It might be time to start celebrating in Jacksonville, because the city might finally have a winner on their hands.
The Jaguars (2-1) dominated the Los Angeles Chargers on the road in a 38-10 blowout on Sunday, making a statement in Week 3 that they are here to stay under Doug Pederson.
But what did we see during the blowout win? We break down our most important takeaways below.
Trevor Lawrence grew up before our eyes
This is what development looks like from the quarterback position. Nobody wanted to hear that it would take 20 starts for Trevor Lawrence to start consistently looking like the No. 1 overall pick and franchise quarterback he has always been billed as, but sometimes that is what it takes. The Jaguars have been patient with Lawrence, understanding his rookie year was derailed by Urban Meyer and the disastrous situation he was placed in. The last two weeks, it has paid off.
Lawrence's 2022 season so far has been the story of quarterback development. He has six touchdowns and just one turnover through three games, while finally proving he can be an efficient quarterback who is also capable of making plays off-script. He made every kind of throw a team could want their quarterback to make the last two weeks. He was better in Week 1 than he was as a rookie, then improved in Week 2 and then had an even better game on Sunday vs. the Chargers. Lawrence is a franchise quarterback, and we have seen him become one right before our eyes.
Jawaan Taylor and Josh Allen had the performance of their lives
Two of the biggest reasons the Jaguars beat the Chargers? The top two picks in the 2019 draft class, Josh Allen and Jawaan Taylor. A few years after the Jaguars lost on the road to the Chargers in Allen's and Taylor's second season, the fourth-year pair took their plays to a new level on Sunday, each having some of the best games of their entire careers.
Taylor was tasked with containing Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack and did just that, allowing minimal pressure -- if any at all -- all game. Bosa was hurt in the first-half, but Taylor won the reps he did have against him, while also making Mack a complete non-factor. Taylor is playing the best ball of his career and Sunday was the next step.
Meanwhile, Allen was credited with a career-high eight pressures and four quarterback hits, while also drawing several holds throughout the contest that pushed the Chargers behind the sticks. Allen and the Jaguars' didn't record many sacks, but Allen was all over Herbert, consistently throwing him and the Chargers' passing game out of rhythm.
Jacksonville's defense continues to make takeaways their identity
The Jaguars were the worst defense in the NFL at forcing takeaways a year ago, but oh what a year can change. Now, the Jaguars are one of the best defenses in the entire NFL at forcing the ball out of the offense's hands, forcing turnovers on back-to-back drives in the first half with a Devin Lloyd interception and a Dawuane Smoot forced fumble. While the Jaguars' defense struggled at times with Herbert on Sunday, they did come up big with explosive negative plays, something they rarely did in 2021.
While the Jaguars' defense may not have great consistency on a snap-to-snap basis at this point, they are a team that can take the ball away at any moment. They have athletic players on all three levels of the defense who can flock to the ball and make plays with it in the air, while also having a defensive front and scheme that puts them in a position to force negative plays. Takeaways is who the Jaguars' defense is now -- quite the contrast from a year ago.
Doug Pederson played it safer than expected, but still came through big when they needed a bold call
Doug Pederson is one of the NFL's most aggressive coaches, something he proved yet again during the first two weeks of the season. And it looked like this was going to continue in Week 3 when the Jaguars opened with a 4th-and-6 attempt on the very first drive of the game, though it resulted in an incompletion.
The Jaguars took their foot off the pedal during the ensuing drives, though. Facing three different fourth-downs from within the Chargers' five-yard line, Pederson opted for a 22- or 23-yard field goal each time. Touchdowns on these plays could have given the Jaguars 7-0, 10-0 or 20-7 leads on the road against a team that, on paper, has the edge.
When the Jaguars needed a bold call to pull away from the Chargers while up 16-10, though, Pederson went back to who he is and who the Jaguars now are. Facing 4th-and-1 from the 50-yard line, he loaded up the line of scrimmage with blockers and called for a counter run by James Robinson, resulting in a 50-yard touchdown to put the Jaguars up 23-10. After playing it safe in the first half, Pederson was aggressive at exactly the right time in the second.
Are the Jaguars legit? In this AFC, it certainly seems so
Is this Jaguars team legitimate? Every year we see teams start hot before sizzling down the stretch and proving to be closer to frauds than actual playoff teams. So, which of these two versions does this current Jaguars team look like?
On one hand, the Jaguars have gotten a hand out of a few unstable metrics, such as takeaways. They won't be forcing two or three turnovers a game like they have in each of the first three weeks, even during their best stretches. But on the other hand, the Jaguars have proven they can win on the ground and through the air, while also having an aggressive coach and scheme who allows them to be in advantageous situations, and the Jaguars seem legit.
Considering the AFC currently has a down AFC South, a worse-than-expected AFC North and West and a two-team race in the AFC East, the Jaguars stack up well throughout the conference. Games against the Chiefs and Broncos later this year will be a good gauge of where they are at, but nothing about these first three weeks says the Jaguars can't make a legit push in the AFC.