The Jacksonville Jaguars have a lot to learn through two weeks. From poor offensive outings to inconsistent play on defense, the Jaguars have only themselves to blame for their 0-2 start.
With the Jaguars now facing another potentially cataclysmic season, we take a look at which Jaguars players are rising, and which are falling following Jacksonville's 23-13 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
So, whose stock is moving in the right direction and who is taking a step backward? We review below.
While people may harp on Von Miller's sack on a stunt, it shouldn't be forgotten the kind of game that Jawaan Taylor had on Sunday. Taylor allowed three pressures on 41 combined pass protection snaps according to Pro Football Focus. While this may not seem dominant, it is significantly better than anyone could have expected the duo to do against Miller and Bradley Chubb after Miller teed off against the Giants only a week previously. For my money, it was Taylor's best game since the Raiders game in his rookie season, with the third-year right tackle consistently giving Miller fits and providing adequate time for Trevor Lawrence in the pocket.
"Obviously against two elite pass rushers, Jawaan Taylor really hung in there. I know we chipped a little bit and helped him, but for the most part, he hung in there," Urban Meyer said on Monday. "They had one sack and it was on a twist. But straight pass rush, we hung in there really well. I was really proud of the offensive line."
With James O'Shaughnessy now out for several weeks with a high ankle sprain, the door has been swung open for Jacob Hollister. Hollister can't be expected to simply be activated, either -- he is going to play a big role. Chris Manhertz is purely a blocker outside of a few routes a game, while rookie tight end Luke Farrell had a terrible game from a pass-catching perspective against the Broncos. The Jaguars won't be getting the ball to either of those two any time soon, creating a chance for the athletic Hollister to hog the Jaguars' tight end targets over the next month.
14 touches for 60 yards isn't exactly eye-popping, but when you consider the context of the game flow, James Robinson had a bounce-back game on Sunday. He caught all three of his targets and showed improved speed to get to the perimeter for a 13-yard gain. As a runner, Robinson took what was there for him but then did a fantastic job of breaking tackles and creating space at the second level. Had Cam Robinson picked up one key block in space, and had the Jaguars remembered at any time in the first half that Robinson was their best offensive player, then his day would have been even better. Robinson wasn't getting the ball much, but he looked good when he did.
While Dawuane Smoot hasn't been the best Jaguars' defensive lineman this year (more on that later), he has been right there at the top next to No. 1. Smoot had a terrific outing against the Broncos, specifically when lined up against the right tackle. Smoot has looked more comfortable coming off of the edge in the Jaguars' new scheme, generating four pressures and two quarterback hits against the Broncos, who field a solid offensive line and a smart quarterback. Smoot isn't a game-changer, but he has gotten better and better over the years and that hasn't stopped in 2021.
Josh Allen is now just 0.5 sacks away from matching his 2020 total after sacking Teddy Bridgewater on Sunday. With two sacks through two games, Allen owns half of the Jaguars' sack total in 2021, establishing himself as the clear-cut top pass-rusher on the defense. The Jaguars are among the NFL's top defenses in terms of quarterback hits and pressure rates, but they have struggled to turn this pressure into sacks on a consistent basis. Allen is the one player who hasn't had that issue, though, and his development as a pass-rusher will be even more vital moving forward.
Darrell Bevell and Brian Schottenheimer
The Jaguars' passing game is completely out of whack and Trevor Lawrence continues to look like a rookie quarterback who is having the game move too fast for him. Lawrence's aggressiveness and unwillingness to take safe plays is a part of this, but the Jaguars' offensive brain trust has done Lawrence zero favors. The scheme isn't attacking the middle of the field and isn't doing anything to create easy reads for Lawrence or natural separation for the receivers. Until Lawrence and the passing game play at least an average, mistake-free game, the pressure is going to be on offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to help the No. 1 overall pick start playing like a No. 1 pick. Lawrence has been rough, but the scheme and coaching have done him few favors.
It has been a slow start to Tyron Johnson's tenure with the Jaguars. Johnson has only been targeted twice in two games, resulting in one six-yard catch in Week 1 and one disaster rep against the Broncos. With the Jaguars trailing by several possessions, Lawrence attempted to give Johnson a deep shot and let him win a one-on-one on the outside against Patrick Surtain II. Surtain dominated Johnson on the rep, however, pinning him to the sideline and shielding him from the ball. Add in Johnson's false start penalty, and it was a game to forget.
The Jaguars have attempted to get something out of Taven Bryan, but the former first-round pick just hasn't found early success in the new scheme. Bryan has failed to provide an interior pass-rush, recording two pressures through two weeks despite being the Jaguars' top backup among the defensive linemen. Bryan also had a poor showing as a run defender against Denver, with the Broncos' guards frequently moving him out of his gap and getting the running back to the second level when running directly at Bryan. Bryan simply hasn't made an impact yet, which hurts the Jaguars' defense considering how badly they need a difference-maker inside.
If offenses want to get a big play in the middle of the field against the Jaguars' defense, it isn't hard to figure out which defender they should pick on. Damien Wilson has had a bullseye on his jersey through two weeks, with both Houston and Denver using his lack of range and quickness in coverage to their advantage. He was easily beat by Noah Fant for a touchdown last Sunday, a play that included both bad coverage and a poor tackle attempt in space. Wilson has been a thumper against the run, but he continues to be a liability in the passing game, a trend opposing offenses have been quick to pick up on.
It is hard to imagine Laviska Shenault will ever have a game as bad as the one he had against the Broncos. The Jaguars didn't do him any favors with their usage of him, which restricted many of his seven targets to the line of scrimmage or behind it. But Shenault also had his own mistakes, including two key third-down drops and a false start in the first-half. Shenault finished the game with a wild two-catch, -3-yard performance ... on seven targets. The Jaguars tried to get Shenault the ball, but it ended up in complete disaster. Shenault is also dealing with a shoulder injury sustained during the game, but he is still expected to play against Arizona on Sunday. If Shenault ever has a nightmare game like this one again, it would be a surprise.
Things will eventually get better for Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars' passing game, but the state of things right now is genuinely bad. Lawrence has the worst completion % in the NFL, one of the worst completion percentages over expectation rates, has thrown five turnovers, and is one of the NFL's leader in off-target throws per Pro Football Reference. Lawrence has shown the ability to hit every throw to every part of the field, displaying a rare arm that can fit passes into tight windows. But the easier the pass, the more difficult Lawrence has had with delivering it. It isn't doom and gloom for Lawrence, but Week 2 was a step in the wrong direction, even when including his stellar first drive.