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Jaguars Offseason Focus: Getting Bigger, Stronger, More Physical in the Trenches

012624 Baalke - Getting Stronger

JACKSONVILLE – The bottom line? The lines must improve.

Among the themes and storylines from Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke's season-ending media availability Thursday, perhaps that stood out: The Jaguars must improve many areas moving forward.

And they must be more physical.

"We've got to get bigger, we've got to get stronger, we've got to get more physical in the trenches," Baalke said.

The Jaguars, after winning the AFC South title in 2022, started 2023 8-3 before losing five of the last six games to miss the postseason and lose the division by a game. After rushing for more than 100 yards in seven of the first 10 games, they did so only once in the final seven games.

They started the season as one of the NFL's best run defenses, but allowed 150 or more yards rushing in three key late-season losses – 156 at home to Cincinnati in Week 13, 251 to Baltimore in Week 15 and 175 to Tennessee in Week 18.

"When you can't run the football and -- later in the year – you can't stop the run, that's a problem in the National Football League," Baalke said. "We've always prided ourselves on being able to do that; run the football, stop the run. For whatever reason, we weren't able to do that. I think there's a lot of moving parts to that. I don't think it's just player related, I don't think it's just scheme related.

"If you want to compete for championships, you have to do that. I think we've got some good pieces in there, we have some good young players in there, but we have to get better."

The Jaguars in 2023 rushed effectively at times but were also inconsistent in the area. They had 120 runs gain zero yards or lose yardage, with a league-high 26.5 percent of their rushes falling into those categories. Their 3.6 yards per carry ranked 31st in the NFL.

After allowing 87.3 yards per game through 11 games, the Jaguars allowed 131.8 yards rushing in the final six games.

"It's never just one thing," Baalke said. "There was a huge falloff. Why? A lot of things factor into that. Players have to trust one another. When you start to search for plays and you start to search for answers, whether it's coaches searching for answers or players searching to make plays and not playing within the scheme of the defense … it's all it takes for an explosive play.

"We gave up way too many explosive plays as the season went on, we didn't protect the ball. We didn't take the ball away. There's a lot of things that factor into it. We feel like we have some good players, and we showed that through the first 10 games.

"Being able to stop the run very consistently, we didn't do that at the end. We have to look at why."


  • Baalke on what must happen to improve in 2024: "If I look at it from a big picture, create an identity. Who are we? Offensively, defensively, special teams, I felt we did that towards the end of last year. I'm not so sure we got to that point this year. That's No. 1. You've got to have an identity. Who are you?"


  • Baalke on Thursday also addressed the need for young players to contribute as they develop. "We feel we have some pretty good football players," he said. "Sometimes, you have to execute the vision that you had for these players. Coach (Head Coach Doug Pederson) and I have talked a lot about this year's draft class in particular. The onboarding process of them, getting them up to speed, trusting them. You're in a developmental league now. You don't have time to say that we can shelf them for a year or shelf them for two years. You got to get them up to speed quick. It's not one person making these decisions. When you look at bringing in a player and the vision you have for them, at the end of the day, you got to ask yourself, 'Did we execute that vision or didn't we?' I think if you ask Coach and certainly you're asking me right now, we've got to do a better job of that vision and executing it. We feel really good about the young players we got. Have they all reached their potential? Not yet."


  • Baalke on Thursday spoke extensively of his relationship with Pederson. He spoke specifically of a collaborative effort, saying: "I can tell you this, I have supported every decision that he makes, 100 percent. We have discussions, we get through with the discussions, whether it's the draft, free agency, coaches, personnel staff, support staff, we go through the process and we talk about everything. At the end of the day, once a decision is made, we make it and we move on. I'm 100 percent behind anything Coach decides because I've been factored into it. I've been a part of those discussions."

Over the course of 18 weeks, Jaguars players, coaches, staff and the ROAR prepared to bring their best on game days. Swipe through top photos of game day prep for the 2023 season.

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