Our Indianapolis Colts are hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars in an early season rematch. Knowing the party was coming, I sat down with Ryan O’Bleness of Big Cat Country, SB Nation’s Jacksonville Jaguars blog. Ryan can be found on Twitter @ryanobleness. We swapped questions about both the Colts and the Jags and what follows is what I learned about this week’s enemy.
- CS: The Jags lost a six point game to the Washington Commanders in week one, but it was week one, crazy things always happen in week one. Then they shut out Indy, blew out the Chargers 38-10, lost a close one to a very good Eagles team and then lost last week 13-6 to the winless Texans.
I think I speak for everyone when I ask what the #&@*?
ROB: Haha, I think what you are seeing is a very young team that is perhaps more talented than fans and pundits anticipated entering the season, but has not yet figured out how to win consistently, and is also trying to move on from a culture of losing in Jacksonville.
The defense has played well this season, but the team’s success starts and stops with quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Which leads me to your next question...
- CS: I haven’t watched many Jags games this year but when I’ve seen Trevor Lawrence play he either looks like a taller, less nerdy version of Andrew Luck or a long haired Mike Glennon. I’m not sure his play has actually been that up and down but how are Jags fans feeling about Lawrence’s season so far?
ROB: Ha, while maybe the comparison in Lawrence’s play isn’t quite at that level of variability, he has certainly been inconsistent. As I mentioned, Lawrence’s play directly impacts wins and losses for the Jaguars. In the three losses against the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Texans, Lawrence’s play ranged somewhere from average at best (Commanders) to somewhat poor (Texans) to simply putrid (five turnovers versus the Eagles), in my opinion.
In the two wins against the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers, I think Lawrence’s play could be defined as “excellent” or “exceptional.” Most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over in either game. He surgically picked apart those two defenses, completing 53 of 69 passes (76.8 percent) for 497 yards and five touchdowns combined. That was a glimpse of what Lawrence is capable of doing in this league.
Some Jaguars fans have not been impressed with Lawrence and have taken to social media to air their grievances. Personally, I think a high number of these complaints have been overreactions. Obviously, Lawrence needs to play better than he has in the past two games: make better decisions, make more accurate throws, sustain drives and protect the football. He has not yet played up to his full potential. But you have to remember that travesty of a situation that Lawrence was in last year with a joke of a head coach in Urban Meyer, little talent around him and no real opportunity for growth. He is still very much still learning.
To some extent, this 2022 season is essentially like another rookie year for Lawrence. Head coach Doug Pederson recently spoke about how being patient with Lawrence is important, saying there is a “process” with young quarterbacks like Lawrence. And yes, you can point to some cases like Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert who immediately took the league by storm, but Pederson mentioned how in the NFL, everyone has a “win-now mentality” and nobody wants to wait or trust that aforementioned process anymore. But sometimes that is the reality of the situation and I believe that is the case with Lawrence. Pederson hit the nail on the head here, and Pederson is the right person for Lawrence to learn from, along with quarterbacks coach Mike McCoy, offensive coordinator Press Taylor and others.
Lawrence has no doubt had his struggles. He’s also had bright spots. So to write him off as a bust this early, if anybody has done that, is a really short-sighted view in my opinion.
- CS- First overall pick Travon Walker looked amazing in week one, getting his first sack and first interception. Since then he’s logged just one QB hit and one tackle for loss. How has Walker looked so far and has the Jags pass rush been good this season?
ROB: I think Walker has played fairly well. He does a lot of things that don’t always show up on the stat sheet, but impact the plays or free up his teammates to clean things up. He is physical, strong against the run, more polished as a pass-rusher than I expected him to be early on in his career and can even drop into pass coverage when needed.
Certainly, Walker is still a bit raw, and maybe you would like to see more eye-popping stats with the sacks and tackles for loss numbers, but he has 18 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, an interception and seven total pressures in five games, according to Pro Football Reference.
Walker, along with Josh Allen on the opposite side, can collapse the pocket quickly, even if they’re not the ones getting the sacks. All in all, I think the Jaguars got the No. 1 overall pick right with Walker. He still has a lot of room for improvement and growth, but he has a ton of potential and could quickly become one of the NFL’s best young edge defenders if he works toward it.
.@Jaguars @44Ytw can do it all; with power, technique, and MAX violence…Exactly what you want in a #1 overall pick. #duval #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/xV4c0ANae4— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 26, 2022
As for the Jaguars’ pass rush as a whole, the team has recorded 10 sacks on the year, which is tied for 18th in the NFL, so kind of the middle of the pack. Allen leads the team with three sacks of his own. However, Jacksonville ranks in the top-10 in the league in pressure percentage (hurries, quarterback knockdowns and sacks per dropback) and sixth in quarterback knockdowns, also according to Pro Football Reference. So, while Jaguars fans would probably like to see more of these opportunities converted into sacks, Jacksonville does a pretty good job of at least pressuring opposing quarterbacks.
- CS: The Colts are 2.5 point favorites according to DraftKings Sports Book. How much money have you put on the Jags so far and how do Jags fans feel about being the underdog?
ROB: To be honest, I don’t personally bet a whole lot unless I have a really strong feeling about something. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll dabble, and I do think the Jaguars getting points here is interesting, after dismantling the Colts in Week Two. So this might be a bet I would recommend.
However, the Jaguars have lost two-straight games, including to a lowly Houston Texans team, and for whatever reason Indianapolis seemingly forgets how to play football every time it enters Duval County. So I expect the Colts to play much better at home in Indianapolis compared to earlier in the year when the game was played in Jacksonville, as per usual.
I think Jaguars fans are confident in Jacksonville’s chances to get a win, and I think the pass rush could feed on Matt Ryan the Colts’ struggling offensive line again, but the more level-headed fans probably understand why the Jags are underdogs in this one given the team’s performance over the past two weeks.
- CS: The Jags are sitting at 2-3 but seem to have a decent offense and a good defense, even though the wins haven’t exactly piled up I have to imagine there’s still a lot of hope for the Doug Pederson era in Jacksonville. How has the Pederson experience been and can you put into words the difference between Pederson and Urban Meyer?
ROB: It feels like Pederson is the exact right guy to right the ship. He is a Super Bowl-winning coach and a coach who commands the attention of the locker room, but treats them like grown men and professional athletes, and shows them respect, something Meyer notoriously did not do.
Pederson is great in terms of offensive scheme and putting his players in position to succeed. The players seem to buy into his vision and culture. Of course, it’s not all perfect. His unwillingness to call run plays with James Robinson and Travis Etienne Jr. in the second half last week against a horrid Houston run defense was baffling, and when that happens, it almost seems like Pederson is sometimes trying so hard to outsmart the competition, he ends up outsmarting himself. But, honestly, I don’t have many complaints about Pederson as of now.
How to put into words the difference between Urban Meyer and Doug Pederson? Imagine a youth flag football coach going up against a high school football coach who has won five state championships in a row. Meyer looked to often be that youth flag football coach — unprepared and in over his head.
To be fair, when the Jaguars hired Meyer, I was excited. I don’t think you can blame owner Shad Khan for that decision, as Meyer was the hottest name in the NFL coaching search, and was one of the most successful college coaches of all time. But it didn’t take long to see that his college coaching style, and his off the field antics and decision-making, didn’t translate to the NFL.
With Pederson, you never have to worry about him skipping the team plane ride home to get grinded on at the club by somebody who is not his wife, or really worry about any of the hundreds of bone-headed moves that Meyer made during his short tenure in Jacksonville. Pederson is a leader of men and a real head coach. Meyer was not. Pederson understands the intricacies and ebbs and flows of the NFL, both from an on-field scheme/game plan perspective and a team management perspective. Meyer did not. Pederson doesn’t throw his players or coaches under the bus. Meyer sometimes did. Pederson knows how to develop NFL players. Meyer showed no evidence of that. I could go on about this, but I won’t.
As of this writing, DraftKings Sportsbook has the Colts as 2.5-point favorites going into Jacksonville. If you’re betting on this game, man good luck but either way, you can find updated lines at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Back in week two I posited that the Colts hadn’t shown anything that said they should be the favorites and here I am in week six saying the same thing. I’m not sure what’s going to happen, Through five games both of these teams are a mess. I hope, deeply, that the Colts don’t get swept by the Jaguars. But I’m not confident that they wont.
I once again thank Ryan O’Bleness for taking the time to answer a few of my questions and letting us know a little more about the 2022 Jacksonville Jaguars.