JACKSONVILLE – In the third of a series examining the Jaguars' 2023 season, senior writer John Oehser examines the best moments for their wide receivers/tight ends in their 9-8 AFC South runner-up season …
- What a catch. The Jaguars needed a gutsy rally to win their 2023 regular-season opener, with the running game producing two late touchdowns in a 31-21 road victory over the Indianapolis Colts. But some key points and key plays by quarterback Trevor Lawrence – and wide receivers Calvin Ridleyand Zay Jones– kept them in the game for the first three quarters. Ridley against the Colts caught eight passes for 101 yards and a nine-yard touchdown from Lawrence that gave the Jaguars a 7-0 first-quarter lead. Jones turned in perhaps the game's most spectacular play, catching a long pass and getting his knee down just in bounds in the right side of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown and a 14-7 Jaguars lead with 4:56 remaining in the second quarter. An impressive catch and run by Ridley for a 29-yard gain set up Jones' touchdown. "I think we're going in the right direction and I just think that's the most important part," Ridley said.
- That guy. Ridley caught 76 passes for 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns in 2023, making multiple memorable plays and playing a key role in multiple victories. But perhaps his biggest game came in the Jaguars' 25-20 Week 5 victory over the Buffalo Bills at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. Ridley against the Bills caught seven passes for 122 yards and rushed twice for 14 yards. All seven of Ridley's receptions that day resulted in Jaguars first downs. After the Bills cut the lead to 18-13 with 4:03 remaining, Ridley turned in turned in his biggest play of the game when he got behind Bills cornerback Tyrel Dodson for a 32-yard reception from Lawrence to the Bills 37 on third-and-4 from the Jaguars 31. That led to a game-clinching 35-yard touchdown run by running back Travis Etienne Jr.with 2:56 remaining. "Calvin Ridley was the guy out there; he is that guy," Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen said of Ridley.
- Speed when needed. One of the Jaguars' most memorable victories of the 2023 season came in Week 7, when they beat the New Orleans Saints 31-24 on the road on Thursday Night Football. The biggest play of that game came from one of their most reliable players when wide receiver Christian Kirkturned a short pass into the game-winning touchdown. On second-and-8 from the Saints 44 with just over three minutes remaining, Lawrence found Kirk on a crossing route. The veteran caught the pass in front of Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu around the Saints 42, broke a tackle by defensive back Jordan Howden around the eight and stepped down the right sideline into the end zone for a 44-yard touchdown and a 31-24 lead with 3:09 remaining. "I don't think I've run that fast since, like, college," Kirk said. "That was some vintage stuff, I guess, but I'm glad I was able to do it in that moment."
- Reliable, consistent. Jaguars tight end Evan Engram turned in a remarkable season in 2023, catching 114 passes for 963 yards and four touchdowns – two receptions shy of the NFL single-season record for tight ends and two receptions shy of wide receiver Jimmy Smith's Jaguars single-season record. Engram finished with four games with 10 or more receptions and had at least four receptions in every game. Among his best games: A 10-reception, 88-yard game in which he caught every pass intended for him in a 20-10 Week 8 road victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. "There's nothing surprising about this one," Engram said of the victory. "It's just probably more affirmation of what we already know, who we can be and what we're capable of."
- Two on the Titans. Ridley had multiple highlight moments in his first season with the Jaguars after being traded from the Atlanta Falcons. Ridley had four 100-yard games and two multi-touchdown games in 2023, meeting both marks in the Jaguars' 34-14 Week 11 home victory over the Tennessee Titans. Ridley caught seven passes for 103 yards that day, with his 3-yard touchdown reception giving the Jaguars a 7-0 first-quarter lead and his 20-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter making it 27-0 with 3:22 remaining in the third quarter. "That was huge, to have Ridley have a good game," Allen said. "I was waiting for that moment to happen. I knew he was capable of doing that every week."