Four takeaways: Jaguars positioned well to be a force for years to come

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) runs past Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark (55) during the first half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) (Charlie Riedel, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The Jaguars’ remarkable and memorable season ended in Kansas City with a 27-20 loss to the Chiefs. Here are my four takeaways from this huge turnaround campaign:

Culture cured

The most important thing that happened this season was the total turnaround of the atmosphere of the franchise. After the disastrous year under Urban Meyer, the Jaguars were as low as the franchise had ever been. Enter Doug Pederson. While he said it wouldn’t be an overnight fix, it didn’t take too long to see that the culture was changing. Pederson knew how to treat pros. He earned their trust and it paid major dividends as the Jaguars became the first team to go from the worst record in the league one year, to winning a playoff game the next.

Arrow pointing up

The two most important components of an NFL team are the head coach and the quarterback. The window of opportunity is opened for a long time because the Jaguars have a young rising star at quarterback and an established coach in his mid-50s. It’s the kind of situation that can produce contending teams for a decade or more. It doesn’t guarantee success, but it goes a long way to setting the tone for a successful run.

Rookies need to grow

In order for the Jaguars to take the next step in 2023, this season’s draft class has to take a step forward. There were some good things in spurts from the class. Travon Walker had his moments. Linebackers Devin Lloyd and Chad Muma showed promise. Center Luke Fortner started every game in the middle of the offensive line. There will be some free agent additions, but the core of the team comprised of the last two draft classes must improve if the Jaguars are going to take down the likes of the Chiefs next season.

Offseason will feel different

The past two seasons, the Jaguars have held the first pick in the draft. Not this time. They’ll be selecting 24th in the first round. They also have already added a piece to the puzzle for next season when former first-round pick wide receiver Calvin Ridley joins the team. The Jaguars will try to re-sign tight end Evan Engram, I think. And they’ll need to address nickel corner and try to improve the pass rush. But there aren’t any huge gaping holes like they’ve had too many times over the past decade. Trevor Lawrence said it best after the game. “This won’t be the last you guys hear of us. We’ll be back.”