‘The team’s in a good place’: Doug Pederson sees progress, momentum with Jaguars

Jaguars winding down OTAs as next phase of offseason begins

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson, center, directs an NFL football practice, Monday, May 23, 2022, in Jacksonville, Fla. At right is quarterback Trevor Lawrence. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (John Raoux, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Doug Pederson and the Jaguars are excited to wrap up one portion of their offseason program and head into the next phase.

Then, the real work begins.

With a 3-14 record from a season ago in the rearview mirror, growing optimism around the locker room sets the Jaguars up for a heavily anticipated season

“The team’s in a good place. We’re throwing a lot at them,” Pederson said. “We have to get work done, and our next phase in pads will help us get where we want to be.”

OTA NOTEBOOK | Josh Allen keeps up the good work on, off the field

The Jacksonville Jaguars hosted their seventh OTA (organized team activity) Monday morning, and there has been much anticipation for the upcoming season.

Mandatory minicamp starts next week and expectations begin to change with the team.

For Pederson, he wants to carry momentum and keep up the anticipation heading into the minicamp.

Among that anticipation is the return of running back Travis Etienne Jr., who is looking to make his official NFL regular season debut this fall.

The Jaguars selected Etienne in the first round last season, but he suffered a Lisfranc injury in his foot and missed his rookie season after undergoing surgery.

Pederson said it’s exciting to see the Jennings, Louisiana native, back on the field over the offseason.

“He’s doing a great job handling a lot of information, and it’s been great to put him in different spots to see what he can do,” Pederson said.

During his four-year college career at Clemson, Etienne rushed for a school-record of 4,952 yards while also adding 1,155 receiving yards and scoring a combined 78 touchdowns.

Pederson noted it’s fun to be able to put Etienne in different spots and experiment with what he can do.

“This is the time to experiment on both sides of the ball to see what the guys can do,” Pederson said. “Etienne has been one of those guys.”

Following practice, Trevor Lawrence said it felt great to have his former Clemson tailback Etienne running snaps together.

“It’s exciting having him back there, and it feels good,” he said. “He adds another element to our offense. He gives us a whole new look.”

Another running back in the depth chart returning is James Robinson. A preseason foot injury to Etienne, followed by an early-season injury to Carlos Hyde, meant that Robinson had the backfield all to himself.

He rushed for 767 yards and eight touchdowns on 164 carries before a torn Achilles ended his season in December.

Pederson said he’s excited to see Robinson back on the field soon for the Jaguars.

“He’s shown the progression to get back on the field and shows where he is health-wise,” Pederson said. “We look forward to having him back as he’s heading in the right direction.”

Defensively, the Jaguars will look to star linebacker Josh Allen who is entering his fourth year in the NFL.

Last season, the Cumberland County, Virginia native had a bounce back season (7.5 sacks, interception, forced fumble) after playing in just eight games in 2020.

Pederson notes the key for Allen to be more consistent is to simply be who he is.

“He doesn’t need to do anything other than being Josh Allen. His talent is going to speak for itself,” Pederson said. “He’s an exciting player who can make a lot of plays on defense, and with the new additions, he’ll be able to get back to that.”

Among those new defensive additions is No. 1 pick, Travon Walker.

Pederson said Walker’s defensive presence can only help with Allen’s abilities.

“Opponents will have to focus and scheme against us (with Walker) and will allow Josh to be freed up,” Pederson said. “Walker and those pieces will help Josh perform as he did a couple of years ago.”

Lawrence said there is plenty of optimism — along with the roster improvements — that will make for an exciting upcoming season.

“Our roster got better with some really good players and our coaching staff. Everything has been structured and approached so well and will help a ton,” Lawrence said. “The leadership is going to make a big difference.”