2017 NFL Sleeper Teams: Keep an Eye Out for the Jags and Bucs

Jace DeMar, Class of 2021

Now that it is week four of the NFL preseason, we are seeing a lot of rookies play for the first time. We are also seeing veteran players making comebacks. While it is difficult to judge how well a team will do in the regular season based solely on their preseason performance, these are a few teams that you should not count out from making a run in the regular season.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are one team that could perform surprisingly well. Blake Bortles may be a problem for Jacksonville, as he has only averaged 6.6 yards per passing attempt, thrown 51 interceptions and only has a 51.8 completion percentage since he was drafted three years ago. Because of this, the Jaguars will have to focus on their running game. Fortunately for them, they drafted running back Leonard Fournette out of Louisiana State University with the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. If the offensive line can provide strong blocking, Jacksonville could have a top running game in the league.

Although Jacksonville’s offense may not be as multi-dimensional  as some

others throughout the league, the team has been making moves on the defensive side. The Jaguars picked up big defensive free agents

during the offseason with defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Barry Church. Jacksonville did relatively well on defense last season, giving up the sixth least yards out of all teams. A strong defense plus a good running game may just be a winning combination for them.

With HBO following them during training camp for their television series Hard Knocks, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have attracted a lot of attention lately. Tampa Bay chose quarterback Jameis Winston first overall during the 2015 NFL Draft. Most would say that he has yet to live up to his full potential in his young career. Now that Winston has been in the league for two seasons and has had ample time to adjust to the professional level, this may prove to be a breakout season for him. With the pick up of tight end O.J. Howard out of Alabama, and the return of receiver DeSean Jackson to work alongside Mike

Evans, the Tampa Bay passing game can really heat up. This would help Winston have that breakout season Bucs fans have been waiting for.

On defense, the Buccaneers have a good group of linebackers headlined by

Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and Devonte Bond. The Buccaneers also have a strong secondary with a safety duo of Chris Conte and Keith Tandy that should be formidable this season. Left corner Brent Grimes has been out for most of the preseason, but is on track to return for the regular season. On the

opposite side of the field, right corner Vernon Hargreaves III is a rising star.

Going into his second year in the league, Hargreaves has warmed up to the faster speed of the NFL compared to college football. This was evident in his performance against the Bengals in week one of preseason, where he picked off a pass from Andy Dalton in the red zone. With what could be one of the best passing attacks in the league and a strong secondary, the Buccaneers might be able to beat their 9-7 record from last year and sail into the postseason.

With so much young talent between these two teams, this season is very important for both teams. Make sure to keep your eye out for each team on Sunday afternoons.   

 Contact Jace DeMar at [email protected].