JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars are focused, unusually healthy and ready for their home opener on Sunday.
Can they get into the AFC South mix with a win over the Colts? Don’t laugh.
For a team coming off back-to-back No. 1 overall selections in the NFL draft, it’s not as far fetched of an idea as it sounds. If they play like they did in the opening half against Washington last week, probably not. If the Jaguars can address a few of the issues that plagued them, then a win is certainly possible.
“I’m looking forward to a great crowd Sunday at 1 [PM]. We know it’s a division opponent,” said Jaguars coach Doug Pederson. “We’re focused on that, playing hard, playing fast, and seeing what happens. Really looking forward to playing in front of our fans.”
The Colts (0-0-1) struggle to win in Jacksonville and they didn’t play particularly well in a Week 1 tie against the Texans. They haven’t won here since Andrew Luck was under center in 2014. That’s seven consecutive losses in the 904. The Jaguars went 1-15 in 2020 and Indianapolis was their lone win. It’s similar to Jacksonville’s struggles in Nashville, a place where the Jaguars haven’t won at since 2013.
For all of Jacksonville’s struggles, it could realistically find itself in the mix in the AFC South conversation for no reason other than the other three teams in it don’t appear to be particularly dominant either. The Titans (0-1) and Texans (0-0-1) didn’t look like world beaters in Week 1. The Jaguars didn’t either, but they did flash potential in their 28-22 loss to Washington.
They have to tackle better, especially with running back Jonathan Taylor leading the ground game.
“That was our message. In the first game, we didn’t tackle well, and with this guy coming in, we all are accountable for that,” said defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell. “We have to be there ready to get him down. That’s been stressed that we have to gang tackle him and get multiple guys to the ball.”
Quarterback Matt Ryan, who landed in Indianapolis after the team dealt Carson Wentz to the Commanders, gives the Colts a steady presence under center. But he’s not as dangerous as Taylor is for the Colts.
Jacksonville enters the Colts game healthy, which is surprising in the violent nature of the NFL. The Jaguars have a clean injury report. Indianapolis has receiver Alec Pierce and linebacker Shaquille Leonard out for the game. Three others, including receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, are questionable.
“It’s rare. There’s usually a couple guys early in the season, typically, that are limited during the week, but it’s just a credit to the players, how well they’ve taken care of themselves through camp,” Pederson said. “Coming out of last week’s game healthy, there’s always going to be bumps and bruises each week, but for the most part, everybody’s feeling good.”
If there were a phrase to describe Jacksonville’s Week 1 showing against Washington, it would be simple to pick it out — too many missed opportunities. Those came in the ways of busted coverage in the secondary and numerous missed tackles. Ill-timed penalties and missed pass opportunities. The Jaguars coaching staff said that mistakes such as those were correctable through film study and coaching
“Yeah, it kind of just felt like we missed opportunities. A little bit of missed opportunities of things that were there that we didn’t execute at the highest level on,” said offensive coordinator Press Taylor.
“Even some things that you just kind of shoot ourselves in the foot. Illegal formation, illegal shift, some things that don’t need to happen that we’re in complete control of, and we understand that. We’re working to rectify that situation.”