It’s a start: Jaguars sloppy in Doug Pederson’s debut

Travon Walker, Arden Key sharp but offense ragged in 27-11 loss to Raiders

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jarrett Stidham (3) is sacked by Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Travon Walker (44) during the first half of the NFL football exhibition Hall of Fame Game, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, in Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Dermer) (David Dermer, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The first one is out of the way and there’s a long way to go. No doubt about that.

But for Doug Pederson and the rebuilding Jaguars, owners of the last two No. 1 picks in the draft and a stint with the most toxic head coach in NFL history, it’s a start.

The Jaguars ushered in the Pederson era with a sloppy effort on both sides of the ball in a 27-11 loss to the Raiders in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio on Thursday night.

Long-suffering Jaguars fans burying their heads in their hands and saying, “not again,” shouldn’t be too caught up with this one. The result was largely irrelevant. With just eight days of training camp practice to their credit and a coaching staff still combing through a roster in transition, game reps were far more important than the result.

Even in the play-it-safe landscape of the preseason, the Jaguars played it very safe in the exhibition opener that officially kicked off the NFL year and leads the NFL into its festive Hall of Fame weekend.

Jacksonville held out 21 players, the bulk of those starters, and went with a makeshift lineup that included third-stringer Jake Luton getting the nod at quarterback. A few defensive starters saw action, including No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker.

The good news — Jacksonville made it through the game sans any significant injuries. Even the one that looked bad, cornerback Tyson Campbell writhing on the ground after defending a pass and a collision, walked off under his own power.

The defense played well in spurts, including flashes from No. 1 overall pick Walker, 2020 first-rounder K’Lavon Chaisson and free agent signee Arden Key.

Key was and Chaisson were both involved in two of Jacksonville’s three first-half sacks. And they came on similar plays, with Key busting the gap and getting a hand on Jarrett Stidham and Chaisson there to push the pressure. Key doesn’t project as a starter but has high upside as a player who can float on the defensive line and provide significant pressure. That was a good thing to see from a patchwork lineup that largely held together for a good portion of the opening half.

Chaisson has been a disappointment after he was the 20th overall pick in 2020, tallying just two career sacks. But he stands to be in line for a situational role behind Walker and Josh Allen. At 23 years old, Chaisson still has potential and Thursday night was a glimpse of that, even if he didn’t finish with much in terms of statistics.

Potential is a big word with Walker, who looks the part of a potential Pro Bowler. He played all over the defense at Georgia and seldom focused on one spot. With the Jaguars, Walker is slotted at outside linebacker and his skills are off the charts.

His first NFL snap resulted in a debatable roughing the passer penalty. That, coupled with Stidham’s 31-yard strike to Keelan Cole on that play, flipped the field in the blink of an eye. Five plays later, Daniel Carlson booted a 32-yard field goal and the Raiders were on the board.

But Walker rebounded later in the quarter to step up and off a block by left tackle Brandon Parker to sack Stidham. Chaisson and Key swamped Stidham for a sack on the next play, too, Jacksonville’s best back-to-back plays of the game. Israel Antwine also tallied a sack in the second half.

Eleven different players caught a pass, including second-year tight end Luke Farrell (three catches, team-best 43 yards) and running back Mekhi Sargent (team-high five catches, 37 yards).

The not so good was more evident.

The Jaguars trailed 27-3 late in the fourth quarter and showed next to nothing until garbage time of the game.

Outside of the flickers of pressure, the defense struggled to slow down the Raiders. Josh Jacobs and Zamir White found gaping holes to run through and Stidham had a 12-yard touchdown run to put the Raiders up 20-0 at halftime.

Luton didn’t do much to stake his claim as Trevor Lawrence’s backup, failing to move the offense. He was 10 of 17 for 94 yards in the first half. The ground game was nonexistent (six carries, 14 yards). Rookie back Snoop Conner, starting in the backfield, found little room to navigate.

Fourth-string quarterback Kyle Sloter, signed after a season in the USFL, lead the Jaguars to their lone touchdown with a 5-yard pass to Nathan Cottrell. Cottrell added a two-point conversion run with 3 minutes, 32 seconds to play. Sloter finished 13 of 25 for 127 yards.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.