JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The new era begins Sunday for the Jaguars.
It’s Doug Pederson’s first game as head coach. It’s the first true look of a team at full strength following a free agent spending spree and adding the No. 1 pick in the draft for the second year in a row. When Jacksonville visits Washington on Sunday at 1 p.m., what are four questions we hope we’ll get the answer to?
How will a Pederson-Press Taylor offense look?
We saw a very vanilla version in the preseason. Receiver Christian Kirk even alluded to how basic things were in games. Press Taylor is a first-time offensive coordinator. Pederson is a well-known offensive mind. What does their offense look like in regular season mode? Will Pederson lean heavy on the tight ends? Jacksonville looked in rhythm at times when it sped things up (again, in limited reps in the preseason) and had Trevor Lawrence getting out of the pocket. Lawrence still needs work on the deep ball but he can dial it up on intermediate routes. A fast-pace offense would be totally different for Jacksonville.
Trevor in Year 2
No question that the success to Jacksonville going from first pick in the draft to contender is the progress of Lawrence. His rookie season was marred by the coaching dysfunction of Urban Meyer and the typical rookie struggles.
The addition of Pederson was significant, and not just because of the stability he brought that Meyer lacked. Pederson, a former quarterback, can relate to Lawrence. Lawrence has spoken throughout camp on the value of having a coach who knows what it’s like to be under center.
“It’s exciting, you know, it’s exciting because just to see how far we’ve come within a year, through my lens, obviously it’s different for everyone. They haven’t seen as I’ve seen just because we’ve only had a couple preseason games and now we’re about to start the season, but, to see the improvement of guys that were here, to see how much better we’ve gotten, and obviously the new additions have helped a ton, and just the whole mindset.”
Lawrence played turnover-free football in the preseason, albeit a small body of work in that span, but that’s a positive. He committed 22 turnovers last season. That can’t continue if Jacksonville is going to pursue a playoff berth.
Can the playmakers make plays?
James Robinson is coming off a ruptured Achilles. Travis Etienne is coming off a Lisfranc injury. The receiving corps was inconsistent last year and had 39 drops, according to ESPN. That was a major position to upgrade in the offseason, and the team brought in Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and tight end Evan Engram to address that dearth of talent among pass catchers. Lawrence looked sharp in camp with his new additions. Now, all they need to do is deliver on game day. Washington has a tough, tough defensive front, although it is missing pass rusher Chase Young. So Robinson and Etienne will have a challenging assignment right from the outset.
Will the new faces help?
There are a lot of new faces. A lot!
Six of the team’s draft picks made the roster. Three (LBs Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd and C Luke Fortner) are projected to start against Washington.
Seven players added through free agency (RG Brandon Scherff, TE Evan Engram, WRs Zay Jones and Christian Kirk, LB Foye Oluokun, DL Folorunso Fatukasi and CB Darious Williams) are also expected to start, although Fatukasi is likely a gameday decision due to injury.
That infusion of talent is a glimpse of just how lean that roster was a year ago. How will all these new players mesh, especially on defense? The projected starting defense wasn’t on the field for a single snap together in the preseason (Lloyd and Williams were limited in camp due to injury). Facing Carson Wentz (he’s on his third different team in as many seasons), can this unit have immediate success?