JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars as they prepare to play the Baltimore Ravens in a 2022 Week 12 game at TIAA Bank Field Sunday
John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer
- Not so silly. The Jaguars returned from the bye this week a rested team – and a strikingly confident one. Despite a 3-7 record and six losses in seven games – and despite five games remaining against teams with winning records – Jaguars players this week have emphasized that their preseason objectives of an AFC South title and a postseason berth remain the goal. "Everybody's believing and nobody's cashing it in," wide receiver Christian Kirk said, with defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot adding: "We know the games we have to win." Smoot cited the three remaining AFC South games – two games against the Tennessee Titans and one against the Houston Texans – as critical. While a run to the postseason likely will require at least six victories and therefore is perhaps unrealistic, an impressive final seven games is very possible – even against a schedule that includes games against Baltimore (7-3), Dallas (7-3), the New York Jets (6-4) and Tennessee (7-3). This team, after all, has lost six games by a score or less and squandered multiple scoring opportunities in 27-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. It's very reasonable to think they will be in most if not all remaining games. It's not that silly to think they could improve enough to turn a few of those close losses to victories.
- A big seven games. With or without a run to the postseason, the final seven games are important for the franchise – particularly for quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft has made significant strides in the first 10 games of the season. He has five games with a passer rating of 100 or more after having one last season. He has dramatically improved his accuracy from last season, as well as his touchdown-interception ratio. He also has been resilient, recovering from perhaps his worst NFL game – and the worst criticism he has faced at any level of football – against the Denver Broncos in London to play two of his best, most-consistent NFL games in the last two games before this past Sunday's bye. Make no mistake: Lawrence still must prove his early-season turnover issues in the red zone are mostly in the past. And he must eventually begin turning in special plays in addition to routine ones. But if his last seven games generally look like his last two games before the bye then you'll feel great about his future entering the offseason. This franchise and fan base really need that to be the case.
Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent…
- The Jaguars are ninth in the NFL in offensive yards. They're ninth in time of possession and 11th in third-down conversion percentage, so they can move the ball and control the clock – as evidenced by their position near the top of the league in drives of 10 plays or longer. That's significant progress, but they're 19th in points and that's a big reason why this team has only three wins. Head Coach Doug Pederson and Lawrence can push this team forward through a challenging seven-game schedule if they start converting all those yards into points. They've scored touchdowns on only 54 percent of red-zone trips and on only 67 percent of goal-to-go situations. The defense isn't performing well enough to shut anyone down, which means the offense must take advantage of every opportunity. The unit didn't do that in Kansas City – or for that matter in Indianapolis, London or Washington. They must do it to beat the Ravens.
- Bend but don't break. The Jaguars' defense isn't a shutdown unit, though it looked that way early. The hole at cornerback left by Shaq Griffin has hobbled the pass rush and it has been a downward slide for most of the last seven weeks. Help isn't on the way; they're either going to flip a switch somewhere and start getting to the quarterback and creating turnovers or they're not. Let's assume they can't find that switch. Then they can bend and bend and bend, but they can't break. Defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell must find the call or scheme that breaks serve in the fourth quarter and gives the ball back to Lawrence and the offense. They need more help on defense, but there is enough talent there to get off the field a few times a game. They can bend but they can't break again if they want to make something more of this season.