Who should stay and who should go for the Jacksonville Jaguars? After a disappointing 2018 season, the majority of the Jaguars are expendable and names are on the board. The next question is whether or not the Jaguars will be in a complete rebuild, or if there are a few core players that can be kept to build around. Relax Jacksonville, there’s a core. But who is it? Cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye? Defensive linemen Yannick Ngakoue and Malik Jackson? Linebackers Telvin Smith and Myles Jack? Running back Leonard Fournette? Are these players the core of the franchise or are they pawns to be traded for established veterans or to stockpile draft selections for the future? The number of core players from the current roster can be counted on one hand, and it’s up to the Jaguars front office to do the rest.
Which Core Players Should Be a Part of the Jacksonville Jaguars 2019 Roster
Shutdown Corner: the King
It’s not often a franchise is blessed with an athlete that has generational talent at a key position, but when they do, the front office keeps the talent in the locker room. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey is that kind of transcending talent and must be a member of the Jaguars core. His talents on the field are not matched by any peers and Ramsey can dominate one side of the field.
However, possibly Ramsey’s biggest impact has not been between the lines, but instead his actions off the field. Prior to last season, the Jaguars were without a face of the franchise since the days of running back Maurice Jones-Drew and were a team drowning in obscurity. That all changed in early 2018 when the Jaguars competed in the AFC Championship game. A talented defense that was led by Ramsey was six minutes away from Super Bowl LII.
Ramsey is an outspoken and talented defensive back who became the face and voice of the Jaguars franchise as 2018 continued. Many critics denounce Ramsey’s brash actions and words, but he put Jacksonville on the map as a franchise and made them relevant entering the 2018 season. Don’t ever change, King Ramsey! Be who you are! Ramsey’s swagger places Jacksonville on the lips of the national media and gave the city an identity and a target, something that has lacked for too many years.
Ngakoue is 23 years of age and will have three solid years of game experience at season’s end. After an impressive second year in 2017, in which Ngakoue recorded 12 sacks, six forced fumbles, and 23 quarterback hits, he was projected to soar in 2018. After a lackluster first half of the season, Ngakoue finished the season strong and tallied nine sacks and over 30 quarterback hits. His statistics have not lived up to the preseason hype, but then again the entire defense has not either.
However, Ngakoue is a student of the game and a student of what it takes to be a professional and become an elite edge rusher. He is always eager to find areas of improvement and plays with a chip on his shoulder from being a third-round pick in 2016. Ngakoue’s presence on the field makes opposing offensive coordinators scheme against him and alter their game plan. Ngakoue’s speed, determination, youth, and hunger make him a member of the core.
Man in the Middle: Harrison
Strong safety Ronnie Harrison has been the lone bright spot for the Jaguars 2018 draft class. Harrison has steadily improved each week and earned his first start when he replaced veteran Barry Church. Harrison’s preparation and focus can be attributed to his years under Nick Saban at Alabama. His participation in the College Football Playoff proves that he is no stranger to the spotlight and that his mental toughness has translated to the next level.
However, it’s not just his ability to disrupt plays and attack the football (32 tackles, one sack, and one interception) but it’s his potential to be an impactful leader on the defense for years to come. Harrison will not only be expected to be an enforcer but also a field general on defense. During the upcoming off-season, Harrison needs to shift his focus and discover what it takes to be a leader, perhaps learning from the likes of the before-mentioned Ngakoue. With Harrison as a core member of the Jaguars, the defense can return to 2017 form and never look back.