JACKSONVILLE – In the fourth of a series examining the 2022 Jaguars season, senior writer John Oehser examines the best moments for the Jaguars' defense in their AFC South-title winning season …
- Shutout. The Jaguars started 2022 strong defensively, struggled at times in coverage through the middle weeks, then emerged as a unit by making clutch plays as the team surged to the AFC South title in December and January. The defense was particularly strong in Weeks 2 and 3, holding the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers to a combined 10 points in back-to-back victories. The highlight game of the early season defensively: a 24-0 home victory over the Colts in which the Jaguars allowed 218 total yards and nine first downs. The Jaguars also that day registered five sacks and forced three turnovers. That set a tone for a remarkable statistical turnaround, with the Jaguars finishing third in the NFL with 27 takeaways in 2022 after ranking last with nine in 2021.
- Game-changer. One play can change a game's tempo and momentum, and one huge play – a huge hit – changed both in the Jaguars' 36-22 road victory over the Tennessee Titans on December 11. The Jaguars, who had lost eight consecutive games in Nashville, trailed 14-13 with 2:00 remaining in the first half and the Titans had driven from their 40 to the Jaguars 37. On first-and-10 from there, quarterback Ryan Tannehill passed to running back Derrick Henry – a longtime Jaguars nemesis and one of the NFL's most physical runners. The play gained 16 yards, but Jaguars reserve inside linebacker Shaq Quarterman separated Henry from the ball with a huge hit near the sideline. Outside linebacker Josh Allen recovered with 1:49 remaining in the half. The Jaguars drove from their 22 on their ensuing possession, taking their first lead of the game when wide receiver Zay Jones caught a toe-tapping 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Trevor Lawrence with :14 remaining in the second quarter. The Jaguars, who trailed the Titans by three games entering the game, never trailed in the game again and eventually won the AFC South by two games over the Titans.
- Pick Six in overtime. The Jaguars' defense late in the 2022 season developed a remarkable ability for game-clinching plays – something that first became clear in one of the wildest games of the NFL season. The Jaguars a week after beating the Titans in Nashville, trailed the Dallas Cowboys – one of the NFL's hottest teams at the time and an eventual playoff team – by 17 points in the second half. Shortly after a 59-yard touchdown pass from Lawrence to Zay Jones, Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins intercepted Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to set up another touchdown pass by Lawrence – this one a 10-yarder to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. that pulled the Jaguars to within 27-24. Jenkins, who had 18 tackles in the game, later turned in the game's biggest play. This came on the Cowboys' first overtime possession, when Jenkins intercepted Prescott again and returned it 52 yards for the game-winning touchdown in a 40-34 Jaguars victory.
- Big-time in prime time. Some of the Jaguars' biggest 2022 defensive moments were defined by an individual; others were about the entire unit – and that was the case in a critical late-season prime-time road victory over the New York Jets. Jaguars-Jets was played in wet, cold conditions that made points scarce – and the defense turned in a huge series early when they held the Jets to a field goal after New York recovered a first-possession fumble by Lawrence at the Jaguars 16. Key on that drive was a blitzing sack by second-year safety Andre Cisco on third-and-five from the Jaguars 11. The Jaguars held the Jets scoreless after that drive, registering an interception and recovering a fumble – also stopping the Jets twice on downs in the second half. The Jaguars held the Jets to 227 total yards and 10 first downs, registering three sacks. The Jaguars also held the Houston Texans without a touchdown the following week in a 31-3 road victory.
- Division-clincher. The Jaguars' defense turned in perhaps its biggest moment of 2022 in the biggest regular-season moment – and it was a play that clinched the AFC South title and the franchise's first trip to the postseason since 2017. The Jaguars and Titans played in the regular-season finale on Saturday in prime-time, with the winner winning the division. The Titans led 10-0 early, never trailed in the first three quarters and still led 16-13 in the final minutes. On third-and-six from the Titans 35, Titans quarterback Josh Dobbs dropped to pass. Jenkins, blitzing from Dobbs' left, hit the quarterback hard from behind, forcing a fumble that bounced forward and to Dobbs' right. Allen, dropping in coverage, recovered the fumble on one bounce – and on the run. He returned it 37 yards for a touchdown to give the Jaguars the game-winning – and division-winning – points with 2:51 remaining.
Take a look back at some of the best moments from the Jacksonville Jaguars Safeties for the 2022 Season.
Swipe through to take an inside look at some of the top captured moments of the Jacksonville Jaguars Outside Linebackers for the 2022 Season.