Our Indianapolis Colts are in Florida this weekend to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. 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.
- With Doug Pederson’s arrival, how confident are Jaguars fans that they will see Trevor Lawrence become the player they thought they were getting with the first overall pick in 2021?
ROB: The pairing of Trevor Lawrence and Doug Pederson certainly seems like it will be a strong one (Lawrence’s development as a rookie under Urban Meyer was an absolute disaster last season). Pederson played quarterback in the NFL, and his background as a former quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator should eventually pay dividends for Lawrence. Pederson has had success with young quarterbacks, such as Carson Wentz, during the earlier days of their tenure together with the Philadelphia Eagles. I expect success for Lawrence to come to fruition in Jacksonville, but we’ll see.
Lawrence is a work in progress. He possesses every physical trait and tool imaginable, and there was a reason he was one of the highest-regarded quarterback prospects to come into the NFL since at least Andrew Luck. Last year, Lawrence struggled tremendously in his first year in the league. But again, it’s hard to blame him for that, given the coaching situation and a lack of talent around him. With Pederson and new options in the passing game with Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram through free agency, Lawrence is expected to take a huge leap forward in 2022.
However, Lawrence’s performance in the season-opener against the Washington Commanders last week has left many fans somewhat pessimistic. The numbers were decent but unimpressive: 24-for-42 (57.1 percent) for 275 yards with a touchdown and an interception. However, fans would like to see that completion percentage higher, and what was worrisome was that Lawrence seemed to be making similar mistakes to what he did when he was a rookie: not going through progressions quick enough, locking into one receiver, poor decision-making at times, committing multiple intentional grounding penalties, etc. Lawrence also missed a wide-open Travis Etienne Jr. in the end zone on a wheel route. There are a lot of things to clean up for him.
Pederson said he’s not worried about Lawrence’s performance but that Lawrence can better go through his progressions quicker. I think the important thing to remember with Lawrence is that he is still an incredibly young player (he turns 23 on Oct. 6). I am not too concerned about Lawrence. I would like to have seen better play from him by now, but I do think it’s coming soon.
- The Colts haven’t won in Jacksonville in seven years. Last season the Jags successfully kept the Colts out of the playoffs with a week 18 win. Tell us the secret, how do the Jaguars keep doing it? Voodoo? Are you guys putting something in the water? Who decides which fan pulls the fire alarm yearly in the Colts’ hotel? Any new tricks to keep the Colts from winning this year? But seriously, you guys were wearing clown masks to the stadium last year, and the Jags won the game. How does this keep happening?
ROB: Haha, this is one of life’s great mysteries. It doesn’t make sense that Indianapolis hasn’t won in Jacksonville since 2014 when the Barack Obama administration was still in office. In most years, outside of 2017, the Colts have had the more talented roster and a better final record. I would bet this is the case in 2022 as well. Honestly, I don’t know how to pinpoint one specific answer here. I think part of it has to be mental for Frank Reich and the returning players at this point, right? Reich has only been leading Indianapolis as head coach since 2018, but this has to irk him — especially the 2021 result that knocked the Colts out of the playoffs. Jim Irsay certainly couldn’t let last year’s game go.
Looking at each matchup played in Jacksonville since 2015, the Jaguars have outscored the Colts 178-77, for an average final score of 29.6-12.8 per game, in six games. The 2016 game was played in London in which the Jaguars were the designated “home team,” and Jacksonville also won that game 30-27.
I had a hunch that turnovers have played a role in this home winning streak for the Jaguars, so I went back and looked, and sure enough, the Colts either had more or equal turnovers in each of those seven games (including the London matchup). In contrast, the Jaguars never had more giveaways. The Jaguars also had more rushing yards in five of the seven games. So, this isn’t exactly an earth-shattering take, but it looks like the team that wins the turnover battle and has more success in the ground game will be set up to win on Sunday.
- This year the Jags brought in Mike Caldwell to be their defensive coordinator. Before this stop, he spent the past decade working under Todd Bowles as an inside linebackers coach. Has he brought the same blitz-heavy scheme to Jacksonville, and do the Jaguars have the guys to make that kind of system work?
ROB: It’s a little bit hard to divulge exactly how Mike Caldwell will run the defense as the season progresses, but I think your characterization of a” blitz-heavy scheme” seems accurate through one week of play. According to Pro Football Reference, the Jaguars blitzed 20 times on passing plays versus the Washington Commanders, which was the fourth-most in the NFL in Week One. Jacksonville blitzed on 44.4 percent of Carson Wentz’s dropbacks, tied with the New England Patriots for the fifth-highest percentage in the opening week. However, it wasn’t effective. The Jaguars had a “pressure percentage” (sacks, hurries, and quarterback knockdowns combined) of just 8.9 percent, which ranks ahead of just one other team (the Los Angeles Rams). Jacksonville also only recorded one sack on the day.
As for the players, I think Jacksonville is close to having what it needs for the scheme to be successful, but the team was so devoid of talent when Pederson, Caldwell, and company took over that it certainly isn’t perfect. The Jaguars made several upgrades on the defensive side of the ball, drafting players like Travon Walker (No. 1 overall), Devin Lloyd, and Chad Muma, and adding free agents Foley Fatukasi, Arden Key, Darious Williams, and Foye Oluokun. The team is using Walker as an outside linebacker/stand-up edge rusher, and he had a nice debut against the Commanders with four tackles, a sack, and an interception.
- James Robinson scored both of the Jaguars' touchdowns in week one. Is anyone else allowed to score for the Jags? If the Colts take him out of the game, do the Jags just have to kick field goals?
ROB: Well, it’s funny you say that because Etienne dropped what would have been a walk-in touchdown in the second quarter, and it was egregious. There was also the aforementioned play where Lawrence missed Etienne in the end zone and another drop in the end zone (although it was a much tougher catch) by Zay Jones. As for Robinson, it was good to see him so active and explosive coming off of a major Achilles injury. Going into the game, his usage was a bit of a question mark, but he carried the ball 11 times for 66 yards and caught a three-yard touchdown. Robinson looks healthy and will likely get more touches as the season progresses — he should be a major factor for the Jaguars. Robinson and Etienne should make a formidable duo of tailbacks in 2022.
Let’s hope the Jaguars don’t have to resort to just kicking field goals!
If you want to use:
Video of the drop here: https://twitter.com/LaurieFitzptrck/status/1569026965218148352
Robinson’s first touchdown: https://twitter.com/Jaguars/status/1569041219849691136?s=20&t=SD8ILlyNoBeQyFgdESENAQ
- There has never been an NFL head coach that has won a Super Bowl with two different teams. Why is Doug Pederson the first guy to get it done in Jacksonville?
ROB: I would say the Jaguars are a long, long way off from winning — or even reaching — a Super Bowl. But if that were to happen under Pederson’s tenure, it would likely be for a few reasons.
First and foremost, it would be because Pederson has done it before. He knows what it takes and how to get there. Pederson won Super Bowl LII as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, just his second season as a head coach in the NFL. He also has a Super Bowl XXXI ring as a player with the Green Bay Packers.
Second, if this were to happen in the future, it would mean Pederson fully unlocked Lawrence’s potential, and Lawrence became one of the better quarterbacks in the league. It also means that the team hit on several draft picks and continued to add talent to the roster. The Jaguars would have to add some true superstar-level players via draft, free agency, and trade. Again, the current roster is a long way off from that.
Lastly, among many other things, I am sure it would likely be because Pederson changed the culture in Jacksonville. This has been a dormant franchise for a decade-and-a-half (outside of 2017) and has a culture of losing. Pederson will aim to instill confidence in the organization, laying the foundation, eventually teaching the players how to win games in the NFL, and creating that culture of winners where the standard is as high as it can be and anything less than that is unacceptable.
With that said, the Jaguars have never reached a Super Bowl in franchise history. It might take an additional miracle or two in addition to the points above for Jacksonville to eventually win a championship.
As of this writing, DraftKings Sportsbook has the Colts as 4-point favorites going into Jacksonville. If you’re betting on games, I truly hope you are using more information than just this Q&A article for research, but either way, you can find updated lines at DraftKings Sportsbook.
I won’t bet against the Colts, but frankly, nothing they showed me in week one makes me believe 4 points is warranted, especially with the Jags coming off of a loss, in Jacksonville- somewhere the Indianapolis Colts haven’t won in seven years.
I thank Ryan O’Bleness for taking the time to answer these burning questions and letting us know a little more about the 2022 Jacksonville Jaguars.