JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It wasn’t pretty but it was progress.
Doug Pederson’s debut with the Jaguars wound up in an agonizing 28-22 loss to the Commanders on Sunday that told a couple different stories. Jacksonville has far more talent than it did a year ago, capable of being in games in crunch time. But it sill hasn’t found a way to play a full four-quarter game, something that has plagued the franchise for the last two years.
Loss aside, the Jaguars (0-1) played like a more competent team on Sunday than they did for a large portion of the 2021 season.
For a team that hasn’t won much (10 victories in the last three seasons combined), how does the coaching staff convey the belief to players that they can win in the NFL?
“You just got to keep talking and keep showing them. Show them the good, show them the positive, you know,” Pederson said. “That was my message this morning to the team.”
The Jaguars played solid in spurts on Sunday, especially over the first 20 minutes of the second half. Jacksonville erased a 14-3 halftime deficit to grab a 22-14 lead with 11 minutes, 52 seconds to play on an 11-yard touchdown run by James Robinson.
“We just took a deep breath. Just put everything that happened in the first half behind us and just came with a new mindset,” said cornerback Tyson Campbell. “We believe how talented we are. As long as we do what we need to do, everybody do their job, we’ll be fine. And that’s the motto we took in the second half and I believe it showed.”
In that productive span in the second, the Jaguars played well on both sides of the ball. Robinson ran well. The defense intercepted two passes. Lawrence connected on a 49-yard strike to Christian Kirk. Riley Patterson hit 43- and 45-yard field goals.
But those flashes weren’t enough to overcome numerous lapses that torpedoed a successful debut for Pederson. He used the word, “finish,” multiple times following the game. The Jaguars struggled to finish under both Doug Marrone and Urban Meyer. Pederson doesn’t want that to become a problem this year.
“If we just get ourselves out of the way and just go play … obviously you got to think out there, but as they say, don’t think, just react, you’re going to be better off,” Pederson said. “But it’s an ongoing process, you know. You do have some young players that are playing and it’s a different game. We as a coaching staff, myself, have to continue to educate the players on that.”
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Lawrence was uneven, overthrowing Travis Etienne in the end zone on the opening drive. Etienne dropped a would-be touchdown on a fourth-and-goal play. The offensive line allowed too much pressure. Penalties were a killer. And when the defense needed to come up with a big play, Carson Wentz carved them up.
“Yeah, it doesn’t happen overnight, for sure. I know there have been plenty of teams that people have seen that came from an organization that went through the same type of development as well, so this stuff is going to take time, but like I said, good teams finish,” said Kirk, who led the team with 116 yards receiving. “We definitely have some work to do to be a good team and we got to learn how to finish football games because that’s how you make a living in this league and you become one of the better teams, is if you finish games in tight situations like that.”