LATEST NEWS : How Jaguars plan to bounce back from biggest collapse in franchise history

Doug Pederson is still concerned about how the 2023 season ended.

The Jaguars experienced possibly the most dramatic collapse in team history. In late November, Jacksonville was 8-3 and on track to be the AFC’s top overall seed. However, the squad lost five of its final six games, including the regular-season finale at Tennessee, and missed the playoffs.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it,” Pederson said during the NFL’s league meetings this week. “For me, I think it’s going to be my motivation, my fuel moving forward.”

That fuel will be boosted by the team’s offseason moves.

The Jaguars have spent the last month investing heavily on veteran leadership and in the trenches, seeking to escape their fate in 2023.

Jacksonville lost wide receiver Calvin Ridley to the Titans in free agency, and three crucial players were dismissed as cap casualties: safety Rayshawn Jenkins, cornerback Darious Williams, and defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi. However, the organization has made a number of notable additions in free agency, including defensive tackle Arik Armstead (three years, $51 million), center Mitch Morse (two years, $10.5 million), safety Darnell Savage (three years, $21.7 million), cornerback Ronald Darby (two years, $8.5 million), and receivers Gabe Davis (three years, $39 million) and Devin Duvernay (two years, $8.5 million).

All provide valuable postseason experience to a Jaguars squad that struggled to finish last season. Darby has won the Super Bowl. Armstead has attended two. Davis, Morse, Savage, and Duvernay have all participated in conference championship games.

How Jaguars plan to bounce back from biggest collapse in franchise history  | FOX Sports

“These guys know how to win,” Pederson explained. “That’s the type of talent that we want to add to our squad, players who have been there and done that.

“Again, I’ve got to continue to message the team in the right way,” he said. “We need to have the confidence and swagger that we’ll get the job done on game day. I believe that signing some of these free agents this spring will assist with that.”

A drastic regression on defense played a key role in the Jaguars’ collapse. Run-defense woes, coverage busts and sloppy tackling were at the forefront.

Jacksonville is hopeful that Armstead’s pedigree sets a new tone up front. The nine-year veteran of the 49ers is past his prime (he turns 31 in November) and has missed 13 games the past two seasons, but he figures to have some juice left in the tank. He had five sacks in 12 appearances in 2023. Of the 65 defensive tackles who played at least 486 snaps last season, he was 16th in pressure rate (11.2%), according to Next Gen Stats. As a proven interior pass rusher, Armstead figures to be a strong complement to Josh Allen and Travon Walker in new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen’s aggressive scheme.

And offensively, the Jaguars are banking on offensive-line continuity to improve success in the run game and short-yardage situations, taking pressure off quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The left side of the Jaguars’ offensive line was a revolving door in 2023. Left tackle Cam Robinson missed eight games. Left guard Ezra Cleveland, acquired ahead of last season’s trade deadline, didn’t play any offensive snaps in Week 17.
Running back Travis Etienne registered a second straight 1,000-yard rushing season in 2023, but rushing efficiency was an issue. Jacksonville ranked 24th with 96.8 rushing yards per game.

Apart from signing Morse, who is expected to be the starting center, the Jaguars’ other four starters up front are expected to be the same (from left to right): Robinson, Cleveland, Brandon Scherff and Anton Harrison. Jacksonville re-signed Cleveland on a three-year deal worth $24 million. Scherff’s deal, initially signed in March 2022, was restructured, cementing his spot on the roster for 2024.

From Week 11 of last season, when Cleveland played his first offensive snaps with Jacksonville, to the end of the regular season, the Jags’ run game was more effective in various metrics with the five starters on the field than when they weren’t, including yards per carry (3.5 vs. 3.3), success rate (35.9%, 32.3%), and stuff rate (28.2%, 30.3%), according to NGS.

“If you look at it, Week 18 was kind of a snapshot of the offensive line of what it was supposed to look like,” he added. “We’re excited about that coming into the offseason to get those guys working together.”

While last season’s collapse will act as incentive for Pederson, he refuses to let it “cloud the vision.”

“At the same time,” the Jaguars coach continued, “it will be on my mind as I move forward with the team this spring.” We just need to figure out how to push through that envelope.

“This is the culture I want to establish in Jacksonville.”

This offseason marks the beginning of a journey that the Jaguars hope will result in a happy finish.

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