The Jacksonville Jaguars started the 2013 season the way everyone expected them to start the 2013 season. Loss after loss meant the team was one step closer to finally getting the number one pick in a draft loaded with quarterback prospects.
Then, something incredible happened. They stopped losing.
Similar to their in-state NFC doppelgangers, Tampa Bay, the Jags looked like a respectable football team at times during the latter stages of the 2013 season, finishing with four wins over the course of their final eight games.
Unfortunately for fans of the Jaguars, those wins didn’t come as a result of impressive underlying numbers on offense or defense.
Using Net Expected Points (NEP), numberFire’s advanced metric which you can learn more about here, as our guide, here are some of the highs and lows from the 2013 Jaguars.
Well, actually, let’s start with some bad news. The Jacksonville offense wasn’t very good.
But the good news is that it did turn itself around halfway through the season, as the combination of Chad Henne and Cecil Shorts began to pick up the pace and keep the Jaguars competitive. You can read more about the Jacksonville offense and their ascent from the bottom of the league here.
The offense had an Adjusted (for strength of schedule) Offensive NEP of -103.76 at their Week 9 bye. But over the following eight games, the offense posted an Adjusted NEP of -22.96, which despite still being negative and therefore unimpressive, is a massive upgrade over the previous eight games.
The aforementioned Shorts is a main reason why the Jaguars had an improved offense later in the season. Shorts had a Reception NEP total of 62.43 for the season, which is far from league-leading, but certainly respectable.
More impressive was his Success Rate, or the percentage of plays that result in an NEP greater than zero. Shorts ranked 23rd among receivers with 60 or more catches in this metric, as his Success Rate was a healthy 84.85%.
Even more impressive were the performances of Justin Blackmon, although his off-the-field issues derailed yet another promising season. Blackmon finished the season with a higher Reception NEP per target than A.J. Green and Antonio Brown, but his small sample size means he was unable to leave a mark on the team’s season with his efficient play.
Remember how I said the Jacksonville offense wasn’t very good?
No team in 2013 had a worse Adjusted NEP than the Jags did on offense. And as I mentioned earlier, the awful performances posted over the first two months of the season were the main culprit, as a majority of the negative expected points came as a result of the team’s transition from Blaine Gabbert to Chad Henne.
Speaking of Gabbert, his historically bad season is something to make note of here. Had he dropped back to pass just two more times and reached 100 dropbacks, he’d have posted the second-worst quarterback season using Passing NEP since 2000.
Only Craig Krenzle in 2004 had a worse Passing NEP per play than Gabbert did in 2013 with a -0.52 PNEP/play. In other words, every two times Gabbert dropped back to pass, he lost his team an expected point. That led to an awful overall offensive Adjusted NEP output of -126.72, which is the 21st worst since 2000.
The defense wasn’t much better.
Were it not for the Atlanta Falcons, who managed to have one of the worst defensive seasons in league history, the Jaguars would have held the shameful title of the worst in both offensive and defensive Adjusted NEP.
The defense earned a 119.99 NEP over the season, and for defenses, positive results are not the goal. That total was the 10th worst in the NFL since 2000, and is the primary reason why the offensive resurgence in the second half of the season only translated into four wins.
What Should They Do Next?
As crazy as it seems for the Jaguars to pass on the franchise passer they seem to be so desperate for, it’s the defense that should be the focus of the offseason for the front office.
Adding a dynamic pass rusher in free agency or the draft would work wonders for the Jags, who have finished last in sacks for two straight years. There are a few exciting prospects at the top of the draft in this area who should be primary targets for Jacksonville this offseason.
On the offensive side of the ball, getting a healthy, consistent option at running back will be key. While the passing game stabilized later in the season and actually provided a few positive moments, the rushing attack was always a hot mess.
This would also include upgrading the offensive line to pave the way for a new running back. A balanced offense (that isn’t playing from behind as often due to a hopefully improved defense) can survive moderately with Chad Henne under center.
The Jaguars will eventually need an upgrade at quarterback, but reaching to do so this summer would be unwise with so many other unmet needs on the roster. It’s been clear from the start that a rebuild is underway in Jacksonville, and adding to the defense this offseason would be another step in the right direction.