JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and team reporter Kainani Stevens offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars as they prepare to play the San Francisco 49ers at EverBank Stadium Sunday at 1 p.m.
John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer…
- Relax, he's good. Among the odder bye-week happenings around the Jaguars was a notion among some observers that quarterback Trevor Lawrence wasn't performing well. The notion seemingly stems from a lack of eye-catching statistics, with some concern over his nine passing touchdowns through eight games. This questioning might make sense if the Jaguars were losing, or if Lawrence wasn't making big plays at key times. Neither is the case. Lawrence is quarterbacking a team that has won 11 of 13 regular-season games, 12 of 15 games overall. He's quarterbacking a team that leads its division by two games. He turned in a gutsy performance playing through injury in a Week 7 victory at New Orleans, and his fourth-quarter touchdown passes to wide receiver Christian Kirk and running back Travis Etienne Jr. were the biggest plays in the Jaguars' two victories before last week's bye – at New Orleans and Pittsburgh. Lawrence hasn't played perfectly. He is still a young quarterback improving on details. But he's a major reason the Jaguars are 6-2 leading the AFC South. And he's not remotely playing poorly.
- A real challenge. Head Coach Doug Pederson early this week outlined two of the Jaguars' biggest challenges entering the second half of the season – red-zone offense and third-down offense. And the Jaguars' offensive inconsistency largely can be traced to those areas. A major reason for those struggles: the absence of wide receiver Zay Jones, who has missed five of eight games with a knee injury. Jones' ability to make contested catches and his timing with Lawrence makes him key in red-zone and third-down situations, and his absence also has allowed defenses to more effectively defend the Jaguars' other front-line receivers – Kirk, wide receiver Calvin Ridley and tight end Evan Engram. "It would help," Lawrence said of having Jones in red-zone situations. "He's one of our better players, for sure, and he's a great player. He's a really smart guy who has been in this system now for going on two years. He's a guy that I have a ton of chemistry with just getting reps together for two seasons. He would help, but the reality of it is where we're at and we're letting Zay get healthy and take his time. We've got to make the adjustments and fill in that gap. Guys are doing a good job of that, but we've got to keep getting better every week and getting guys involved and all those things." Pederson earlier this week called Jones "day-to-day and he practiced limited Wednesday. Until his return, coaches must find a way to make up for his big-situation reliability.
Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent …
- The Jaguars have been winning, but some things need to change. Foremost among them: turnovers on offense. They have won five consecutive games, but eight turnovers have kept them from playing at a higher level. It didn't kill them in victories over the Indianapolis Colts, Saints and Steelers. But with big games against San Francisco, Cincinnati and Baltimore upcoming, they must get a handle on the ball. For perspective, the 49ers haven't played awful in three consecutive losses, but seven turnovers have created situations quarterback Brock Purdy couldn't manage. The Jaguars are tied for the league lead with 18 takeaways, but their 13 giveaways are tied for the second-most in the NFL this season. They must take better care of the football to get where they want to go.
- That will be a big challenge this Sunday against San Francisco. The 49ers are one of the most talented defenses I remember in 30 years of covering the NFL. They had $202 million guaranteed to Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave on the defensive line, then traded for pass rusher Chase Young at the deadline last week. Mix in Fred Warner, who is the most complete linebacker in the league and who roams sideline to sideline, and you have a front seven that causes problems. Pederson said on Monday the plan was always to get left tackle Cam Robinson back and move Walker Little to left guard, which hopefully stabilizes an offensive line that has had some shaky moments this season. They must hold up on their own because rookie right tackle Anton Harrison will need some help. The rookie is going to get a dose of Bosa, who the last time we saw him in Jacksonville in 2021 was a one-man wrecking crew and turned then-right tackle Jawaan Taylor's day into a nightmare. Lawrence is already going to be on a quick clock in the pocket, but the offensive line must give him a chance.
Kainani Stevens, Jaguars Team Reporter/Producer ...
- Offensive line shuffle. Little is on track to return after sustaining a knee injury in Week 5 against the Bills. This will allow us to see how Little and Robinson work together on the left side. Pederson acknowledged there is not a ton of film of Little playing left guard and he is looking forward to seeing the offensive line in full form Sunday.
- Set the tone at home. The Jaguars have been lights out on the road, but it's time to get things in order at home. Sunday's matchup with the 49ers will be the 1 p.m. televised game in 75 percent of the country. It's important for the Jags to play to their potential and keep the fan base engaged for the stretch run. With two primetime games at the 'Bank in December, the timing is crucial. Jags fans are raucous and can create a great homefield advantage as long as the players on the field keep giving them something to cheer about.
Pack the BANK 🐆 View the top sights from the Jacksonville Jaguars' Wednesday practice ahead of the NFL Regular Season Week 10 home game against the San Francisco 49ers ➡️