JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars reached their bye week in Doug Pederson’s first season with a 3-7 record. What’s gone right, what’s gone wrong and what’s realistic to expect over the final seven games? The News4JAX sports staff answers those questions at the bye.
Is what we saw in the first 10 games what you expected?
Justin Barney: I said at the beginning of the season on our News4JAGs podcast that six or seven wins this season was what I expected at the finish. I still think the Jaguars get to that mark. Like many, I do think there was a bit of faux confidence following that 2-1 start. But this is a team that picked No. 1 in the draft the last two years for a reason. Not a total teardown for Pederson but it was a massive undertaking. With how many games Jacksonville has been in this season though, 3-7 is disappointing. More disappointing is my 2-8 mark in the weekly predictions.
Jamal St. Cyr: I expected four wins so three really isn’t that far off. I absolutely did not expect them to win the Chargers game and my bingo card did not include nearly as many one-score losses. The close games are a positive sign of things even if the outcomes of the games have been very disappointing.
Cole Pepper: If you asked me what I would have expected before the season began, I would have expected the Jaguars to have four or five wins by this point. They certainly can make the case they SHOULD have that many wins. If you asked me after week three, I would have expected more, but I think while the progress has been slower than hoped for, it is progress nonetheless and the major issues that plagued the franchise last year are a thing of the past.
What has gone right and what has gone wrong in Pederson’s first year?
JB: It was culture reset for Pederson after the Urban Meyer debacle. Things have changed in that regard. Pederson is an actual NFL coach and he’s had to clean up the Meyer mess. The locker room is different this year than it was in 2021. That’s one very big slice of positive from Pederson. The product on the field is better, too. What’s gone wrong is easy — the Jaguars just haven’t found out how to close out games.
JS: Well the team is 3-7 so not much has gone right. But the positive strides from Trevor Lawrence even if they have been inconsistent have been the biggest positive under Pederson’s leadership so far. The biggest wrong has been the defense. The Jaguars have invested a ton of money and draft pick in the defense and early in the season they looked poise for big things but since then they have completely fallen apart. No way to describe the Jags defense without using the word disappointing.
CP: The biggest thing that has gone right is the return to looking like a professional outfit again. After looking like a clown show that had been tossed into a flaming pile of garbage then pushed off the rails, the Jaguars look like an NFL team that is not yet good, but not terrible. So, let’s call it progress. I think it took a while for Pederson to figure out what kind of a team he had. He’s still figuring it out because the young players, the team is in flux as the season goes on. The rookie wall has hit a few key players already. Those issues shouldn’t be a problem next year.
Who are your most valuable players on the Jaguars for the first 10 games?
JB: For me, Travis Etienne on the offensive side of the ball and Tyson Campbell on the defensive side. We saw Campbell turn the corner last season and he’s built off that. Paired with a likely high draft pick next year on the other side, Campbell is a rising star. Those cornerback slots in 2023 have the potential to be elite if the team parts ways with Shaquill Griffin, which is likely. Etienne’s rookie season was wiped out by injury but he has looked like the real deal since being put into the No. 1 back role. Etienne has shown a big play ability that Jacksonville has lacked since Maurice Jones-Drew. He’s been durable and logged a career-high 28 carries in a win over Las Vegas. It would be a surprise if Etienne didn’t eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark by early December.
JS: The Jaguars most valuable player on Offense has been Travis Etienne. He narrowly edged out Kirk for me. Etienne adds the home run threat that the Jaguars offense has missed for years now. On Defense Foye Oluokun’s leadership has been huge. He has been consistent so far this season and gives the Jaguars a linebacker that doesn’t leave the field and can help get other players lined up.
CP: Tyson Campbell has been the best player on the Jagaurs this year, followed by Logan Cooke and Travis Etienne. I would also give a shoutout to center Luke Fortner who has been more than steady as a rookie. That’s a lot of pressure on a rookie.
There are seven games left in the regular season. What would you consider a success?
JB: It’s a tough, tough schedule after the bye, including games against the Ravens, Cowboys and two against the Titans. I think a 3-4 record would be solid. A 4-3 mark would be long odds, but doable.
JS: Looking at the second-half schedule it is far from a cakewalk. Anything more than two wins is a success in my book.
CP: My minimum expectation for success it to beat the Lions and Texans and to be competitive in the other five games. Three wins or more should be reason for celebration.