The Minnesota Vikings will kick off the final quarter of their schedule by taking a road trip to take on another AFC South opponent. This time, it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are getting some whispers this offseason as a team that might be ready to make a move in 2016. . .and, given the relative weakness of the AFC South, they might have an opportunity to do just that.
The folks over at Big Cat Country have put together this look at their team for us.
Date and Time of Game
11 December 2016, 12:00 PM Central time, Everbank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
Notable free agent additions
FS Tashaun Gipson, RB Chris Ivory, DL Malik Jackson, P Brad Nortman, OL Mackenzy Bernadeau, CB Prince Amukamara, OL Kelvin Beachum, and QB Chad Henne
Notable free agent departures
G Zane Beadles, DE Chris Clemons (lol), P Bryan Anger, DE Andre Branch (lol again), C Stefen Wisniewski (2015), and RB Toby Gerhart (lol once more),
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies
Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack will be contributors from Day 1. Neither could be starters as Prince Amukamara and Davon House could very well be the starting cornerbacks and the Jaguars are retooling their linebacking corps, but they’ll both see significant snaps on the defensive side of the ball. Third-round pick Yannick Ngakoue will likely be the backup at LEO and see a good amount of snaps as a designated pass rusher. Fourth-round pick Sheldon Day will likely beat out Michael Bennett and be a rotational player along the interior of the defensive line. Sixth-round pick Tyrone Holmes might make the final 53-man roster, but he’s a backup for now. Same goes for Brandon Allen whose best case scenario is the No. 3 quarterback and a healthy scratch on game days. Seventh-round pass rusher Jonathan Woodard had a season-ending Achilles injury in May, but he was a jar on the shelf who would have likely been a practice squad candidate anyway.
Biggest offseason addition
Tashaun Gipson. He’s been described by coaches and players as the “general” on defense and his reinforcement of our secondary will help a struggling Jaguars pass rush. Even Malik Jackson, who signed one of the richest contracts in free agency this year, won’t be as much of a contributing factor to our team as Gipson.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp
How does Dante Fowler look? Whether we like it or not, the burden of the Jaguars pass rush -- or at least a significant portion of it -- rests on his shoulders. And with Fowler effectively a rookie after a season-ending injury last May, that’s a lot to ask of him, even if he was the No. 3 overall pick in 2015. As Fowler goes, so does our pass rush.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp
It’s a toss up between how the offensive line shakes out and how good of a running back tandem T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory are. Kelvin Beachum is pushing Luke Joeckel out of the starting left tackle spot and the coaching staff is trying Joeckel out at guard -- a move that I don’t think will pay any dividends by the time the regular season starts up. I think newly signed Mackenzy Bernadeau takes over the left guard spot, Beachum wraps up the left tackle spot, and Joeckel is on the outside looking in by August.
Notable injuries heading into training camp
Jalen Ramsey wasn’t a participant in mini-camp and although he has said he’s 100 percent for weeks now, he hasn’t really practiced with the team yet. Myles Jack has practiced, but it’ll be interesting to see how his knee holds up in training camp. Neither is a significant concern however and I expect both to be ready to go. Other than that, there aren’t any notable injuries. Backup offensive lineman Luke Bowanko is on the PUP list.