JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and team reporter Kainani Stevens offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars as they head into the 2023 Week 9 bye.
John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer…
- Offensive standout. We're using this Week 9 Quick Thoughts as something of a midseason review. Instead of all three contributors choosing an Offensive and Defensive Most Valuable Player – a process that too easily could prove repetitive – the task instead is to discuss a Jaguars offensive and defensive player who has stood out through eight games of the 2023 season. The thought here is running back Travis Etienne Jr. likely would be the offensive Most Valuable Player because of his eight touchdowns and consistent ability to make big plays at critical times. But this observer will go with wide receiver Calvin Ridley as an offensive standout. He hasn't been as consistently productive as Etienne, but make no mistake: Ridley's addition has mattered to this offense a great deal. He was a key offensively in a Week 1 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, and the Jaguars likely wouldn't have beaten the Buffalo Bills at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in Week 5 if not for Ridley repeatedly producing critical, drive-sustaining third-down conversions. Ridley thus far has played through double teams and shaded defenses, managing to create important plays at big times. The thought here is the best in this vein is yet to come.
- Defensive standout. The thought here is that the defensive Most Valuable Player – and perhaps the Jaguars' most valuable player overall – is outside linebacker Josh Allen. And his nine sacks through eight games make him a Pro Bowl favorite on pace for a career-best season. But the player who has stood out through eight games from this view is cornerback Darious Williams, who many considered a possible liability at outside corner and who instead is playing near a Pro Bowl level. Not only does Williams have three interceptions, but he has made plays when it mattered with a momentum-changing interception off Bills quarterback Josh Allen while covering wide receiver Stefon Diggs in the Jaguars' Week 5 victory a week after his pick-six interception helped solidify the Jaguars' Week 4 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. There are multiple candidates for the Jaguars' Most Improved Player, inside linebacker Devin Lloyd and defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi among them. But Williams stands out as a player having a bigtime season for a defensive unit that has been the strength of this team through eight games.
Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent …
- Rookie right tackle Anton Harrison is my offensive standout. The Jaguars' offensive line already this season has featured two left tackles, three left guards and two right guards – but only one right tackle. Harrison has allowed up some pressures and committed a few flags for holding penalties, but by and large he has been a solid addition and is getting better every game. He has the feet of a left tackle after playing on the left side at Oklahoma, and he has been strong on the edge. No one gets excited when their team picks a right tackle with its first-round draft pick, but Harrison has the look of a long-term starter and maybe one of the NFL's best right tackles if he continues to get better week to week.
- Defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi is my defensive standout. Big things were expected from Fatukasi when the Jaguars signed him as an unrestricted free agent in 2022, but a lingering injury kept him from playing to his potential. The Jaguars enter the bye week allowing fewer than 80 rushing yards per game, and Fatukasi is a big reason why. He's compact, powerful and understands how to get and play with leverage in the middle of all that humanity. He also has given the defense some push at the top of the pocket in pass-rush situations, which is more than they expected. He's as important as any player not named Josh Allen or Darious Williams in this team's success on defense to date.
Kainani Stevens, Jaguars Team Reporter/Producer ...
- Offensive standout. After missing the first four games of the season due to suspension, veteran left tackle Cam Robinson's impact on the offensive line was felt immediately upon his return. Etienne has benefited from Robinson blocking in the run game and the offensive line had its best game of the season against the New Orleans Saints. I think Robinson's experience and energy gives some toughness to the group that they lacked before. Harrison has also shown vast improvement lately and has credited Robinson with helping him adjust to the pros.
- Defensive standout. You could not ask for a better start to the season for Allen. He has been playing like a man on fire and has already surpassed his total sack total for last year in just eight games. The combination of Allen and outside linebacker Travon Walker on the edge has been a key part of the success of the defense this year. In a contract year, Allen has earned every penny of the lucrative deal he has coming his way in the offseason.
Defense has been the heart of this team in the first half of the season 💪 Swipe through our standout defensive shots so far and prepare for another great 9 games ahead ➡️