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Offseason Primers: Jacksonville Jaguars

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Gus Bradley hopes to be the man that fixes the Jaguars' woes after years of mediocrity.

The team hasn't had a winning season since 2007 and have failed to rank among the Top 10 in total offense or scoring in that time. The defense has barely fared better, owning one Top 10 ranking in yards allowed.

Defense is Bradley's specialty after coordinating Seattle's attacking unit. But he's going from a team rich in talent to a team poor in just about everything on his side of the ball. The team's leader in sacks in 2012 was defensive tackle Tyson Alualu with 3.5. Of the 12 interceptions, only eight were made by members of the secondary. And speaking of that secondary, three quarters of the starters along with the nickelback have already left the team either via free agency or release. And by the way the Jaguars have not made a splash in free agency so far -- their biggest signings have been Cowboys and Texans outcast corner Alan Ball and defensive tackles Roy Miller and Sen'Derrick Marks -- Bradley will have his work cut out for him.

2012 Touches Leaders
686 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Rashad Jennings 120 (101 car., 19 rec.) 17.5%
Maurice Jones-Drew 100 (86 car., 14 rec.) 14.6%
Justin Blackmon 66 (64 rec., 2 car.) 9.6%
Cecil Shorts 56 (55 rec., 1 car.) 8.2%
Marcedes Lewis 52 rec. 7.6%
Montell Owens 50 (42 car., 8 rec.) 7.3%
Jalen Parmele 47 (40 car., 7 rec.) 6.8%
All Others 195 28.4%

Things are better on the offensive side of the ball ... well, except at the most important position. The Jaguars are seemingly going to give Blaine Gabbert a chance to earn the starting quarterback job in camp despite completing 58.3 percent of his passes for an average of 5.98 yards per attempt with nine touchdowns and six interceptions last season (nine games). Chad Henne replaced Gabbert after he got hurt two passes into a start at Houston and totaled 11 touchdowns and averaged 267.0 pass yards per game over the Jags' final seven matchups. And it was Henne who got rookie Justin Blackmon going, not Gabbert.

Fellow receiver Cecil Shorts also blossomed with Henne after some great catches with Gabbert. It's those receivers along with running back Maurice Jones-Drew and tight end Marcedes Lewis (who new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch seems to love) that will give the starter some opportunities to put up some numbers in 2013. The only issue is that no one will trust them for Fantasy purposes.

The Jaguars are in a tough spot: They got lapped in the division by the Colts, who appear to be a perennial playoff contender with Andrew Luck under center, the Texans remain a serious threat and the Titans have added talent this offseason in hopes of a playoff push. Tack on a tough schedule that includes a trip to London and challenging matchups at Denver and at Seattle, and it's tough to expect a winning season in Bradley's first year.

Maurice Jones-Drew -- High risk, high reward

2012 Target Leaders
586 pass attempts
Justin Blackmon 133 22.7%
Cecil Shorts 106 18.1%
Marcedes Lewis 78 13.3%
Laurent Robinson 43 7.3%
Jordan Shipley 39 6.7%
All Others 187 31.9%

Those who have played Fantasy Football for years know just how good MJD is. Before last season he averaged over 110 total yards per game over the three years he worked as a high-touch running back. Last year was different -- he held out of training camp and got off to a slow start (only 83.3 total yards per game) before suffering a Lisfranc fracture in Week 7 and missing the rest of the year. Jones-Drew is taking a back-to-basics approach as he enters the last year on his current deal: He's planning to come to training camp on-time, zip his lips about money and show he's recovered from the injury after rehabbing it this offseason (he didn't get out of his walking boot until late March). It sounds like a great plan for the 28-year-old but the track record of players coming back from a Lisfranc isn't great. Coming into a new offense with a new zone-blocking scheme could further impact Jones-Drew. But he's also been a true professional and a productive player with the exception of last season. Every Fantasy owner is going to have to decide whether or not they want to take a chance on Jones-Drew on Draft Day, though we suspect most people should be happy to snare him with a third-round pick knowing he could deliver like a first rounder.

Cecil Shorts, Justin Blackmon -- Contingent on QBs

Both of the Jaguars' breakout receivers from 2012 will be on the minds of Fantasy owners on Draft Day, but their success might be directly tied to who's throwing them the football. With Gabbert, the Jaguars' receivers totaled five games with 10 or more Fantasy points -- all by Shorts -- including two early-season games where he caught long passes for touchdowns. With Henne, the Jaguars' receivers totaled nine games with 10 or more Fantasy points including four by Shorts and four by Blackmon (and one by Jordan Shipley in Week 17). Henne let loose more than Gabbert did as evidenced by his better passing averages per attempt and per game as well as his superior completions of 20- and 40-plus yards. Both had an affinity for Shorts but Henne connected immediately with Blackmon whereas Gabbert rarely did. Fantasy owners might be more comfortable drafting Shorts and Blackmon with anyone other than Gabbert or Henne under center for the Jaguars, but as it stands now, there's plenty to feel good about drafting Shorts as a middle- to low-end No. 2 option and Blackmon as a solid No. 3 wideout.

Marcedes Lewis -- Keep on the radar

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Blaine Gabbert Undrafted
Chad Henne Undrafted
Maurice Jones-Drew 25-35 overall
Cecil Shorts 60-70 overall
Justin Blackmon 70-80 overall
Marcedes Lewis Undrafted
Josh Scobee Undrafted
Jaguars DST Undrafted

Everyone is on the lookout for the next great tight end, but what if it's one that previously broke out? The new coaching staff have both spoken highly of Lewis, which is sort of strange since he has just four touchdowns in his last two seasons after getting 10 in 2010. But Lewis is a big, rangy target who can serve as a short-area target for Jacksonville. The sooner the Jaguars' receivers re-acquaint themselves to the rest of the NFL, the sooner Lewis will see coverage he can take advantage of. Lewis had two of his three 10-plus-point Fantasy games in the final seven weeks of the season when Blackmon broke out. There isn't a great track record of tight ends doing amazing things under Fisch's play calling, but maybe he'll get off to a hot start and be worth picking up off waivers. In deeper leagues maybe he'll be worth a late pick.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Broncos' Kubiak wants QB Peyton Manning comfortable with new playbook
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(6:54 pm ET) Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak wants to make sure that all of his players are comfortable with the new offensive playbook, including quarterback Peyton Manning, reports ESPN.

“I think you prepare to help him call that game throughout the course of the week," Kubiak said. “A lot of people put emphasis on him calling plays at the line, but you’ve also prepared to do that throughout the course of the week, so you, as a coach, 'Here’s what I think is best in that situation.' In a lot of ways you’re still working together. You’re just going about it a different way."

“You never want to put a player in a position where he’s doing something he’s uncomfortable with," Kubiak said. “One of things about having a veteran, especially like Peyton, he’s going to let you know, 'This is what I do best and this is what I feel comfortable with.' That’s what you need to go do as a coach. You might tweak things here or there that you think may help, but you’re never going to take him out of his comfort zone and what he feels like he does best.”

Manning, 39, recently took a pay cut of $4 million to help clear salary cap space for the team.


LB Brandon Magee still committed to playing in NFL
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(5:49 pm ET) After being released by the Buccaneers, linebacker Brandon Magee is going to participate in spring training with the Boston Red Sox. That being said, he is still committed to playing in the NFL, according to Pro Football Talk. 

Magee's agent, Blake Baratz, emailed Pro Football Talk regarding his client's desire to resume his NFL career.

“There have been rumors circulating that Brandon Magee, who was recently released by Tampa Bay, has given up football with the intention of playing professional baseball. This could not be further from the truth,” Baratz wrote. “While he does attend spring training for a few weeks up until the beginning of the NFL off-season program, he is 100% fully committed to playing in the NFL.”

Magee, 24, has seen action in 17 games the last two seasons, nine of which were in 2014 with the Buccaneers. He has registered 10 total tackles in his career.


Bill O'Brien: 'Sky's the limit' for WR DeAndre Hopkins
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:34 pm ET) With Andre Johnson now in Indy, DeAndre Hopkins enters the 2015 season as the Texans' undisputed No. 1 receiver.

“He had a really good year last year and the sky’s the limit with Hop (Hopkins)," coach Bill O'Brien told NFL Network. "He’s an excellent young player who works extremely hard and we’re looking forward to putting together our whole receiving corps and he should be the leader of that.”

Hopkins led Houston with 1,210 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns last year. He has 128 catches for 2,012 yards and eight scores in his two NFL seasons.


Giants RB Shane Vereen will be more than third-down back
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(5:28 pm ET) Giants running back Shane Vereen is being viewed as much more than just a third-down running back, according to nj.com.

The team is excited about his ability to catch passes out of the backfield, but he'll be relied on to do more than that.

"I see him in that regard as a pass receiver coming out of the backfield, a pass protector, a guy who runs the ball in the three-wide offense in the run game, if you will, which is very prevalent today in our sport," coach Tom Coughlin said at the NFL Annual Meetings this week. "So I see him in that regard."

Last season the Giants did not have one receiving touchdown by a running back. Vereen, formerly of the Patriots, had three receiving touchdowns out of the backfield last year.

"Well, you know what [Vereen] can do. Quite frankly, it's something from an attack standpoint we've had some success with, but not to the extent that he has," Coughlin said. "When you look at Vereen, a lot of the [Tom] Brady hookup with Vereen was the ball was almost automatically going to him. First down, if it was zone coverage, they were dropping the ball down and he would scoot. So we know that. Will we open it up to more parts of it?"

The 26-year-old has 907 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on the ground, adding 107 receptions for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns through the air in four years. 


Chiefs confident they'll reach deal with Justin Houston
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:00 pm ET) Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt told the Kansas City Star he's confident the team will sign standout outside linebacker Justin Houston to a long-term deal. The Chiefs put a $13.1 million nonexclusive franchise tag on Houston, which he has yet to sign.

“He knows, and his agent knows, how much we want him back,” Hunt said. “We just all have to be patient, and eventually, we’re going to get him signed to a long-term deal.”

Houston has 48.5 sacks in his four-year career. 

“I’ve been very consistent in saying that we not only value Justin as a football player, that we not only value Justin as a person and leader, and we want him to be a Chief for life,” Hunt said.


49ers waive OT Jonathan Martin
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:42 pm ET) The 49ers announced they waived offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, who played in 15 games last season, sarting nine. Martin, 25, was acquired by San Fran in a March 2014 trade with the Dolphins.

He has played in 38 career games with 32 starts.


Sean Payton: C.J. Spiller the 'most explosive player on the field'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:37 pm ET) Saints coach Sean Payton is thrilled to have landed running back C.J. Spiller, who will team with Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson in one of the league's top backfields.

"I think we expected Spiller to be somewhere else with a higher number. But it all worked out," Payton told The Advocate.

Spiller joined the Saints on a four-year, $16 million deal.

“His cutup is unbelievable,” Payton said of Spiller. ”And I’m not talking about last season because I think it became challenging, but you go back a couple of years and start looking at his screen reel, a sweep reel, a return reel.

“So when you watch his film you think of a lot of things he can do. He’s physical, he’s the most explosive player on the field a lot of times when you’re watching him. … So he’s an exciting player that clearly heading into free agency there wasn’t any thought about and then after that first rush there was some interest and I think to his agent’s credit they looked at it from a how he was going to be used standpoint, the system, the offense and wanting to be a part of it and we feel the same way.”


Browns C Alex Mack to participate in OTAs
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:17 pm ET) Browns center Alex Mack, who's rehabbing from a broken leg suffered in Week 6 last year, will take part in OTAs, though it's unclear to what extent, reports ESPN.com. Mack, 29, is a key to Cleveland's running game.

The team averaged 146.4 rushing yards with him, 90.5 without him, per the website.

“We’re making some pretty steady progress, doing what we need to do to get out there for training camp,” Mack said. “But it’s more important that I’m out there for game day. Those two feelings have to balance out. It just takes time, having patience. Two weeks after the surgery, I wanted to be up and running around. I’m not 18 anymore.”


Vikings release LB Justin Anderson, G Jordan McCray
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(4:17 pm ET) The Vikings have released linebacker Justin Anderson and guard Jordan McCray

Anderson spent time with the Giants in 2014, playing in two games. He was then released and picked up by the Vikings.

McCray spent time on the practice squad of the Packers last season. He was signed by the team in November before being cut. 


Report: DeAngelo Hall could move to free safety
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:40 pm ET) The Redskins are looking for a starter at free safety and could move veteran corner DeAngelo Hall into that role, reports the Washington Post. Hall, 31, is coming back from two surgeries to fix the ruptured Achilles' tendon he suffered last year.

Coach Jay Gruden mentioned to the paper that many free safeties are converted cornerbacks, including Oakland's Charles Woodson. Hall has said previously he'd be open to such a move, but he and the team have not discussed it yet, per the paper.


 
 
 
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