By: Jeff Doke

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Summer is the time of dreams for NFL fans.

Dreams of the upcoming season, of brilliant rookie performances, of notable veteran development, of free agent deals justified by on-field production. And if the fans truly dare to dream, there are dreams of championships.

Fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars are used to dreaming, and yes, having those dreams shattered.

For the 2024 season, there’s lots for DUUVAL Nation to ponder. Quite possibly the biggest item on the list is the recent multi-million-dollar contract extension for quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

This year was to be his last of his rookie contract, and the steps backwards he took last season had a growing minority of pundits questioning whether or not #16 truly is the “generational talent” we’ve been told that he is. General Manager Trent Baalke disagreed and rewarded Lawrence with the T-1st largest QB contract in the league.

I, like many Jags fans, have given Trevor a pass in the previous years due to his disastrous rookie year under Urban Meyer, but as the seasons mount, it becomes harder and harder to use that excuse. A healthy, productive, not-turnover-riddled season would be just what the doctor ordered.

Improved performance from the offensive line would help that tremendously. Cam Robinson, Brandon Scherff, and Anton Harrison are all returning, as is Ezra Cleveland, who re-signed with the team after coming over from the Vikings in a late-season trade.

The lone OL free-agent signing is ex-Bills center Mitch Morse, which means the pieces should be in place for a squad that needs to reduce the number of sacks allowed from last year (35) as well as improving run lanes for 1000-yard rusher RB Travis Etienne.

The flashiest additions come from the receivers. With Calvin Ridley putting up a less-than-expected one-and-done season, the Jags went heavy on the upgrades to the wideouts.

After signing field-stretching veteran Gabe Davis and using the 23rd overall pick in the draft to select LSU speedster Brian Thomas, Jr, the core starters (with returning WR Christian Kirk and TE Evan Engram) seem to be in place for a much more explosive air assault.

While many put a lot of the blame for the 2023 late-season collapse on the offense, the defense was greatly responsible as well, if not more so.

The front office saw that, overhauling most of the defensive coaching staff in the offseason, starting with bringing in former Falcons DC Ryan Nielsen. His four-man rush and press coverage heavy style will suit Josh Allen and Travon Walker well.

Adding former ‘Niners DT Arik Armstead in free agency will help the lackluster run defense of last season.

One area of concern on the defensive side is the secondary. CB Tyson Campbell spent most of last season battling a hamstring injury, and Coach Nielsen’s defensive style will expect a lot out of him as well as newly acquired undrafted free agent Ronald Darby.

While it’s true that last year’s squad continued to be among the best at forcing turnovers, the run defense has to get better in order to avoid the kind of collapse suffered in 2023.

Special teams are rarely a concern with the Jaguars, but that’s not the case this time around. After the PR disaster that is the Brandon McManus saga, Jacksonville decided to take the rookie route for their PK, selecting Razorback alum Cam Little in the 6th round of the draft.

All in all, the upcoming season is one of promise for the teal and black.

How the team delivers on those promises might mean it will be a season of dreams come true for a fan base far more familiar with nightmares over the last 20 seasons.