Jaguars must urgently add better veteran talent to roster this offseason

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Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) and defensive end Greg Gaines (91) tackle Jaguars wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (10) in the fourth quarter.
Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) and defensive end Greg Gaines (91) tackle Jaguars wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (10) in the fourth quarter.

Perhaps we should have known winning would be a problem for the Jaguars this season.

But you have to go back to March to understand better.

That's when the Jaguars had more than $74 million in available cap space. But instead of making a big splash in free agency, Coach Urban Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke settled on just plugging a few leaks without the benefit of landing elite-caliber talent.

The Jaguars signed tight end Chris Manhertz, while the New England Patriots signed the best two available free agent tight ends, Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry.

At the time, Baalke said they were looking for value instead of stating the obvious: doing everything possible to upgrade the roster after coming off a 1-15 season.

And they should have re-signed some of their existing free agents at the time — particularly wide receiver Keelan Cole, because the receivers they have now cannot get open, whether they run slants or fade routes.

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Cole wasn't the fastest, but he got open and made catches.

Winning in the NFL is predicated on talent, and this woeful Jaguars team doesn't have enough of it. The gap is wide, clearly noticeable during Sunday's 37-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium.

Rams were better than Jaguars in all phases

The Rams had a better defensive front, better offensive line, more playmakers, and better overall depth than the Jaguars. Early in the second quarter when the Jaguars cut the deficit 10-7, the Rams took advantage of their talent edge, scoring 27 unanswered points. Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson and Odell Beckham Jr. caught touchdown passes from quarterback Matthew Stafford, and Sony Michel rushed for 121 yards.

''Sometimes you're at a loss for words, and a game like that, it's just -- can't get anything going,'' Lawrence said.

Even with a generational talent like Lawrence, the Jaguars don't have enough to turn it on when a spark is needed. It's just more of the same with a stagnant offense and a defense that wears down after halftime that's quite frankly become hard to watch.

The Jaguars were more competitive in games last season than they are now. This offensive unit cannot score enough points. And Meyer still thinks his offensive line is good, but quarterback Lawrence can't take a snap without seeing pressure.

Too much to fix by next season

What's even more alarming is that the Jaguars' flaws and roster deficiencies are not getting all fixed by next season because there isn't enough time. This rebuild will take at least another two years, and that's if all the right moves are made starting with free agency this upcoming March.

The roster needs more proven talent with veteran players.

The coaching has to improve, too. Meyer cannot be a coaching CEO who lets his coordinators make all the decisions because he is stuck on trying not to micromanage. Everything Meyer gained from winning three national championships and coaching 17 years on the college level without a losing season must be put on the table if this is going to work with him at the helm.

Robinson is a talent, Meyer needs to recognize it

And it would help for Meyer to better recognize the small window of talent that he has on the roster. Running back James Robinson is the team's second-best player. Benching him Sunday for 20 plays because he fumbled is a bit over the top. Backup running back Carlos Hyde fumbled in the third quarter but went back in the game on the next series.

''You'd have to ask [running backs] Coach [Bernie] Parmalee,'' said Meyer, when asked if Robinson was benched or if it was injury related. ''I don't get too involved. I don't micromanage that. I know he's been dinged up, so I don't know if he's back with the tent or what's going on, but I know there's injury involved.''

Meyer has to be the one to change the culture to a sense of urgency. That urgency starts with upgrading this roster regardless of how much it costs or the possible risks. Put value aside because this franchise has lost 10 or more games for the 10th time in 11 years. The Jaguars have lost 16th consecutive loss to NFC teams.

Next up for the Jaguars are the Tennessee Titans on the road, where they have lost seven straight at the House of Horrors.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jaguars must urgently add better veteran talent to roster this offseason

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