FOX Sports activities Cowboys author Dave Helman previews the AFC South division headlining the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, and the Houston Texans. How will rookie QBs Anthony Richardson and C.J. Stroud fare for the Colts and the Texans? Can the Titans nonetheless win the division? Are the Jaguars the brand new favorites now? Take a look at Helman’s takes right here!
The 2022 Jaguars pulled off some of the memorable seasons in franchise historical past.
They turned a 2-6 begin into Jacksonville’s first division title since 2017. They pulled off the third-largest comeback in NFL playoff historical past to knock off the Chargers within the AFC wild-card spherical. They got here inside a landing of an AFC Championship Sport look.
The expectations for the staff are increased than they have been in years getting into 2023.
Following the offseason program, listed here are probably the most urgent questions going through the Jags:
In a quarterback-driven league, Lawrence’s continued rise is the only largest domino for the Jaguars to keep up endurance within the AFC in 2023 and past.
The previous No. 1 total decide bought sizzling on the finish of final season, performing like one of many NFL’s finest and most effective quarterbacks during the last 9 weeks — a span throughout which he accomplished greater than 70% of his passes for two,273 yards and 15 touchdowns with simply two interceptions. The NFL world must see if that is really what he has develop into or if that was extra of an outlier, as a result of the primary half of final season, his play was outlined by inconsistency. Lawrence accomplished simply 64% of his throws for 10 touchdowns with six picks within the first eight weeks of 2022.
The inspiration is in place for him to show he is really on the ascent. He has the identical playcaller (coach Doug Pederson) and offensive coordinator (Press Taylor). The Jaguars are additionally returning 9 of 11 offensive starters, plus including Ridley.
The continuity in personnel, teaching and scheme positions Lawrence to have a monster 12 months 3.
Doug Pederson on Lawrence: “You may put the staff on his again.”
2. What’s the go rush going to seem like?
That is the most important query mark with Jacksonville forward of coaching camp.
Regardless of posting the NFL’s third-highest strain price final season (32.9%), the Jaguars tied for twenty fifth in sacks (thirty fifth). And on paper, it is onerous to say their go rush shall be on the degree it was final yr, not to mention present enchancment.
Reserve exterior linebacker Arden Key left in free company to signal with the Titans, whereas defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot — who tore his Achilles in Week 16 final season — stays an unrestricted free agent. They represented a big chunk of the staff’s pass-rush manufacturing.
That places an amazing quantity of strain on Josh Allen and Travon Walker, the No. 1 total decide in final yr’s draft, to develop into a productive tandem. Allen hasn’t reached double-digit sacks since his rookie yr in 2019, whereas Walker — who’s by no means put up large sack numbers courting again to his time at Georgia — had simply 3.5 sacks and an 8.9% strain price as a rookie final season.
There’s optimism throughout the group that each can increase their recreation, although. Allen is getting into a contract yr. Walker now has a season underneath his belt taking part in on the sting after primarily lining up inside at Georgia.
There are nonetheless a number of veteran go rushers out there within the free company market, together with ex-Jaguar Yannick Ngakoue, who had 9.5 sacks with the Colts final season. Smoot is an choice to re-sign, too.
On paper, Ridley — who’ll make his debut for the Jaguars this season after serving a year-long suspension for violating the NFL’s playing coverage — offers Jacksonville a confirmed No. 1 receiver who ought to take strain off a few of the different pass-catchers.
However how lengthy will it take Ridley to regain his peak type?
Jaguars coaches and those that know Ridley have informed FOX Sports activities that he is in nice form forward of his comeback season. That does not imply it will not take him some time to get again into recreation form, although.
The Jaguars had been cautious about his workload in the course of the offseason program due to his prolonged absence. He hasn’t performed in a recreation since October 2021. His final 100-yard receiving recreation was in December 2020.
Ridley’s affect could possibly be extra gradual than instantaneous.
Colin Cowherd: Why Jaguars shall be AFC’s No. 1 seed in 2023
Basic supervisor Trent Baalke informed reporters in April that he hoped to ink Engram, the staff’s franchise-tagged tight finish, to a long-term extension earlier than coaching camp, so the race is on.
Engram, who had 73 receptions for 766 yards and 4 touchdowns with Jacksonville final season, has not signed his tag and didn’t take part within the offseason program.
It is unclear the place contract talks stand, however staff observers have been led to consider either side are motivated to get a deal performed. Engram was a vital safety blanket for Lawrence over the center of the sector in 2022, and the tight finish loved a profession yr. After the season, he bought emotional when talking to reporters about what Jacksonville had performed for him after an up-and-down begin to his profession with the Giants.
Engram and the Jaguars have till July 17 to achieve phrases on a multi-year deal earlier than he’d must play out 2023 on the tag. A franchised participant should signal his tag earlier than the Tuesday following Week 10 to stay eligible to play the season.
Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports activities. He beforehand labored for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Community, the place he was the Titans beat author for a yr and a half. He lined the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for 3 seasons (2018-20) previous to transferring to Tennessee. You may observe Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.
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