JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Frank Frangie, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton, J.P. Shadrick and Ashlyn Sullivan – are breaking down the Jaguars as the 2022 NFL season approaches; today: the key to the Jaguars contending in '22
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
Key to contending: Let's face it: Everything must improve. The Jaguars need to start off games better. They must score points in the first quarter. A balanced offense would also be huge. The Jaguars' time of possession must improve. On defense, it appears they will be better against the run, which is a must in the AFC South. Takeaways will have to double from the nine they had during the 2021 season.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
Key to contending: The key to contending is doing enough on offense. Take care of the ball. Stay on the field. Convert third downs. They don't have to be great on offense, but they have to help the defense some. They have to be competitive on offense.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
Key to contending: The key to contending this season will be the rest of the division. I don't know if the Jags are ready to contend. I think they are better, but the league is pretty darn good. If Tennessee slides because of age and wide receiver A.J. Brown's departure, and if Indianapolis doesn't get good play from quarterback Matt Ryan, then that could open the door for the Jaguars to make some noise.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
Key to contending: Lawrence's development. This is self-evident, but it can't be overlooked. The Jaguars have improved in a many areas, and they need a strong running game to win. They also must be better against the run and force more turnovers. But they mostly need Lawrence to develop into the franchise-carrying, game-changing, big-play-making quarterback most NFL people believed he would become when he was selected No. 1 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. He was drafted to be the guy. For the Jaguars to contend, he must start looking more like that guy.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
Key to contending: The Jaguars' running game is the key to their rise in 2022. I think the defense has a chance to take a major step forward and I believe we'll see Lawrence become a franchise quarterback before our eyes this season. But if that's to happen, the running game has to take the load off his shoulders and help keep the defense fresh into the fourth quarter. A powerful running game or at least a ground game that Head Coach Doug Pederson can count on will give both sides of the ball a big lift and let Pederson do what he did so well in Philadelphia, which is to swing big and take chances. They have to be able to run the ball and right now, it's the biggest question mark on the team. If they can run, they can win.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
Key to contending: Score more than 14 points per game on average – that low number will not win much of anything in any league. Also, get a good early season start. If they can get through the early road-game gauntlet at .500 or better, then it sets up a tough middle stretch against the AFC West. If they get to December with a chance, then maybe they can find some confidence and make some noise.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Digital reporter and host
Key to contending: Stopping the run. It always has been the key and it always will be with the star running backs in the AFC South. The Jaguars took themselves out of five-plus games last season by the second quarter because teams just knew how to beat them:
"Keep running the ball and they won't be able to stop us."
With Jonathan Taylor of the Colts and Derrick Henry of the Titans – maybe the NFL's two top running backs – in the AFC South, the Jaguars had no choice but to get bigger up front.