Fresh off a postseason trip last season, the Jaguars were primed to take that next step into Super Bowl contention this season. Call it a hot take, but it hasn’t happened just yet. Make no mistake, this team has some talent but they haven’t performed to the expectations that were placed upon them this offseason.
Under head coach Doug Pederson, the team has been good, not great.
Offensively, the unit has been average. Despite being ranked 12th in total offense, the unit ranks 17th in EPA/per play. Basically, they are average.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who suffered a high ankle sprain on Monday night and whose status is up in the air for Sunday, from a statistical standpoint hasn’t been great (he’s been fine) ranking 9th in EPA/per play.
Running back Travis Etienne leads the rushing attack along with former Cleveland RB D’Ernest Johnson, both are questionable for Sunday’s game. The receiver room is average. Wide receiver Christian Kirk will undergo core muscle surgery after suffering the injury on Monday night. That leaves Calvin Ridley, Zay Jones and rookie Parker Washington to pick up the workload.
Tight end Evan Engram is also a threat in the passing game.
Defensively, the unit (like the offense) is average as there are some holes that you can exploit. Outside linebacker Josh Allen is in the midst of a contract year and is outplaying his current deal.
12th in defensive efficiency but 24th in total defense, the Jaguars are unique.
Linebacker Foyesade Oluokun has been solid at the linebacker position but the secondary has received mixed reviews from the fanbase. Safety Andre Cisco has been solid in the backend while cornerback Tyson Campbell has received mixed reviews from the Jacksonville fanbase.
Campbell is also questionable for Sunday’s game.
LB Josh Allen (not the quarterback)
If you were to create a Defensive Player of the Year candidate list, it would be unfair not to include Josh Allen on the list. Allen is having a career year in the midst of being owed a new contract after this season.
Jaguars EDGE pressure and win-rate rankings (per PFF) among 112 players with at least 100 rushes through Week 13.— John Shipley (@_John_Shipley) December 6, 2023
Josh Allen: 4th in pressures, 8th in win-rate
Travon Walker: 28th in pressures, 68th in win-rate
K'Lavon Chaisson: 95 in pressures, 87th in win-rate
Dawuane Smoot:… https://t.co/7tWQ90aDcc
Josh Allen incredible season continues. And man, what an awful decision by Tyler Boyd squashing all Cincy momentum leading to another Jaguars TD: pic.twitter.com/oRN0vMaAe4— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) December 5, 2023
When you watch Allen, the first thing that stands out is his size. He’s big and he has good power to pressure the quarterback. He’s the second-best player on the team and the Jaguars defense wouldn’t go places without him.
For Cleveland, it’s imperative that they don’t allow him to take over the game. Against the Houston Texans, he made crucial sacks in the 4th quarter which helped Jacksonville in the long run and Monday night he was all over the field whether it was getting to the quarterback or forcing turnovers.
Look for Cleveland to double-team Allen or bring tight end help in the passing game.
WR Parker Washington
With Kirk being out of the lineup due to injury, the Jags wide receiver room will look for other contributors to step up in his absence. Enter rookie wide receiver Parker Washington. During the draft, Washington was someone that I believed Cleveland should’ve taken a chance on. His film was good, and his skill set would’ve fit in Cleveland’s passing game.
He fell to the 6th round and Jacksonville was able to pick him up. After Kirk went down on Monday night, Washington was thrust into the starting lineup. He made the most out of his opportunity:
In terms of his YAC ability (yards after the catch) he can find ways to generate yards even though his speed is not up to par. He can be tough to bring down and has the ability to create an explosive play.
Cleveland’s secondary will likely be at full strength with cornerback Denzel Ward coming back to the lineup which will allow the secondary to be whole. Look for Cleveland to match up with him with either Greg Newsome, Martin Emerson or rookie Cam Mitchell.
TE Evan Engram
If there is someone who has found success in a new home after a rocky start in their career, it’s Evan Engram. Engram was trending toward the bust category during his time with the New York Giants until he found a new home in Duval County.
Engram has been a solid pass-catching option for Jacksonville since he was signed and is getting better each and every game. Great run after-the-catch ability and good hands, Engram has been reliable.
On Monday night, he helped the Jaguars get into field goal range to force overtime against the Cincinnati Bengals and with the loss of Kirk his usage is likely to go up.
Cleveland’s safeties have fared well against tight ends this season at times but Engram has the size and speed to change the outcome of a game. Safety Grant Delpit will be prepared for this matchup.
Which of these three do you think could have the biggest impact on Sunday’s results?