One of the NFL’s best defenses carried the Jacksonville Jaguars within a game of advancing to its first Super Bowl. The New York Giants finished with a dismal 3-13 record, which brought the high draft pick that goes with it and a coaching change that is another byproduct of an awful season.
The Jaguars begin what they hope is another successful season Sunday when they visit the Giants, who are unveiling running back Saquon Barkley and playing their first game under new coach Pat Shurmur.
Jacksonville had gone nine consecutive seasons without a winning record or playoff berth. But the Jaguars changed coaches, put former Giants coach Tom Coughlin in charge of football decisions and finished 10-6. The Jaguars beat Buffalo and Pittsburgh in its first two postseason games before falling by four points in New England in the AFC Championship game.
Jacksonville reached those heights with a defense who placed second in points allowed and yards. Most of the same cast returns, including Calais Campbell, who recorded four sacks last season in the season opener against Houston to set a tone for Jacksonville’s best finish in points allowed since the Jaguars were No. 1 in 1999.
“It’s important to get off to a fast start in this league,” Campbell said. “We know we have a tough test coming up because they are a talented team with a lot of big play-makers on offense.”
Another one of those defenders is outspoken cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who spent his time in training camp making critical comments of virtually every quarterback. Jaguars quarterback, Blake Bortles, who threw for 3,687 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, signed a three-year extension and later received Ramsey’s stamp of approval. Ramsey said the Jaguars can win a title with Bortles.
Bortles’ options are to give the ball to Leonard Fournette, who rushed for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie. The receiving options will be different following the losses of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurts via free agency and the season-ending knee injury sustained by wide receiver Marqise Lee during the preseason.
For the Giants, none of their parts worked well last season, resulting in the dismissal of coach Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese.
The Giants averaged 15.4 points per game. One reason they finished with the league’s second-worst scoring offense was the absence of Odell Beckham Jr, who is recovering from a broken ankle sustained in Week 5 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Beckham signed a five-year, $95 million contract and also is more interested in catching passes from Eli Manning than engaging in trash talk with Ramsey.
“I don’t want to say I’m a different person but I have different outlooks and perspectives on things,” Beckham told reporters “I’ve had a lot happen and you take it and learn and grow from it.”
The Giants are hoping a revamped offensive line can give Manning ample time to connect with Beckham, while big things are expected from Barkley.
The Giants used a second-round pick on mammoth guard Will Hernandez and inked Nate Solder with the hope they can help Manning and Beckham form effective chemistry while providing plenty of space for Barkley to showcase his big-play ability.
—Field Level Media