JACKSONVILLE – Doug Pederson continues to like what he sees defensively.
The Jaguars' defense through two games of the 2023 regular season has allowed three touchdowns, with the unit playing well Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champions and holding the Kansas City Chiefs 12 points below their average last season.
As the Jaguars' head coach sees it, measuring the defense isn't all about statistics.
"They're playing faster," Pederson said Monday as the Jaguars (1-1) began preparing to play the Houston Texans (0-2) in an AFC South game at EverBank Stadium Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Jaguars in a 17-9 loss to the Chiefs allowed two touchdowns, one on a 50-yard drive. The defense forced two takeaways and the Jaguars have six takeaways in two games.
"They did some great things," Pederson said. "They kept us in the football game, honestly."
The belief around the team entering the season was that a unit that returned all starters and most front-line players – and that was entering a second season in coordinator Mike Caldwell's scheme – would improve because of that continuity and cohesion.
"He's continued to do everything that he needs to do," Jaguars defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi said of Caldwell. "He has given us every opportunity to be in the right positions. He cares about us, most importantly. Obviously, this is his second time in his position, so he's bound to get better. We feel that, and we feel this entire team is getting better."
Pederson called the Jaguars' defensive performance through two games "a credit to the scheme, what Mike's doing in utilizing the personnel this year." Pederson, too, lauded outside linebackers Travon Walker and Josh Allen for improving from last season – and added that the communication in the secondary has improved.
"Two weeks in a row they've kept the offense in the game," he said. "They did it in Indy until the offense got going at the end of the game [in a 31-21 Week 1 victory] and obviously all day [against the Chiefs] they did the same."
He added, "They're stymieing the run and kind of shutting that down other than a couple of quarterback scrambles and some broken plays. They're playing physical, and I think that's kind of the pride for the defense right now."
- Pederson on Monday discussed his decision on fourth-and-5 from the Chiefs 45 with 4:04 remaining in the first half. Defensive tackle Chris Jones sacked Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence on the play, with the Chiefs immediately driving 50 yards on seven plays to take their first lead – 7-3 – on a 9-yard pass from quarterback Patrick Mahomes to wide receiver Skyy Moore with 27 seconds remaining in the second quarter. "Honestly, I probably admit it was a bad decision at that time," Pederson said. "You're trying to make a play. You're putting the team in a situation to make a play. Looking back on it, you probably punt the football right there, especially up at midfield. The defense was playing well, the special teams was playing well and you're looking for us as an offense to just continue that drive."
- Jaguars third-year left tackle Walker Little on rookie right tackle Anton Harrison: "He's doing a great job. He's learning a lot. He's building that confidence. This is a hard league and it takes a lot of live reps, game reps against really good guys. He's going to be a great player. We all know it. He knows it. He just has to keep his confidence. He's a really great player. He works really hard and he's going to be a force for this team."
- Pederson on the offensive line: "I'm not concerned. I've seen these guys work together. One thing about the offensive line is it's a cohesive, close group. Five offensive linemen need to play in unison with one another. There has to be great communication. It felt coming out of the game that our identification and communication were great, but the execution failed. It does take a little bit of time. I think if you look around the NFL right now, there are probably a lot of offensive lines that are sort of trying to figure each other out. I think that's where we are right now."
- Fatukasi on Walker: "He's becoming even more of a student of a game. He was a sponge last year. He's becoming even more of a sponge. He's starting to really find his niche and he's doing a lot of good things."