‘Unfinished business’: Jaguars have big picture outlook in mind

Jacksonville has things to fix, but win in Week 1 was a great start as Chiefs game looms

Jamal Agnew of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs up the field in the second half of a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 10, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) (Andy Lyons, 2023 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars were happy to win on Sunday, but they’re well past being just happy about their favored status in the AFC.

Jacksonville has greater goals and a bigger-picture mindset than just winning its regular season opener.

The Jaguars handled things in their opener on Sunday, surging back to beat the Colts in Indianapolis 31-21 for their first win there since 2017. There are worse things than a 10-point win against a division opponent. It wasn’t the cleanest of wins from an offensive standpoint.

The Jaguars fumbled three times, lost one, and had a tipped pass turn into an interception. But the Jaguars of old found ways to lose games like that one on Sunday. Finding a way to win instead of being unable to close is a sign of maturity for Doug Pederson’s team. It’s one step, but an even greater one lies ahead Sunday when Kansas City (0-1) visits EverBank Stadium at 1 p.m. in a rematch of the AFC divisional round playoff game, won 27-20 by a gimpy Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

“Yeah, it’s still a work in progress. You saw it around the league I think, with offenses and defenses that Week 1 is not going to decide your season at all. How many times have you seen teams jump out 4-, 5-, 6-0, and then falter in December and January,” coach Doug Pederson said.

“You want to be one of the teams that are going the other direction. You want to be going up in December and January. It was good to get the win, but overall, we’ve got some corrections to make, we’ve got to get better, communication has got to get better, and we’ll work on those this week.”

You don’t have to look back too far to see how much the offense has progressed, and how much the expectations have ballooned in Jacksonville.

In 2020, the Jaguars scored a season high of 30 points once and finished 1-15. In Trevor Lawrence’s rookie season in 2021, the Jaguars scored a season-high 26 points in the final game of the year. Jacksonville didn’t start the best in 2022 but played like a different team in the second half of the season. Lawrence was one of the league’s best quarterbacks in that span and the expectations have followed that progress accordingly.

“I think we just hold ourselves to a high standard. We’re not really on the happy-to-be-here train. I think we’re more so having unfinished business to do, and we know we can do it,” said receiver Zay Jones. “I just think that we’re still very hungry and things weren’t as clean as we want them to be. … I think our mindset is just let’s clean up the mistakes and go play a full game as an offense. A complete from first quarter to fourth quarter, I just think that’s where we’re at right now. Hopefully I can speak for the guys and no one is like, ‘no that’s not true.’”

Beating the Colts and a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach is one thing, but doing it against a legitimate Super Bowl contender is another. That’s why the Chiefs coming to town in Week 2 is a massive barometer for Pederson and the Jaguars. It’s a similar game as a 2018 clash with the Patriots, who beat the Jaguars 24-20 in the 2017 AFC championship game. Jacksonville got New England at home in Week 2 of the 2018 season and demolished the Patriots, 31-20. But instead of building off that win, Jacksonville imploded and went on to finish 5-11. That season set in motion a roster teardown and overhaul.

Jacksonville didn’t play particularly well in two games against Kansas City last year. And don’t think players have forgotten about those meetings last season.

“Personally, it’s a little personal for me because the last two times we played them last year, I wasn’t at my best. For me, it’s personal but at the end of the day, I got a job to do and for me to be where I need to be,” said linebacker Josh Allen. “I also need to know what I’m doing out there. The film study and the preparation takes a full hand. If I continue to do that and continue to practice well, everything else is going to take care of itself and that’s what I want to be more consistent on.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.