Jacksonville Jaguars 2022 NFL Season Preview

Quarterback

The Jaguars came within a blown 4th quarter lead of making the Super Bowl in 2017, but that team was not built for long-term success and the Jaguars have not seen anywhere near the same success since. Those 2017 Jaguars went 10-6 against arguably the easiest schedule in the league and went to the AFC Championship game on the strength of the league’s best defense, but it’s much tougher to consistently have an elite defense than an elite offense in the NFL, so, if the Jaguars were to continue contending, they would need their offense to improve going forward to compensate for their likely defensive regression. Instead, the opposite happened, as inconsistent starting quarterback Blake Bortles proved his serviceable 2017 campaign was the result of a weak schedule and regressed to his pre-2017 self. 

The 2018 Jaguars finished 5-11 and, rather than trying to keep the current core together, the Jaguars underwent a full rebuild, leading to a 2020 Jaguars team that had just six of the 26 players who played 400 snaps or more in 2017 still on the roster, as well as the league’s 2nd lowest average annual salary. The idea was to let younger, cheaper players play, roll forward significant cap space to the future, accumulate draft assets, including a pair of first round picks from the Rams for Jalen Ramsey, as well as their own high picks as a result of being among the worst teams in the league, and eventually to supplement the team with free agency after finding a quarterback of the future, using all of that accumulated cap space.

It’s not an uncommon strategy, but it doesn’t always have the best results and in the Jaguars’ case, things have not gone well. The 2020 Jaguars won just one game, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the strategy the Jaguars’ undertook, as it gave them the #1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, which allowed them to select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, considered the most obvious #1 pick selection since Andrew Luck in 2012. Lawrence was one of 8 picks in the top-42 that the Jaguars had between the 2019-2021 NFL Drafts and, equipped with among the most cap space in the league, the Jaguars underwent a big off-season spending spree.

However, the result was again the league’s worst record at 3-14 and their efficiency ratings showed them to be every bit as bad as their final record, finishing 27th in offensive efficiency, 23rd in defensive efficiency, and 31st in overall efficiency. Trevor Lawrence was a disappointment, completing 59.6% of his passes for an average of 6.05 YPA, 12 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions, while finishing as PFF’s 31st ranked quarterback out of 38 eligible, and the rest of the roster disappointed in many ways as well. 

It was premature to expect a playoff berth out of Jacksonville in 2021, but few expected them to struggle as much as they did. The reasons why they disappointed as much as they did are complex, but an obvious culprit was first year head coach Urban Meyer, a successful college football coach, who proved to be completely in over his head in his first year in the NFL, as he lacked the requisite knowledge of the professional game and was unwilling to alter his abrasive coaching style, to put it lightly. 

Meyer didn’t last past week 14, with interim head coach Darrell Bevell leading the way for the final four games of a lost season. The good news for the Jaguars was they once again had the #1 pick and among the most cap space in the league to continue supplementing what is still one of the league’s youngest rosters, which is now coached by Doug Pederson, a veteran head coach and Super Bowl winner in Philadelphia. 

That’s where the good news stops, however. Pederson, while undoubtedly an upgrade over Meyer by default, was underwhelming in his final years with the Eagles, struggling to rebuild his coaching staff after the Super Bowl victory. The Jaguars’ #1 pick came in one of the weakest drafts at the top in recent memory, leading to their selection of the highly athletic, but relatively unproven Travon Walker, which was not a bad selection given their options, but still not the kind of can’t miss prospect you expect to go #1. And, on top of that, their free agency spending spree was largely filled with massive overpays as they were seemingly overpaying anyone with any talent who was willing to play for them. 

That’s not all that surprising when you consider the Jaguars history, not just their recent history of losing since that AFC Championship loss, but their history of losing dating back over a decade, as that AFC Championship appearance was just their first playoff appearance since 2007 and their 67-158 record since the start of the 2008 season is the worst in the NFL over that stretch. This year’s Jaguars team is not as bad on paper as they have been in recent years, but their talent level does not come close to matching their roster’s average annual salary, which ranks 6th in the NFL as a result of all of the Jaguars’ off-season spending, just two years after having the 2nd lowest in the NFL.

The biggest goal for the Jaguars this season, regardless of their ultimate record, would be to see significant improvement out of Lawrence. It’s certainly a strong possibility, even if the Jaguars haven’t made the most of their resources in building around him. Lawrence still is a highly talented young quarterback and it’s not uncommon for eventual franchise quarterbacks to struggle and then take a big step forward in year two or three. A big leap could still only put him among the middle of the pack in quarterbacks in the NFL, but that would be a great sign for his development long-term and would elevate the floor of this team, after back-to-back league worst seasons.

The Jaguars clearly still believe in Lawrence and did not feel the need to add another quarterback this off-season, bringing back veteran backup CJ Beathard. Beathard had to throw just two passes last season and has struggled in limited action in his career, completing 58.7% of his passes for 7.02 YPA, 18 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, while going 2-10 in 12 career starts, since being selected by the 49ers in the 3rd round in 2017. If Lawrence were to suffer an injury that caused him to miss time, Beathard would almost definitely struggle and the Jaguars would likely be among the worst teams in the league again, despite their other off-season additions.

Grade: B-

Receiving Corps

Nowhere is the Jaguars’ recent spending spree and roster makeover more obvious than in the receiving corps, where the Jaguars have given out significant contracts to wide receivers Christian Kirk (4 years, 72 million), Marvin Jones (2 years, 12.5 million), and Zay Jones (3 years, 24 million), as well as tight end Evan Engram (1 year, 9 million) over the past two off-seasons. Marvin Jones, who signed last off-season, was a decent value, but the other three, all signed this off-season, were not good values.

On top of that, these receivers been added at the expense of an already established young starter in DJ Chark, who signed in Detroit for 1-year, 10 million this off-season, and 2020 2nd round pick Laviska Shenault, one of their recent high draft picks, who is now buried on the depth chart despite showing some promise, averaging 1.45 yards per route run as a part-time player in two seasons in the league, despite playing on a terrible passing offense in both seasons.

Christian Kirk is their de facto #1 wide receiver and they’re paying him like one, with a contract that makes him the 15th highest paid wide receiver in the league, but he’s never served in that role for a whole season, nor has he ever cracked the 1000 yards receiving mark. Kirk averaged an impressive 1.80 yards per route run average last season and the 2018 2nd round pick is still only going into his age 26 season, but his 2020 season saw Kirk have a 1.21 yards per route run average and his career average of 1.53 yards per route run isn’t much higher than Shenault’s and definitely does not make Kirk seem like a top level wide receiver.

Marvin Jones was their de facto #1 wide receiver last season, leading the team with a 73/832/4 slash line, but he earned just a middling grade from PFF and arguably should have been more productive given the opportunity he got, averaging just 1.33 yards per route run and 6.93 yards per target on 120 targets. Jones has been a solid wide receiver in the NFL for a long time, averaging a 62/850/7 slash line per 16 games since 2013, topping out with a 61/1101/9 season in 2017, but he’s now going into his age 32 season and could easily be nearing the end of the line. I wouldn’t expect him to be significantly better this season than last season and he could easily fall off in a significant way.

Zay Jones is likely locked in as the #3 receiver given his salary, but he was only a marginal #3 wide receiver with the Raiders last season, averaging 1.35 yards per route run and posting a 47/546/1 slash line, and, prior to last season, he had struggled throughout his career, averaging just 0.87 yards per route run. It’s possible the 2017 2nd round pick has turned a corner and will remain a capable #3 wide receiver, but the Jaguars overpaid either way.

Shenault will play a reserve role, barring injuries ahead of him on the depth chart, and the Jaguars also have veteran holdover Laquon Treadwell, who was decent in limited action as a reserve last season, averaging 1.52 yards per route run. The former 2016 first round pick has been a complete bust in his career, averaging 1.04 yards per route run, but that has jumped to 1.63 yards per route run as a reserve over the past three seasons, so he’s not a bad depth option. 

At tight end, free agent acquisition Evan Engram will be an upgrade by default, as the Jaguars got just 50 catches out of the tight end position in total last season, but that doesn’t mean he was a good value. Engram has averaged a 64/696/4 slash line per 16 games in his career, but he’s only played the full season once in five seasons in the league, missing 16 games in total, while dropping 29 passes in 65 games and struggling as a run blocker. He’s also coming off of a career worst season in his contract year, posting a 46/408/3 slash line with 0.89 yards per route run in 15 games and finishing as PFF’s 42nd ranked tight end out of 44th eligible.

It makes sense Engram would have taken a one-year deal this off-season, to try to rehab his value after a down year and get a bigger contract next off-season, but the Jaguars are paying a lot for a one-year rental and if he happens to bounce back they would have to pay even more to keep him long-term. A two-year deal with only a guaranteed first year that gives the Jaguars an option to bring him back for 2023 if they wanted would have made more sense at this price, rather than a low upside one-year deal.

Engram will be backed up by holdovers Dan Arnold, Chris Manhertz, and Luke Farrell. Manhertz is a blocking specialist who has fared well in that role in his career, but has just 18 career catches in 84 games. Arnold is the opposite, a 6-6 220 receiving specialist who has averaged 1.55 yards per route run in his career in a situational role, but who doesn’t hold up as a blocker. His 28/324/0 slash line led the position for the Jaguars last season and it came in just 8 games, but Engram’s addition leaves him with an uncertain role. Farrell, meanwhile, is a 2021 5th round pick who struggled on 255 snaps as a rookie, but could be better going forward. The Jaguars have invested a lot in this receiving corps and it should be better than last season’s by default, especially from a depth perspective, but it’s still an underwhelming group overall.

Grade: B-

Offensive Line

The Jaguars made a couple big investments on the offensive line this off-season, including an investment in a homegrown player, keeping left tackle Cam Robinson on a 3-year, 54 million dollar deal, making him the 8th highest paid offensive tackle in the league. A 2nd round pick in 2017, Robinson has shaken off some early career struggles to develop into a solid starter, but a solid starter is the most he’s ever been, as his 50th ranked finish among offensive tackles on PFF last season was a career best. 

Given that he’s never been more than a solid starter, Robinson is overpaid and it’s surprising to see the Jaguars keep him at that salary rather than promoting 2021 2nd round pick Walker Little or finding a cheaper, comparable replacement in free agency. Right tackle Jawaan Taylor returns as well, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him be pushed for his job by Little, as Taylor has been inconsistent and overall underwhelming in 49 career starts since being selected by the Jaguars in the 2nd round in 2019. He’s unlikely to be extended this off-season, ahead of the final year of his rookie deal in 2022.

The Jaguars’ other big investment on the offensive line was giving a 3-year, 49.5 million dollar deal to right guard Brandon Scherff to come over from Washington, where the 2015 5th overall pick spent the first seven seasons of his career. Scherff excelled throughout much of his time in Washington, finishing in the top-16 among guards on PFF in five of seven seasons and never finishing worse than 27th, but he came with a steep price tag, making him the highest paid guard in the league. He’s also going into his age 31 with a concerning injury history, not playing more than 14 games in a season since 2016 and missing 24 games over the past five seasons combined. He’s not a bad signing, even at a high price, but he is probably on the way down and will likely miss at least some time with injury.

The Jaguars were probably hoping to pair Scherff with highly paid center Brandon Linder, who has been one of the better players at his position throughout the past several seasons, but Linder surprisingly retired ahead of his age 30 season this off-season. Linder slipped to 26th among 41 eligible centers on PFF last season and missed 8 games with injury, likely part of the reason why he retired, but he’ll still be a loss for the Jaguars. 

Jacksonville used a third round pick on Kentucky center Luke Fortner and he’s likely viewed as the long-term starter at the position, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see veteran Tyler Shatley begin the season as the starter, as the career reserve has held his own in 18 starts as an injury replacement over the past two seasons. Going into his age 31 season, having never made more than 10 starts in a season, Shatley is a low upside option and not a long-term solution, but Fortner might not start right away.

Scherff is effectively replacing highly paid left guard Andrew Norwell, who was a middling starter last season and was released ahead of a 13 million dollar non-guaranteed salary this off-season, but Scherff is a natural right guard, so it’s likely that incumbent right guard Ben Bartch will be moving to left guard. Bartch has been underwhelming in 12 career starts since being selected in the 4th round in 2020 and it’s unclear if changing positions will hurt his development, but he has the upside to take a step forward in 2022, even if he does change positions. 

Along with Walker Little and Tyler Shatley, the Jaguars’ top reserve is Will Richardson, who has made five starts in his career (3 at tackle, 2 at guard), but he’s struggled throughout his limited action, so depth is a bit of a concern for this team. It’s not a terrible offensive line, especially with the addition of Scherff, but it’s an underwhelming group overall, as their only consistently above average starter is an injury prone player over 30, while both center and right tackle could prove to be positions of weakness.

Grade: B

Running Backs

Of all the recent high draft picks the Jaguars have had, the most head scratching was their selection of running back Travis Etienne with the 25th overall pick in 2021, the second of the two first round picks they got from the Rams for Jalen Ramsey. Taking running backs in the first round is questionable in general, but the Jaguars didn’t seem to have a need for a running back after 2020 undrafted free agent James Robinson rushed for 1,070 yards on 240 carries (4.46 YPC) and 7 touchdowns as a rookie.

Making that pick even worse is the fact that Etienne suffered a foot injury in the pre-season and missed the entire year, though the Jaguars obviously couldn’t have predicted that. Even with Etienne out, however, the Jaguars did not give Robinson the same workload in 2021 as he got in 2020, with his carry total slipping to 164 carries. He was still effective when given the opportunity, rushing for 4.68 YPC, but Urban Meyer gave backup Carlos Hyde a significant role and Robinson’s season ultimately ended after 14 games with a torn achilles. 

Robinson’s injury was late enough in the season that it leaves his status for the start of the 2022 season in question, which makes it even tougher to project how the workload will be split this season. Etienne is expected to return to full strength for the start of the 2022 season, but it seems like his selection was heavily influenced by Urban Meyer, who is gone, so it’s unclear which running back the new coaching staff prefers. 

Etienne is the better of the two as a receiver (Robinson averages just 1.03 yards per route run in his career) and will likely have a big role in passing situations regardless, but Robinson could still lead this team in rushing, especially if he plays all or most of the season. The Jaguars also used a 5th round pick on more insurance, taking Mississippi’s Snoop Conner. It’s a talented backfield, even if one with uncertainty and key players coming off of injury.

Grade: B

Edge Defenders

As I mentioned, the Jaguars used the #1 overall pick on Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker and, compared to the typical #1 overall pick, Walker is a relatively underwhelming pick, but the Jaguars might not have had a better choice, in a weak draft overall at the top. The consensus for a few weeks leading up to the draft was that the Jaguars would take the more productive Aidan Hutchinson, but they chose to bet on Walker’s athleticism and versatility and it makes a lot of sense. Hutchinson has a relatively limited ceiling, while Walker’s lack of production in college was in large part due to being used in a variety of different roles, including frequently lining up in the interior, where it is tougher to get to the quarterback from. 

Walker still comes with a lot of risk and it’s unclear exactly how the Jaguars plan to use him, as a pure edge defender or a hybrid player, but he should be able to make an impact, even as a rookie. He’s also the third edge defender the Jaguars have used a first round pick on in the past four drafts. One of those selections worked out much better than the other, as Josh Allen, the 7th overall pick in 2019, has developed into one of the best young edge defenders in the league.

Allen has earned an above average grade from PFF in all three seasons in the league, totaling 20.5 sacks, 32 hits, and a 11.3% pressure rate in 40 career games, and he’s coming off the best season of his career, finishing the 2021 season as PFF’s 19th ranked edge defender, playing at a high level against the run and adding 7.5 sacks, 9 hits, and a 11.4% pressure rate as a pass rusher. Only going into his age 25 season, Allen could keep getting better and, even though development is not always linear, I would expect him to have another strong season in 2022. The Jaguars made the obvious choice to pick up his 5th year option for 2023 and will work to sign him on a long-term extension over the next couple off-seasons. In a best case scenario, Allen and Walker can bookend a talented pass rush for years to come.

On the other hand, K’Lavon Chaisson, their other recent first round edge defender, has shown next to nothing in two seasons in the league, totaling just 2 sacks, 10 hits, and a 9.7% pressure rate in 31 career games, while struggling against the run and finishing in the bottom 5% in overall grade among edge defenders on PFF in both seasons. Chaisson already saw his snap count drop from 569 in 2020 to 384 in 2021 and, in a deeper position group in 2022, Chaisson could see that number even further. It’s also possible he gets traded if the Jaguars can find a team willing to take a shot on him for at least some return.

The Jaguars also signed Arden Key in free agency to a 1-year, 4 million dollar deal and he figures to have at least a rotational role as well. A 3rd round pick in 2018, Key struggled across his first 3 seasons in the league with the Raiders, earning below average grades from PFF in all three seasons, but the 49ers were able to get some good pass rush out of him in a rotational role last season, as he totaled 6.5 sacks, 15 hits, and a 13.8% pressure rate in 17 games. He’s still a one-year wonder as a pass rusher, as his pressure rate was 8.6% across his first three seasons combined, and he’s never played the run well, but he’s also only going into his age 26 season, so it’s possible he’s permanently turned a corner and will remain an above average rotational pass rusher.

The addition of Key, as well as Walker, leaves the role of Dawuane Smoot in doubt, after he finished 2nd on the team among edge defenders with 675 snaps played last season. Smoot had a solid season last year, totalling 6 sacks, 11 hits, and a 11.9% pressure rate, but he finished well below average on PFF in both 2019 and 2020 and combined for just a 7.2% pressure rate over those two seasons, so he could easily regress, now going into his 6th season in the league. He should still be ahead of Chaisson in the rotation, but how much he’ll play compared to off-season additions Travon Walker and Arden Key remains to be seen. It’s a much deeper group than a year ago and a pretty talented group overall.

Grade: B+

Interior Defenders

The Jaguars also made a big addition on the interior of their defensive line this off-season, signing ex-Jet Foley Fatukasi to a 3-year deal worth 30 million, and, like most of the Jaguars’ signings this off-season, this move looks like an overpay. A 6th round pick in 2018, Fatukasi was a dominant run defender in a situational role in 2019 and 2020, playing 390 snaps and 507 snaps respectively in those two seasons and finishing 5th and 2nd respectively among interior defenders in run defense grade on PFF, but he’s never been much of a pass rusher (4.8% career pressure rate) and his run defense fell off in a big way in 2021, as he ranked around middle of the pack. 

Still only going into his age 27 season, Fatukasi could definitely bounce back as a run defender, but even at his best, he’s a situational, rotational player, so paying him 10 million annually seems steep. He was a needed addition at a position of weakness, however, as the Jaguars’ top-5 interior defenders last season in terms of snaps played all finished with below average grades from PFF. Four of those players (Roy Robertson-Harris, Malcom Brown, Davon Hamilton, and Adam Gotsis) return to the Jaguars for 2022 and will compete for roles.

Robertson-Harris and Brown were signed last off-season to deals worth 23.4 million over 3 years and 11 million over 2 years respectively and both have bounce back potential, after uncharacteristically bad years. Robertson-Harris has never been much of a run defender, but he has a career 9.3% pressure rate and, prior to finishing 91st out of 146 eligible interior defenders on PFF in 2021, he had three straight seasons with above average grades on PFF. Going into his age 29 season, he could bounce back and be an effective sub package player, but that’s not a guarantee. Him bouncing back is especially important because he is the only effective pass rusher in this position group.

Brown is the opposite kind of player, a traditionally above average run stopper who has never been effective as a pass rusher, with a career 5.4% pressure rate. Brown struggled against the run as well in 2021 and fell to 134th out of 146 eligible interior defenders overall on PFF, but last season was his first below average season on PFF, earning average or better grades from PFF in each of his first six seasons in the league, after being drafted in the first round in 2015. Still only going into his age 28 season, he has bounce back potential as well, but could continue struggling and, even at his best, he is just an early down run stuffer.

Hamilton isn’t as proven as Robertson-Harris or Brown, but the 2020 3rd round pick does come with some upside, even if his career has started off with finishes of 103rd out of 139 eligible interior defenders and 92nd out of 146 eligible interior defenders on PFF. Even if he does take a step forward in 2022 though, the likely result would be him being a replacement level rotation player, so it’s hard to get excited about him. 

Gotsis, meanwhile, could end up the odd man out in a relatively deep group, as he has not been effective as a pass rusher (4.8% pressure rate for his career) or run stopper for several years and now heads into his age 30 season. This isn’t a bad group overall, but Robertson-Harris is the only player who gets consistent pass rush, so the Jaguars may be looking to line up a larger defensive end like Travon Walker up on the interior regularly in sub packages.

Grade: B-

Linebackers

The Jaguars also invested heavily in an attempt to improve their linebacking corps. The biggest investment they made was giving ex-Falcon’s linebacker Foyesade Oluokun a 3-year, 45 million dollar deal that makes him the 4th highest paid off ball linebacker in the league. Oluokun is essentially replacing another highly paid linebacker, Myles Jack, a long-time Jaguar who was set to make 10.75 million non-guaranteed in 2022, in the third year of a 4-year, 57 million dollar extension. 

Jack finished 84th out of 94 eligible off ball linebackers on PFF last season, so moving on from him ahead of a big non-guaranteed salary isn’t surprising and it wouldn’t be hard for Oluokun to be an upgrade, but Oluokun finished just 69th out of 94 eligible off ball linebackers on PFF last season, so it’s unclear why the Jaguars decided to make him one of the highest paid players in the league at his position. Oluokun has been better in the past, but the 2018 6th round pick has never finished higher than 37th among linebackers on PFF, so it’s hard to see him suddenly becoming a consistently above average starter, even if he is likely to be better in 2022 than he was in his down 2021 season.

Damien Wilson was the Jaguars’ other every down linebacker last season and he struggled as well, finishing 77th out of 94 eligible off ball linebackers on PFF across 866 snaps. Wilson signed in Carolina this off-season and the Jaguars replaced him by trading back up into the end of the first round to select Devin Lloyd, arguably the best off ball linebacker in the draft, with the 27th overall pick. Lloyd should immediately take over a big role. 

The Jaguars then double dipped at the linebacker position by taking Chad Muma in the third round. He’ll compete for the top backup role with Shaq Quarterman, a 2020 4th round pick who is the only holdover of note from last year’s group. Even as the top reserve, Quarterman played just 144 snaps, after not playing at all as a rookie. The selection of Muma would seem to be a bad sign for Quarterman’s long-term chances in Jacksonville. This should be a better group than a year ago, but it may be mostly by default.

Grade: C+

Secondary

One of the recent high draft picks the Jaguars have used was on cornerback CJ Henderson, who was selected 9th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, but Henderson proved to be a massive bust. He earned a below average grade from PFF across 474 snaps as a rookie and lasted just 108 below average snaps in two games in 2021 before being traded to Carolina for a 3rd round pick and veteran tight end Dan Arnold. Even though they were selling low on a player who was barely over a year removed from being a top-10 pick, the Jaguars seem to have won that trade, as Henderson didn’t show anything more across 282 snaps with the Panthers than he did with the Jaguars.

The Jaguars also used the 33rd overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on a cornerback and they seem to have hit on that pick, selecting Georgia’s Tyson Campbell. Considered very raw coming out of college, Campbell predictably struggled early in the season, but improved significantly as the year went on, finishing as PFF’s 26th ranked cornerback from week 12 on. He only finished with a middling grade overall from PFF, but his best football is almost definitely still in front of him, still just a few months removed from his 22nd birthday.

Campbell will start alongside recent free agent additions Shaq Griffin, who signed a 3-year, 40 million dollar deal last off-season, and Darious Williams, who signed a 3-year, 30 million dollar deal this off-season. Both are among the best contracts the Jaguars have given out the past two seasons. Griffin was one of the Jaguars’ best players in general last season, finishing 24th among cornerbacks on PFF, and he’s been a consistently solid player throughout his career, earning above average grades from PFF in four of five seasons, with his best year coming in 2019, when he finished 11th at his position. Only in his age 27 season, Griffin should keep up his above average play for at least a few more years and is the Jaguars’ de facto #1 cornerback.

Williams, meanwhile, comes over from the Rams, where he developed into a solid starter opposite former Jaguar Jalen Ramsey. Undrafted in 2018, Williams played sparingly across his first two seasons in the league (225 snaps), but he showed potential in that limited action and put it all together with a 6th ranked season among cornerbacks on PFF in 2020. Williams is a one-year wonder who fell to a middling 57th among cornerbacks in 2021 and he might have a hard time bouncing back now that he doesn’t have as much talent around him, but he could easily remain a solid starter and wasn’t a bad value at 10 million annually.

Rudy Ford (423 snaps) and Tre Herndon (207 snaps) return and will likely be the Jaguars’ top reserves at the position, although both struggled in their limited action last season. Herndon has finished below average on PFF in all four seasons of his career, while Ford was primarily a special teamer who played just 127 snaps in four seasons in the league before being forced into an expanded role last season, so I wouldn’t expect more from either player in 2022. The Jaguars have a talented trio of cornerbacks and this is a more talented group than a year ago with Darious Williams being added, but depth is a concern if any of their top-3 get hurt.

Safety is one of the few positions where the Jaguars stood pat this off-season, as their top-3 safeties from a year ago, Rayshawn Jenkins, Andrew Wingard, and Andre Cisco all return, without any significant additions being made. Jenkins and Wingard were the clear starters last season, but Cisco is a 2021 3rd round pick who flashed on 247 snaps as a rookie, so he could push either of the starters for their job.

Jenkins was signed to a 4-year, 35 million dollar deal last off-season and would seem likely to keep his job on salary alone, but he struggled last season, finishing 79th out of 98 eligible safeties, while Wingard finished 34th. Jenkins was better in 2020, finishing 24th among safeties on PFF, so he has some bounce back potential, but his first season in Jacksonville was definitely a disappointment. Wingard, meanwhile, is a 2019 undrafted free agent who was a full-time starter last season for the first time last season, but who flashed promise in limited action in 2019 and 2020. He’s not that proven, but could easily be a solid starter again in 2022 if he can keep his job. This is a solid secondary overall.

Grade: B

Special Teams

Special teams was also a big problem for the Jaguars in 2021, as they ranked 31st in special teams DVOA, and they look like they will be a below average unit again, without major changes being made. Logan Cooke returns as the punter and Jamal Agnew remains their primary return man. The Jaguars didn’t have any special teams finish in the top-50 on PFF and didn’t add any top-50 special teamers in free agency either. The only big change will be at kicker, where the winner of Ryan Santoso and Andrew Mevis will be the starter, but both would be underwhelming options. 

Santoso went 4 of 5 on field goals in the first action of his career last season, but didn’t hit from longer than 35 and went just 6 of 8 on extra points, while Mevis is an undrafted free agent, albeit one who went 20 of 23 in his final collegiate season in 2021, including 2 of 2 from 50+. Regardless of who wins the kicker battle, special teams figures to be a liability again for the Jaguars in 2022, without any high level core special teamers.

Grade: C+

Conclusion

The Jaguars have spent a lot of resources in the last few off-seasons rebuilding this team, between high draft picks and free agent spending sprees. As a result, the Jaguars should be improved in 2022, especially since they figure to be better coached as well, but they’re starting from such a low base point and many of the resources they spent were used on overpaying veterans or making draft picks that have yet to pan out. They should be a more competitive team this year, especially if quarterback Trevor Lawrence can make a big step forward in year two, but I have a hard time seeing them actually competing for a playoff spot in the loaded AFC. I will have a final prediction at the end of the off-season when all previews are completed.

Prediction: TBD, TBD in AFC South

Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2021 Week 18 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (9-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)

The Jaguars have the league’s worst record at 2-14 and are coming off of an embarrassing blowout defeat in New England last week, losing by a score of 50-10 in a game that was never competitive. However, there is reason to expect a lot better effort from the Jaguars this week. For one, they figure to be at least somewhat healthier, getting back starting right guard Ben Bartch, top cornerback Shaq Griffin, and starting edge defender Dawaune Smoot from COVID protocols, with starting left tackle Cam Robinson, stud starting center Brandon Linder, and starting safety Andrew Wingard possibly joining them.

Teams tend to bounce back well after a blowout loss anyway, as teams cover at a 56.3% rate all-time after a loss by 35 points or more. That is because teams tend to be highly motivated to bounce back from embarrassment, while opponents overlook them and oddsmakers and the public undervalue them based off of an overreaction to one big loss. That last part certainly seems to be the case here as the Jaguars have moved from being 8.5-point home underdogs on the early line last week to now being 15.5 point home underdogs, even with the Colts disappointing last week in a loss as big home favorites against the Raiders.

The Jaguars are inarguably one of the worst teams in the league, but the Colts are not a good enough team to be favored by this many points on the road against anyone. The Colts have a better point differential (+101) than their 9-7 record suggests, but they have also benefited from an easy schedule and a +16 turnover margin, which is not a predictive metric, while ranking just 12th in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency, which is based on more predictive metrics like yards per play and first down rate. 

There is some uncertainty in this game with the Jaguars having the three aforementioned key players in the COVID protocols, while stud Colts’ interior defender DeForest Buckner is highly questionable after not practicing all week, but even in the best case scenario for the Colts, my calculated line is just Indianapolis -10.5, while my calculated line in the best case for the Jaguars is Indianapolis -9, so we’re getting significant line value with the Jaguars either way. Because of that, I want to lock this in now and it’s possible I increase this bet later this weekend depending on who plays and where the line settles.

Indianapolis Colts 23 Jacksonville Jaguars 13

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +15.5

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) at New England Patriots (9-6)

The Patriots have lost back-to-back games and are favored by a lot of points in this game (16.5-point favorites), but the Patriots’ schedule over the past two games has been tough, as they have faced the teams who rank 1st and 6th in point differential, and they won the first down rate (+1.00%) and yards per play (+0.33) battle in a loss to the Colts, a loss that was largely the result of a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and a -1 turnover margin, which are not as predictive as first down rate and yards per play. 

Now the Patriots get a much easier matchup, as not only are the Jaguars arguably the worst team in the league, but they are without one of their best players, running back James Robinson, and could be missing essentially their whole offensive line, with left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell, center Brandon Linder, and right guard Ben Bartch (already a fill-in for the injured AJ Cann) all in COVID protocols right now.

The Patriots still rank 4th in point differential despite back-to-back multiscore losses and they rank 12th, 4th, 19th, and 6th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency, so this line arguably isn’t high enough, even if the Patriots might be without Matt Judon and Deatrich Wise. I have this line calculated at New England -17 even if all of the Jaguars’ offensive linemen play and Judon and Wise are out and at New England -20.5 if the Jaguars’ players are all out and Judon and Wise play, so we’re getting at least some line value either way. I am making this a low confidence pick for now, but depending on who plays and where the line ends up, I may place a bet on New England.

Update: Only Andrew Norwell is playing of the Jaguars’ offensive line, while the others will be joined in the COVID protocols by edge defender Dawuane Smoot and cornerback Shaq Griffin, who tested positive today and would otherwise be starters. Meanwhile, the Patriots will have both Matt Judon and Deatrich Wise. This line hasn’t gone any higher, staying at 16.5, so I like the Patriots enough to bet them in what should be a complete blowout.

New England Patriots 31 Jacksonville Jaguars 10

Pick against the spread: New England -16.5

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) at New York Jets (3-11)

Both of these teams have terrible records and point differentials, with the 2-12 Jaguars sitting at -174 and the 3-11 Jets sitting at -178, but there are reasons to expect the Jets to be the better of these two teams when they meet this weekend. While their point differentials are similar, the Jets have scored and allowed about 55 more points than the Jaguars, which is a good sign for a couple reasons. 

For one, it means their points scored/points allowed ratio is better, as the Jets have scored 0.584 points for every point they have allowed and the Jaguars have scored just .530, which tends to be more predictive than point differential. Offensive performance also tends to be much more predictive than defensive performance week-to-week so, in general, I favor a team with a better offense over a team with a better defense.

The Jets have also faced a tougher schedule and, in terms of schedule adjusted mixed efficiency, which takes schedule into account and weights offensive performance higher than defensive performance, the Jets rank 29th, while the Jaguars rank 31st. Both teams are terrible and the difference between their ranks might not seem like much, but the gap between these two teams in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency translates to about a 2.5 point advantage for the Jets.

Making matters even worse for the Jaguars is that they will have the most impactful absence in this game, with talented edge defender Josh Allen, arguably their best player on either side of the ball, expected to miss this game because of COVID protocols. Without Allen, the one advantage the Jaguars have, which is having a superior defense, is not nearly as much of an advantage, if it is still an advantage at all. 

Add in the fact that the Jets are at home and they should be favored to win this game by more than the 1.5 points they are currently favored by, which is only enough to cover the advantage of the Jets being at home. My calculated line has the Jets at -4 so we’re getting decent value with the Jets at -1.5. I don’t foresee myself betting on this one, but it’s possible I will change my mind and, either way, the Jets are the better side for pick ‘em purposes.

New York Jets 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Pick against the spread: NY Jets -1.5

Confidence: Low

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2021 Week 15 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (2-11) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)

Both of these teams are 2-11 and among the worst teams in the league, but the Jaguars are still the significantly better team, even if only by default. The Jaguars hold a slight edge in point differential (-160 vs. -179), despite the Texans holding a significant edge in turnover differential (+1 vs. -19), which is not a predictive metric. In more predictive metrics, the Jaguars rank 30th, 23rd, and 26th respectively in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency, while the Texans rank 32nd, 31st, and 19th respectively and are seven points behind the Jaguars in mixed efficiency. 

The Texans beat the Jaguars by double digits in Houston earlier this season, but that was way back in week one when the Texans had a healthier offensive line and were starting veteran Tyrod Taylor at quarterback rather than raw rookie Davis Mills. With Mills, the Texans have been even worse this season, losing all eight of his starts and by an average of 18.5 points per game, an average that would be even worse if the Patriots weren’t missing most of their offensive line in their 3-point win, a game in which the Patriots still won the first down rate battle by 8.67%, and if the Texans hadn’t scored 22 meaningless garbage points against the Rams in a game in which they were down 38-0 going into the 4th quarter.

Earlier this week, the Jaguars were 3-point favorites at home and I thought I would end up betting on them at that number, especially after the news broke that the Jaguars would be firing highly unpopular head coach Urban Meyer, but Meyer’s dismissal has led to the Jaguars now being favored by 5 points. My calculated line still has the Jaguars favored by 9, but I think we lost line value with the line moving two points for the coaching change, as interim head coach Darrell Bevell is a very uninspiring replacement and is a big part of the problem with this offense. I may still bet on the Jaguars, but I want to wait and see what the COVID situation will be for both teams first and I hope we can get a better line before gametime.

Update: I am comfortable taking the Jaguars for a small bet. One thing I didn’t mention earlier is that the Jaguars are healthier now than they have been. They haven’t had a lot of injuries, but cornerback Shaq Griffin (two games missed) and center Brandon Linder (six games missed) are among the Jaguars’ best players on either side of the ball and both have missed significant time, with this week being the first time they will play in the same game since week 5. With the Urban Meyer situation behind them, they should be able to beat a horrendous Texans team with ease.

Jacksonville Jaguars 26 Houston Texans 17

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -5

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans: 2021 Week 14 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) at Tennessee Titans (8-4)

The Titans don’t have a lot of blowout wins, as their 8-4 record is powered by a 4-1 record in one score games, and their offense has been significantly worse since losing feature back Derrick Henry and top wide receiver AJ Brown, while their defense remains without would-be starting cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Caleb Farley, expected starting edge defender Bud Dupree, and key run stuffing defensive lineman Teair Tart. 

However, the Titans will at least get wide receiver Julio Jones back this week, while the Jaguars are the type of team the Titans should be able to beat by multiple scores, even when not at 100%, as the Jaguars are 2-10, rank 30th in the NFL with a -140 point differential, and have seven losses by multiple scores. My calculated line has the Titans favored by 10, so we’re getting a little bit of line value with them as 8.5-point favorites, but not nearly enough to bet them confidently.

Tennessee Titans 23 Jacksonville Jaguars 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -8.5

Confidence: Low

Jacksonville Jaguars at Los Angeles Rams: 2021 Week 13 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) at Los Angeles Rams (7-4)

The Rams were 7-1 a few weeks ago and were adding even more talent, acquiring edge defender Von Miller and wide receiver Odell Beckham at the trade deadline. However, since then, the Rams have lost three straight games to fall to 7-4. What happened? Well, part of it is Miller and Beckham have not contributed in a huge way, still learning the playbook and dealing with lingering injuries, and, at the same time, the Rams have also had players who were key to their 7-1 start suffer injuries as well, with wide receiver Robert Woods going down for the season and quarterback Matt Stafford playing at less than 100%.

Part of it is also that the Rams have faced a tough schedule, as the Titans, Rams, and Packers are all likely to be playoff teams. That schedule gets a lot easier this week, with the Jaguars coming to town. Even without Woods and with Stafford playing at less than 100%, we are still getting a little bit of line value with the Rams at -13, as my calculated line has the Rams as 14-point favorites, with both Beckham and Miller likely to have bigger roles this season, albeit with the former still playing through injury. 

However, that isn’t nearly enough line value to take the Rams with any confidence and, in fact, I am actually going to take the Jaguars for pick ‘em purposes, as the Rams are in a bad spot. The Rams need a win so they might not be unfocused, but they may also see this as an easy get right spot, when in reality, they need to play better than they have to win this game easily. Making that more likely is that the Rams have to turn around and face the Cardinals in a much bigger game next week. Even if they get up big early, they could take their foot off the gas with a bigger game on deck and allow a backdoor cover.

Favorites of a touchdown or more cover at just a 42.7% rate all-time before facing an opponent with a winning percentage that is at least 50% higher than their current opponent’s winning percentage, which fits the Rams against the 2-9 Jaguars before the 9-2 Cardinals. I can’t take the Jaguars with any confidence either, especially since they will be without their top cornerback Shaq Griffin, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes, as they could take advantage of the Rams looking forward and make this tougher than it should be.

Los Angeles Rams 26 Jacksonville Jaguars 14

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +13

Confidence: None

Atlanta Falcons at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2021 Week 12 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (4-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8)

The Falcons are 4-6, but they are much worse than even their mediocre record suggests. While all four of their wins have come by one score against mediocre at best opponents, four of their six losses have been blowout defeats by 20 points or more. In fact, their point differential of -110 is the 4th worst in the league, even worse than the -103 point differential that the 2-8 Jaguars have. That holds up when you look at schedule adjusted efficiency rankings (which are based on more predictive metrics like yards and first downs per play), as the Falcons rank 28th, 21st, 31st, and 31st respectively in offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency, while the Jaguars rank 23rd, 25th, 28th, and 28th respectively. The Jaguars are missing their top cornerback Shaq Griffin in this game, but their offense will get a boost from the return of their top lineman Brandon Linder.

Despite that, the Falcons are favored on the road in this matchup. It’s only by a couple points, but my rankings have these two teams about even and the Jaguars should be considered at worst 50/50 to win this game at home. My calculated line favors the Jaguars by a couple points at home and, while that isn’t great line value, as we are within the key number of three in both directions, the Falcons are also in a bad spot to boot, with a much tougher matchup against the Buccaneers on deck, which could easily serve as a distraction for the Falcons. The Jaguars, meanwhile, are in a good spot as home underdogs after a big loss as home underdogs, with teams covering at a 59.0% rate as home underdogs after losing by 14 or more as home underdogs. This isn’t a big bet on the Jaguars, but I like them enough to put a small wager on them against the spread and on the money line, with the money line at +110 likely being the better value of the two.

Jacksonville Jaguars 23 Atlanta Falcons 20 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +2

Confidence: Medium

San Francisco 49ers at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (4-5) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7)

The 49ers are just 4-5, but they have a positive point differential at +4, despite dealing with a significant amount of short-term injury absences, many of whom have since returned, and despite a -7 turnover margin, 5th worst in the NFL. Turnover margin is highly non-predictive on a week-to-week basis though and the 49ers rank 9th, 7th, and 11th in offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency, when adjusted for schedule. Overall, that 49ers schedule has been one of the tougher schedules in the league and their only really easy games both came on the road in Chicago and Detroit, both of which resulted in wins by the 49ers of more than 7 points.

That is relevant because the 49ers are favored by just 6.5 points in this game in Jacksonville, against a Jaguars teams that is comparable to the teams the 49ers have already beaten with ease on the road. The Jaguars are one of the worst teams in the league and the 49ers are much better than their record, so this line isn’t high enough. My calculated line has the 49ers as 8.5-point favorites and at the very least the 49ers should be giving more than a touchdown in this game.

This could be a bit of a tough spot for the 49ers, after a huge divisional upset win over the Rams last week, as teams cover at just a 41.3% rate after a win as divisional home underdogs of more than a field goal. However, because that game came on Monday Night Football and was not even close, it might bode well for the 49ers this week, as teams cover at a 60.2% rate all-time after a Monday Night Football win by 21 points or more. This isn’t a big bet because there are conflicting trends, but we are getting some line value with the 49ers, who are still a bit underrated even after last week’s big win, so they are worth a play.

San Francisco 49ers 27 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -6.5

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts: 2021 Week 10 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6) at Indianapolis Colts (4-5)

The Jaguars shockingly pulled the 9-6 upset as 15-point home underdogs against the Bills last week. Normally, that would put them in a bad spot this week, as teams cover at just a 40.9% rate all-time after a win as home underdogs of 5 or more. However, that is because teams tend to be overvalued and/or flat in that spot and I don’t know if either of those will be the case this week. 

I was expecting the Jaguars’ win last week to shift this line significantly, but the Jaguars are still 10-point underdogs, a week after being underdogs of 10.5 points on the early line last week, so they’re not overvalued. On top of that, it’s possible they could still bring a high level of intensity and focus even after last week’s win because they are once again big underdogs and, this time around, facing a divisional opponent.

The Colts are also in a bad spot, as big home favorites before a much tougher game next week in Buffalo. Favorites of a touchdown or more cover at just a 43.7% rate before facing an opponent whose winning percentage is at least 40% higher than their current opponent’s winning percentage and that applies to the Colts this week. With that in mind, I am actually taking the Jaguars this week, albeit for a low confidence pick. Even if both teams are in bad spots, I think we are getting a little bit of line value with the Jaguars, as I have them calculated as 8.5-point underdogs.

The Colts four wins have all come by double digits, their point differential (+32) suggests they’ve been better than their record, and they are healthier than they were early in the season, but they also have benefited from the 2nd best turnover margin in the league at +10, which is unlikely to continue, and they rank just 12th, 22nd, and 18th respectively in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency. The Jaguars rank 18th, 28th, and 25th, but have been a little better in recent weeks and are the better side for pick ’em purposes as underdogs of this many points.

Indianapolis Colts 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 16

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +10

Confidence: Low