The Jacksonville Jaguars received a lot of hype ahead of the 2023 season: Trevor Lawrence was an “ascending young quarterback” and the skill positions on offense were supposed to be top-notch. The defense was going to improve greatly with a second year under Mike Caldwell. Travon Walker would start producing once he figured out the NFL, and Josh Allen is in a contract year. So far, none of that has happened and the Jaguars are struggling again.
Usually after a big conference game, a recap and review of the team’s performance is in order. After a game like the Jaguars played against the Texans on Sunday, the recap is simple. The Jacksonville Jaguars were horrible in every phase of the game. They could not get any pressure on rookie CJ Stroud. They also could not tackle consistently, their receivers were terrible, and their quarterback was worse.
It is only week three. The Jaguars could easily turn the season around and start playing well. After three weeks of playing poorly, however, the question has to be asked, “Is this a good team?” Almost every expert picked the Jaguars to win the AFC South. Many people foresaw the team making a jump to the upper echelon of the league. The problem with the preseason hype is that, at some point, that hype has to turn into wins. If the first three weeks of the season tell us anything, it tells us that the Jacksonville Jaguars were at best overhyped and at worst just plain bad.
Jaguars Must Find a Way to Turn Season Around
At Some Point, a Team is Just Not Good
The Jaguars have not played a good game yet this year. In week one, the Jaguars defense made dynamic but raw Anthony Richardson look as accurate as former Braves pitcher Greg Maddux. The following game, against the best quarterback in the NFL, the team just never showed up and never really competed with the Chiefs. Yesterday, against the Texans, only Travis Etienne even seemed to realize an NFL game was being played. The rest of the team just did not show up.
After the first two weeks, there were built-in excuses for the poor play. Early in the season, every team is shaking off rust to some extent. Week two was against the defending Super Bowl champs and the consensus best quarterback in the game. While the play in the first two games was poor, it was expected that the Jaguars would put everything together and play a complete game against the lowly Texans. They did not. After three bad games in a row, one has to wonder at what point bad play on the football field means a team is just not that good.
Sunday’s Loss Was a Total Team Effort
On offense, Calvin Ridley had the same number of drops (2) and false start penalties (2) in the first half as he did receptions (2). He looked a lot more like a guy who has not played for two years than a top-tier receiver. Trevor Lawrence threw a horrible interception on the most important drive in the second half when it looked like the Jaguars still had a chance. Jamal Agnew cannot hold onto the ball on offense. The offensive line was as bad as they had been all year, and when Anton Harrison went out they looked even worse. The one bright spot was Travis Etienne who, by the third quarter, was effectively taken out of the game.
The Jaguar defense, if possible, played worse than their offense. After being sacked 11 times in his first two games, CJ Stroud was barely touched. He had all the time in the world to stand in the pocket and make throw after throw. Josh Allen and Travon Walker were virtual no-shows. Tackling was also a huge problem all game. Nobody could bring down any Texan on first contact, and second-chance yards were the norm. If that was not bad enough, the defensive backfield gave up huge plays all game. Especially the final Texans touchdown when nobody was even close to Tank Dell.
If you were wondering if things could get any worse, the Jaguars special teams said, “Here, hold my coat.” In the kicking game, Brandon McManus missed one field goal and had another blocked. Those two things alone make for a bad special teams day. Then, something happened on special teams that had not happened for more than 50 years in the NFL. Andrew Beck, the Texan’s fullback, returned a Jaguars kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. Beck initially misplayed the kick, dropped it, picked it up, and then outran the entire Jaguars special teams for 85 yards and a touchdown.
2023 Looks a Lot Like 2018
The last time the Jaguars went to the playoffs, before the 2022 season, was in 2017. The Jaguars were one bad call away from beating Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, but they ended up narrowly losing the game. Entering the 2018 season, everyone in the city believed the Jaguars had finally turned the corner. After years and years of bad football in Jacksonville, there was hope. Then, the Jaguars proceeded to go 5-11 in 2018, 6-10 in 2019, and 1-15 in 2020.
Through three games, 2023 is starting to look a lot like 2018. The city of Jacksonville was excited about what could happen after the team’s surprising run to the playoffs in 2022. Everything was setting up perfectly for the Jaguars to continue to improve and perhaps even compete for that elusive Super Bowl appearance. After losing to one of the worst teams in the NFL yesterday, a 2018 repeat seems a lot more attainable than a deep run in the playoffs.
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