The biggest move made by the Jacksonville Jaguars was the divorce from head coach Urban Meyer during the 2021 season as the football world was once again reminded that a successful college coach doesn’t always result in success in the NFL.
Trevor Lawrence is one of the more highly touted quarterbacks to come in the league in recent years. He should benefit from the tutelage of new head coach Doug Pederson. Pederson won a Super Bowl in Philadelphia with Nick Foles at quarterback so one has to wonder what he’ll be able to do with Lawrence.
Beginning with top overall pick Travon Walker, the Jaguars focused on defense in many of their early picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Jacksonville finished 20th in total defense a season ago so the influx of talent should make a difference.
Having just six games against playoff teams could help the Jaguars as well.
Jacksonville (+700) is a distant third in the odds to win the AFC South Division title according to the sportsbook.
According to the NFL playoff odds, only division rival Houston is behind Jacksonville (+15000) in the odds to win the Super Bowl.
- 2021 record: 3-14 (fourth in AFC South)
- Playoff result: Did not qualify.
- Season opener: at Washington Commanders, Sept. 11, 1 p.m. EDT
- Playoff teams on 2022 schedule: HOME – Dallas, Las Vegas, Tennessee; AWAY – Kansas City, Philadelphia, Tennessee
- Key newcomers: LB Foye Oluokun, WR Christian Kirk, TE Evan Engram, OL Brandon Scherff, DL Foley Fatukasi, WR Zay Jones, OL Wesley Martin, DE Arden Key, LB Travon Walker (first-round pick), LB Devin Lloyd (first-round pick), OL Luke Fortner (third-round pick), LB Chad Muma (third-round pick).
- Key losses: LB Myles Jack, WR D.J. Chark, OL A.J. Cann, OL Brandon Linder, WR Tavon Austin, OL Andrew Norwell, DT Taven Bryan, RB Carlos Hyde.
- Award candidates: Travon Walker, +600 in the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year odds; Devin Lloyd, +800 in the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year odds, Josh Allen, +6600 in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year odds; Chad Muma, +7500 in the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year odds; Travis Etienne, +10000 in the NFL Offensive Player of the Year odds; Trevor Lawrence, +10000 in the NFL Offensive Player of the Year odds.
Lawrence might become the headliner this season but until that happens, the key player on offense for Jacksonville is third-year running back James Robinson. The former undrafted free agent slipped a bit from his rookie season when he ran for more than 1,000 yards. He might have gotten there again in 2021 if he hadn’t missed three games and had fewer than 10 carries in five other contests.
Kirk had 77 catches for nearly 1,000 yards with the Arizona Cardinals a season ago. Third-year receiver Laviska Shenault and running back Travis Etienne, who missed all of the 2021 season, are drawing rave reviews for their time in camp as they could give Lawrence some additional playmakers. Trading No. 1 receiver D.J. Chark is a bit of a curious move.
Tight end Evan Engram, who comes in from the New York Giants, will team with Dan Arnold to give the Jaguars some receiving options at the tight end position.
The line should be aided by the signing of Brandon Scherff, a five-time Pro Bowl selection although the loss of three veterans could slow the Jacksonville offense in the early going. Jacksonville used top-75 picks on tackles Cam Robinson, Jawaan Taylor, and Walker Little from 2017-2021 before taking center Luke Fortner with the 65th selection in this year’s draft so the talent is there.
Lawrence did throw for 3,641 yards as a rookie. He had three touchdown passes and no interceptions in the three wins compared to nine TD throws and 17 interceptions in the 14 losses. He had seven interceptions in the first three games of the season before making progress in that department. The hope is that a more stable environment will translate into better decision-making for Lawrence.
There are some pretty good pieces to build an offense around. However, inexperienced offensive lines combined with the second-year quarterback aren’t always the best combination.
Jacksonville added Foye Oluokun, the NFL’s leading tackler last season, to go with rookie first-round picks Walker and Devin Lloyd. Fellow rookie linebacker Chad Muma could help in the pass rush department and the hope is that this is the year when former top-10 pick Josh Allen becomes a disruptive force on defense.
Walker has just one of the playmakers on a ferocious defense at the University of Georgia. With the Jaguars using the No. 1 overall pick on Walker, the expectations will be much higher for him heading into the NFL.
“He’s like a unicorn.”
Mike Caldwell on @44Ytw’s unique combination of size and speed 🦄 pic.twitter.com/FojJnhekVy
— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) June 9, 2022
The concern could be on the defensive line. Fatukasi comes in from the New York Jets and he figures to have an expanded role. Former New England Patriot interior lineman Malcom Brown finished with a career-high 57 tackles in his first season with the Jaguars.
Safety Andrew Wingard is a productive player often overlooked because he plays for an underachieving Jacksonville team. Cornerback Tyson Campbell, a second-round pick in 2021, is another defensive player to keep an eye on.
If the rookies and second-year players mature quickly, this could be a much better defensive team than anticipated. Only four teams registered fewer sacks than Jacksonville during the 2021 season so making more plays in the backfield will be a point of emphasis moving forward.
The Jaguars have been a pretty solid drafting team in the last few seasons. Jacksonville used five first-round picks on defensive players in the last five drafts. Now it is time for these players to show what they are capable of.
Seven of the first eight games come against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season so there is a chance to get off to a quick start beginning with the season opener in Washington. Back-to-back games against Tennessee and Dallas will be challenging.
According to the NFL picks, the expected win total comes in at 6 with the odds for going over or under that total both at -115.
When Lawrence was at Clemson, he was being touted as a can’t-miss prospect. However, going into his second season in the NFL there are 16 quarterbacks with better odds to lead the NFL passing yards than Lawrence.
Just five Jacksonville games in 2021 were decided by seven points or less so it will be crucial for the Jaguars to be in a position to win games late and let Lawrence show what all the hype was all about coming out of college.