Teams can win in the NFL without elite quarterback play. Obviously, having a great signal caller is crucial, and is usually the first step in establishing a dominant team in this league. Being without an MVP caliber passer doesn’t cripple a team’s title hopes. The 2015 Broncos showed us that a transcendent defense can be enough to bring home a Lombardi trophy.
It has been made very clear that the Jaguars won’t be able to ride the arm of Blake Bortles if they wish to go on a deep playoff run. That’s fine. After adding pro-bowlers Calais Campbell and AJ Bouye to a unit that ranked sixth in yards given up in 2016, Jacksonville’s defense is looking very similar to the 2015 Denver squad that carried Brock Osweiler and a washed-up Peyton Manning to an NFL title.
The 2015 Broncos defense featured two elite corners in Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib. AJ Bouye and second year player Jalen Ramsey could give Jacksonville a very similar group, capable of neutralizing the opponents’ two best receivers.
The Broncos also deployed two very productive young linebackers in Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan. Assuming Myles Jack stays healthy in 2017, him and Telvin Smith could give the Jaguars a duo even better than Marshall and Trevathan, which Jacksonville would put around veteran Paul Poslusnzy.
Of course, the real star of that Denver defense was Von Miller, arguably the league’s best edge rusher. Flanked by Demarcus Ware, with Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe being consistently disruptive from the inside, that group put heavy pressure on every quarterback they faced. But again, the 2017 Jaguars can feature a very similar unit. Malik Jackson now plays for Jacksonville, and when paired along with Calais Campbell, they will form a scary duo of 3-4 defensive ends.
The Jaguars obviously don’t have anyone like Miller on the edge, but if Dante Fowler can be half the player they thought they were getting with the 3rd overall pick just a couple years ago, he will be a terror on the edge. The presence of Campbell and Jackson inside will allow Fowler to stand up and go get the quarterback rather than have to put his hand in the dirt. A front seven like this, with the group they have in the back end, will make this defense an absolute terror.
The Broncos won a silver trophy with their quarterback losing a fumble and throwing an interception, while passing for less than 150 yards and no scores in the big game, because defense wins championships. For that reason, nobody should write-off the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017. Don’t be surprised to see them make a legitimate run at the AFC title game next year while giving the almighty Patriots some trouble.