yards at 854. The former first-rounder had a strong October, rushing for 100+ yards twice and recording 70+ in his other two appearances during the month, but has been quiet so far in November. If he returns to his best, and hence gets more carries, Foles could do so much more with a good running game to back him up and take some of his overwhelming workload.
Although Jacksonville didn’t impress in the loss to Indy, you could expect that this offense should produce and that the defense could be average at worst, thus making the Jaguars a solid team in the final accords in the 2019 campaign. The situation on the QB market, in addition to how stacked the AFC South is at the moment, could force the Jaguars to ask themselves some questions following the conclusion of the season if the team comes nowhere near of a AFC Wild Card berth.
It’s not about the “Are we going to rebuild?” question but rather about the “What gives us the best chance to win?” question. Don’t let the Ramsey trade fool you – the Jaguars are an ambitious organization which has two first-round picks and a total of two extra selections acquired via trades to fill holes at WR and CB, leaving the big decision at QB. That kind of decision wouldn’t even exist had it not been for the emergence of Minshew.
If Foles underperforms, the Jaguars could emerge as sellers. There’s a plethora of potential buyers and a price of Foles which is still very high. The most recent person close to the trading landscape to talk about a potential trade was radio host Dave Dameshek, who in a recent show predicted Nick Foles as the 2020 starter for the Chicago Bears.
Why that could be bad? It could cause another overhaul, and leave the team once again far from playoff contention.
What precisely will determine Nick Foles’ destiny will be him and whether the Jaguars could at least battle for a playoff spot all the way to the late stages of the season. Jacksonville has exactly a single winning team on its remaining schedule and that’s the Colts, a potential division-decider if the Jags win most of their games. They’ll have to face the re-emerging Raiders and Falcons on the road, but overall all are winnable games down the stretch.
That’ll make the consequences even bigger does the team underperform. As ridiculous as it sounds – and as wrong and spontaneous as it could be – Nick Foles is more movable a piece than any other impactful skill position player because of the pressure Gardner Minshew put on him while Foles was on the IR.