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State of the Jacksonville Jaguars: Can Trevor Lawrence, Doug Pederson rediscover playoff mojo?

Where does your squad stand ahead of the 2024 NFL season? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the new faces to know, one significant fantasy spin and the stakes at play in the campaign to come.

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I have to be honest, last year was, uh, kind of a disappointment for the Jags. Expectations were high in 2023 -- for good reason, following the team's incredible win over the Chargers in the Wild Card Round of the 2022 playoffs, a high point in Doug Pederson's first season as head coach. Many simply assumed the AFC South title was going back to Duval. But nothing should ever be assumed in the NFL. Because after an 8-3 start, the Jaguars went 1-5 down the stretch, with their collapse culminating in a Week 18 loss to Tennessee that kept them out of the playoffs and allowed Houston to supplant them atop the division.

Here's the thing, though: Jacksonville also finished with a winning regular-season record, pulling off that feat in back-to-back years for the first time since 2004-05. It's like when a great PPV event features a lackluster main event. (Which was obviously not the case with Forbidden Door, because Will Ospreay and Swerve Strickland put on a master class.) That said, how can the Jaguars win their own main event this fall? Let's take a look.

2024 brain trust

Head coach Doug Pederson
General manager Trent Baalke
Offensive coordinator Press Taylor
Defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen
Special teams coordinator Heath Farwell

Roster reshuffling

Below is a rundown of the Jaguars' most notable roster developments for the 2024 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.

Draft class (round-pick) Key additions Key departures
Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU (1-23) Mac Jones, QB Jamal Agnew, WR
Maason Smith, DT, LSU (2-48) Gabe Davis, WR Calvin Ridley, WR
Jarrian Jones, CB, Florida State (3-96) Devin Duvernay, WR Zay Jones, WR
Javon Foster, OT, Missouri (4-114) Ezra Cleveland, OG K'Lavon Chaisson, Edge
Jordan Jefferson, NT, LSU (4-116) Mitch Morse, C Dawuane Smoot, Edge
De'Antre Prince, CB, Mississippi (5-153) Trevis Gipson, Edge Foley Fatukasi, DT
Keilan Robinson, RB, Texas (5-167) Arik Armstead, DL Tre Herndon, CB
Cam Little, K, Arkansas (6-212) Ronald Darby, CB Darious Williams, CB
Myles Cole, DE, Texas Tech (7-236) Tre Flowers, CB Rayshawn Jenkins, S
Terrell Edmunds, S Joey Slye, K
Darnell Savage, S

New faces to know

Gabe Davis
WR · Year 5

The Jaguars took a risk in 2022 when they acquired Calvin Ridley, who was serving a suspension for violating the NFL's gambling policy and had not seen game action since October 2021, in a trade with the Falcons. In his return to the field last season, Ridely was ... fine. He led the team in receiving yards (1,016) and receiving TDs (eight), but I鈥檓 not sure he performed quite at the level Jacksonville was likely hoping for, especially during Christian Kirk's five-game absence with a core muscle injury at the end of the season, when Ridley put up 53 yards or less three times. (Not to mention his ill-fated for the team.) With Ridley now in Tennessee, enter Davis, who inked a three-year, $39 million deal with the Jags this offseason. The former Buffalo Bill has averaged 16.7 yards per reception since 2020, most in the NFL (min. 150 catches), and he鈥檚 coming off a season in which he matched his career high in touchdown receptions (seven). A lack of consistency has kind of always been Davis' thing; he's logged 41 games with at least one target and 50 or fewer receiving yards, tied for 13th most in the NFL over the past four seasons. (Maybe that's more of a Bills offense thing.) Still, adding Davis (and first-round pick Brian Thomas Jr., about whom more later) does help mitigate the sting of losing Ridley. 

Arik Armstead
DE · Year 10

The Jaguars had only two players log more than four sacks last season: Josh Allen (17.5) and Travon Walker (10). Allen and Walker are a tremendous pair, on the verge of becoming an elite NFL pass-rushing duo -- but they could still use their own . (I promise, that鈥檚 the last AEW reference.) The 30-year-old has missed 13 games over the past two seasons, which is a concern. Still, he ranked third in San Francisco in sacks (five) and QB pressures (38, per Next Gen Stats) in 2023. This signing could pay big dividends if Armstead can stay on the field for most of 2024, answering the biggest need for a Jaguars defense that finished 25th in the NFL in sacks (40) last season. 

Mitch Morse
C · Year 10

Center was the Jaguars鈥 biggest need on the offensive line, with incumbent starter Luke Fortner (a 2022 third-round pick) having earned the third-worst offensive grade from Pro Football Focus among all Jacksonville O-linemen over the past two seasons. Morse is 32, but he's still playing at a high level, having been a Pro Bowler in 2022, and he should be able to provide some leadership Fortner. This is a pretty good upgrade, even if you鈥檙e thinking of Morse as a bridge center. I liked this move a lot. 

State of the QB room

It's good. I don't understand anyone who wants to pretend like Trevor Lawrence is some kind of bust. The Jags signed the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to a five-year, $275 million extension this offseason. He's authored a memorable playoff victory and helped lead back-to-back winning seasons. OK, I will admit Lawrence's 2023 touchdown-to-interception ratio (21:14) wasn't great; showing up on a leaderboard with Sam Howell (who posted the worst TD-to-INT ratio last season among qualifying QBs, while Lawrence had the fourth-worst) can be a problem. Let's not forget, though, that Lawrence threw seven of his 14 picks over his last four starts of the season, after he suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 13. He was also in the concussion protocol between Weeks 15 and 16 and suffered a shoulder sprain in Week 16, which led to him being inactive in Week 17.

I'm not going to make excuses for Lawrence, who has also shown a propensity for fumbling the ball. But he's a great, young quarterback, and a lot of organizations would love to have someone like him under center. I'm confident that this season, we're going to see the Trevor redemption tour.

Most important non-QB

Travis Etienne
RB · Year 4

Travis Etienne Jr. led the Jaguars with 1,484 scrimmage yards and 12 scrimmage touchdowns in 2023. He also led the NFL with 64 missed tackles on runs in 2023, per PFF; he has 121 forced missed tackles on runs since 2022, the second-most in the league behind only Derrick Henry. Etienne is obviously key to Jacksonville's offensive success. I鈥檇 also like to take this opportunity to throw in a shoutout to tight Evan Engram, who paced the team with 114 receptions last year. Look, that number might drop a little, but Doug Pederson loves throwing to his tight ends, so it won't regress a ton.  

My HOTTEST Jaguars fantasy take:

Beware of overlooking Brian Thomas Jr.

I don't know where you rank the LSU receiver, but I'd guess you're way too low. I thought he should have gone much higher in April's draft than he did (23rd overall), but I do think he found a really good landing spot with the Jaguars. Even if he has to fight Christian Kirk, Gabe Davis and Evan Engram for targets, Thomas has big-play potential, given that he led the FBS with 12 deep receiving touchdowns (those of 20-plus air yards) in 2023. He might be better suited for best-ball leagues, but I'm taking him this year.

2024 roadmap

Three key dates:

  • Week 1: at Miami Dolphins. If the Jaguars want to put last season's bitterly disappointing ending behind them, they will be tested early, having to face four 2023 playoff participants in the first month of the season (with games vs. the Browns, at the Bills and at the Texans following this one). Who put this schedule together, ? (I know I promised not to make any more AEW references, but in fairness to me, that doesn't exactly count.)
  • Week 6: at Chicago Bears. The Jags will play in London, beginning with this tilt at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium before facing the New England Patriots at Wembley Stadium the following week. They then come home to play host to the Packers in Week 8.
  • Week 13: vs. Houston Texans. Jacksonville doesn't get its bye until Week 12, despite the back-to-back London games in October -- and after the break, the Jags host the Texans to kick off a closing stretch in which they also play the Titans twice and hit the road to face Indianapolis in the regular-season finale.

For 2024 to be a success, the Jaguars MUST:

A) Win the Super Bowl
B) Make a playoff run
C) Earn a playoff berth
D) Finish above .500
E) Show progress

My answer: B) Make a playoff run. Many people don't seem to remember that the Jaguars were giving the Chiefs all they could handle in the 2022 Divisional Round; they had a real chance to win that one on the road. I know last season ended on an exceptionally deflating note. Again, though, we shouldn't ignore that Jacksonville finished with a winning record. If the Jaguars can cut down on the turnovers and improve a bit defensively, they figure to be back in the playoff picture -- and don't be surprised if they prove to be a tough out in the postseason.

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