The first of the Colts’ six games against AFC South opponents in 2016 will come in week four, though it won’t be in the United States. The Colts will head to London to face the Jacksonville Jaguars in a 9:30 a.m. eastern time kickoff, and it’s not a game to be taken lightly - both because of the venue and the opponent.
The Jaguars have continued to improve in recent years, despite what their record might indicate. They had a dangerous offense last year led by Blake Bortles, and the unit should be good once again in 2016 (if not better). Their defense has been a huge weakness, but they’ve made a lot of moves in an effort to improve that unit. It’s a key year for head coach Gus Bradley, and it could be a year in which we see whether these rebuilt Jaguars are ready to contend or not.
The Colts will play the Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium later in the season - in fact, the regular season finale on New Year’s Day, almost three months from the day of their first meeting. Depending on how the season goes, that could be a crucial week 17 matchup for the AFC South if the race is as close as many expect it to be.
Big Cat Country, SB Nation’s site covering the Jaguars, provided us with an update on the team heading into 2016 to give us a better idea of the Colts’ division rival. Here’s what they said:
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.