Guest Column

Jacksonville Jaguars: Not quite there, yet


Expectations have a way of getting the best of us, sometimes at the expense of the truth.

The Jaguars looked like a sexy pick to join the elite of the AFC in 2023. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence made major strides in the second half of 2022 and was one of the highest performing quarterbacks in the NFL last season. The front office added wide receiver Calvin Ridley to a stable of highly productive receivers, each coming off the best seasons of their respective careers and the defense looked ready to take a big step forward with defensive end Travon Walker and linebacker Devin Lloyd entering their second seasons in Jacksonville.

There was plenty to be excited about, especially after dramatic wins over the Titans and Chargers on back-to-back Saturday nights in January, which only served to fuel those expectations to even greater heights.

This season hasn’t started like many thought it would or should, and I’m as guilty of seeing the Jaguars through my teal-colored glasses as the next person.

I should have known better.

Those Jaguars last season delighted us with the two-point conversion to beat Baltimore and the Pick Six interception return to beat the Cowboys. They were incredible wins at home in front of their win-starved fans.

Recall, however, that they trailed the moribund Titans and journeyman quarterback Joshua Dobbs on the final weekend of the season with everything on the line and were this close to losing until Rayshawn Jenkins, and Josh Allen saved the day.

They also needed as dramatic a come-from-behind effort as the NFL has seen in a generation after four first-half interceptions by Lawrence put them in a 27-0 hole to the Chargers.

Don’t misunderstand, those were incredible moments and no matter how you slice it up and under which microscope you examine them, they count as wins.

But they also exposed flaws that needed to be fixed and adding talented players isn’t the only remedy, the players already on your roster need to improve and that doesn’t happen automatically.

The Jaguars offense is off to a rocky start this season, just as most observers believed it would pick up where it left off last year. Ridley hasn’t been an easy addition to the offense, he’s incredibly talented but you can’t cheat time, which is what it takes to build chemistry between a quarterback and a receiver and the receiver and the rest of the offensive weapons.

The offensive line was good last season but has been without left tackle Cam Robinson thanks to a suspension and right tackle Juwaan Taylor who left in free agency. You don’t just plug-and-play at those spots. Time on task is needed as Robinson returns and rookie Anton Harrison settles in on the right side. The protection hasn’t been consistent and the quarterback’s statistics bear that out.

Walker is playing good football, but his pass rush is still a far cry from where it needs to be, and Lloyd is working through a thumb injury after surgery. The defense is playing well, but they were built to play with a lead and that hasn’t happened enough thus far for them to be at their best.

The talent is there on the roster for anyone to see and the coaching staff is top shelf as advertised.

General Manager Trent Baalke and Head Coach Doug Pederson have built a good roster and have the makings of a team that can contend in the AFC, which is exactly what they did last season.

But it’s clear now that they still need more time before we can put them up there with the elite teams of the AFC: Kansas City, Buffalo, Baltimore and Miami.

It’s time to lower the high-flying expectations at least until they show us they can perform at a consistent level week-in and week-out.