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Quick thoughts: On to Week 1


JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and digital reporter/host Ashlyn Sullivan offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars as they prepare to play the Washington Commanders at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., Sunday at 1 p.m. in a 2022 Week 1 game …

John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer

1. What to trust. Let's face it: There's little absolutely, positively trustworthy about a team that has won four games in two seasons and underwent change on a scale as massive as the Jaguars this past offseason. But if you're looking for an area to trust entering 2022, go with the defensive front seven. The Jaguars invested here in a major way in the offseason by selecting outside linebacker Travon Walker, inside linebacker Devin Lloyd and Chad Muma in the 2022 NFL Draft and signing inside linebacker Foye Oluokun and defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi as unrestricted free agents. The presence of outside linebacker Josh Allen was just one reason Head Coach Doug Pederson thought of the front as a strength even before those additions. The Jaguars believe they will improve against the run. If so, that should help them be in far better pass-rush situations. In turn, that should help them improve dramatically on a league-low nine turnovers forced last season. This seems sure to be a strength in 2022. Just how strong will go a long way to determining how much the Jaguars improve this season.

2. What to watch. This is an obvious "take," but the Jaguars' overriding early-season storyline remains quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Even with change practically everywhere else on the roster, how Lawrence develops – and how he fares in his first season in Pederson's offense – will be the dominant factor in how the offense performs. Lawrence showed significant improvement in 2022 Training Camp and preseason, daily flashing the skills that made him the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Pederson has talked extensively in recent weeks of being impressed with everything about Lawrence, particularly his off-field approach and maturity. All of that bodes well for the short- and long-term future of Lawrence and the franchise. What form that takes, and how quickly he develops, will define the franchise for the foreseeable future whatever else happens around the organization.

Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent…

1. What are the odds? If running backs James Robinson and Travis Etienne Jr. both contribute meaningfully Sunday, it will be a remarkable return for both players. Etienne has looked sharp, sudden and without limitations as he worked his way toward his first regular-season action after his Lisfranc injury last preseason. The injury – a broken bone on top of the foot – can be a career-ender for a running back, so his return is a triumph for him and the Jaguars' medical team. Robinson, though, might be a bigger story if his return from a torn Achilles tendon is anywhere close to as successful as that of Etienne. Talking to folks in the medical field who know, the advances in technology and surgical procedures regarding Achilles injuries have improved dramatically. That's why Robinson – like Cam Akers of the Los Angeles Rams – can return in less than a year. I've had my doubts about both being players you could count on with their injuries, at least in 2022. If both make it back, it's a sensational story – and it could be the difference between five-to-six wins and seven-to-eight wins this season.

2. Life in the shadows. All the attention around the Jaguars' defense has been on the pass rush – and for good reason. The combination of veteran outside linebacker Josh Allen and rookie outside linebacker Travon Walker has the look of sleepless nights for offensive coaches for years to come. When you mix in defensive lineman Arden Key and outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson, you have a deep rotation. But it's the big guys inside that have my attention because they will make it all work. The Jaguars must stop the run this season after allowing 129 yards per game in 2021, which means defensive linemen Roy Robertson-Harris, DaVon Hamilton, and Foley Fatukasi must be at the top of their game. They showed us in very limited action in August that they're more than capable of controlling the line of scrimmage. These guys aren't going to get enough credit. That's the way it goes in a 3-4 scheme with all the linebackers getting the glory for the tackles and sacks. But unless they stop the run, they won't be able to chase the quarterback. It all starts up front and inside in Jacksonville in 2022.

Ashlyn Sullivan, Jaguars Team Reporter…

1. One-two-punch. Robinson and Etienne are back, with both smirking Wednesday when discussing the impact the other will make on this offense. "We're going to be really fast," Robinson said matter-of-factly. Etienne joked that Robinson can now take on all the inside zone attempts for this season. It speaks volumes that both players are back Week 1 after season-ending injuries last season. This is the show we have all been waiting for … having these two dynamic playmakers on the field at the same time. We get to see that on Sunday. Isn't that something?

2. Who are the Jaguars? This is such a big-picture question that no one can answer it right now except the coaches and players inside TIAA Bank Field. Pederson gave a broad answer on how he would like this team to be defined, speaking about having an identity. Lawrence was more insightful, discussing the Jaguars' pillars of importance on offense – the first being run the ball and having the option to always be explosive downfield. I would take that offensive identity all day. Sunday against the Commanders is the first chance to define this team. With so much change this past offseason, it cannot be stressed enough how important it is for this team to know who they are.

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