The AFC South now runs through Duval. After a remarkable 2022 offseason where they not only got a top 10 head coach in the NFL in Doug Pederson, but also managed to strengthen their roster all around, due to some shrewd moves like adding tight end Evan Engram, and wide receiver Zay Jones, while also getting big fishes like wide receiver Christian Kirk, guard Brandon Scherff, and linebacker Foyesade Oluokun. The Jaguars not only managed to win the division ending the season on a five-game winning streak, but also made a comeback for the ages in the playoffs overcoming a 27-0 deficit to beat the Los Angeles Chargers. Their storybook season came to an end against the eventual Super Bowl champions but they put up a decent fight, losing 20-27 to the Kansas City Chiefs. Led by franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence, a stingy pass-rush, and elite coaching, the Jaguars look poised to run the division for at least the next five years.
First of all, the Jags are getting suspended wide receiver Calvin Ridley back, who was reinstated after a one-year suspension due to gambling. Even if it takes some time for him to get back to game speed, Ridley was a top 20 receiver in the league before the suspension, and his best years could still be ahead of him. They replaced Jawaan Taylor with first-round pick Anton Harrison, who looks set to start right away, and they also added some offensive depth with their early round picks adding tight end Brenton Strange and running back Tank Bigsby. The rest of the core that reached the divisional round is still intact and with further development from Trevor Lawrence and improved chemistry due to continuity this is a dangerous team. Starting left tackle Cam Robinson was suspended the first four games of the season after violating the NFL’s PED policy.
Of course it all starts with Trevor Lawrence. The former first overall pick struggled his rookie season, but that can be attributed not only to a lackluster supporting cast but also terrible coaching from Urban Meyer. After a 3-14 record with a league leading 17 interceptions, Lawrence posted a winning record with a 25-8 TD:INT ratio. This season Lawrence looks poised to make the jump to the upper-echelon of NFL quarterbacks, and with a receiving core’ group including Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Evan Engram, and Zay Jones I would not be surprised if he finishes as a top 5 MVP candidate. As if that was not enough, they also have Travis Etienne Jr. in the backfield, who could make the jump and become a top running back.
On defense they will most likely be expecting a big leap in production from former first overall pick Travon Walker, who had just 2.5 sacks, and with him and Josh Allen they would be able to put a dangerous duo on the edges. Oluokun is a tackling machine who is as reliable as it gets, and he also adds some playmaking value, and their secondary is not bad either, led by Tyson Campbell and Rayshawn Jenkins.
It is hard to find a glaring weakness on this Jaguars’ team, as they don´t do anything particularly bad. Their defense is a bit inconsistent at times, but has the potential to be a top-tier unit in the NFL when everything is going correctly. Other than that there is nothing to obvious to write home, as this is one of the most well-rounded rosters in the entire NFL.
Unless something extraordinary happens, the Jaguars will cruise through the AFC South next year, as there is not only an absurdly large gap in expected quarterback play (the rest of the division could be all playing rookie quarterbacks), but the roster is just too talented. I would even say they finish with a 6-0 divisional record. The floor for this team looks like a wild card round exit, while the ceiling could be reaching the AFC Championship round, I have my doubts on whether their defense could hang with Mahomes, Allen, or Burrow.