Oftentimes in football, offensive linemen don't get the credit or spotlight they deserve.
But in the case of the 2022 Jacksonville Jaguars, nobody has denied how critical the play of the unit has been in the 2-1 start -- especially the play of right tackle Jawaan Taylor.
Through the first three games of the year, Taylor has been a revelation for Jacksonville's offense, enjoying the breakout season many envisioned for him when the Jaguars traded up in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft to select him.
In three games, Taylor has allowed just one pressure in 112 dropbacks -- the fewest pressures allowed of any offensive tackle in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. When in a true pass-set, which excludes screens, rollouts, play-action, and RPOs, Taylor has allowed zero pressures, one of only two tackles in the NFL to do so. In terms of PFF's pass-blocking efficiency ranking, no offensive tackle grades out better than Taylor.
And this is including matchups against players such as Montez Sweat, Yannick Ngakoue, Joey Bosa, Kwity Paye, and Khalil Mack. Taylor has drawn some of the NFL's top rushers in his toughest matchups and quality pass-rushers in his easiest matchups. Despite this, he has thrived in a pivotal year.
"He's done a great job and I think that goes back to even the spring of there was real competition for that job and I think it made everybody better, not only Jawaan [Taylor], but Cam [Robinson], Walker Little," Jaguars offensive coordinator Press Taylor said last week.
"Everybody that we have expectation they could potentially play on Sunday had to rise to the level of competition there, so I think those guys all did a great job of pushing one another. You've seen Jawaan's work throughout that spring and [that] has continued to kind of show itself so far on game day. Again, we expect consistent improvement out of all these guys as we go on in the season."
Taylor has been one of the biggest reasons the Jaguars' offense has improved by such leaps and bounds in 2022. After the unit allowed two sacks in Week 1, the group has kept Trevor Lawrence upright the last two games, giving up zero sacks. As a result, Lawrence is tied with Patrick Mahomes in lowest sack % (1.8%) and in fewest times sacked among all starting quarterbacks.
Perhaps most importantly, Taylor has been flagged zero times in three games after being one of the NFL's most flagged offensive linemen from 2019-2021. In short, he has cleaned up all areas of his game, from the weakest links to the inconsistency that had bogged him in the past.
“Definitely an emphasis and just trying to hone in on that, put more focus on that and must making sure that I’m staying penalty free," Taylor said.
Taylor's strong play, especially in pass-protection, is sometimes even misconceived due to how he fires off the ball. Upon first glance, Taylor may look like he is false starting. Instead, though, he is simply getting off the ball at a high level. 2021 even saw a popular video of Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll protest Taylor's first-step in pass-protection, but the same move has helped him dominate in 2022.
"Just being on the road. I’ve got a different center this year, so I’m trying to work it in practice, but to the naked eye, it can look like I’m false starting, but I’m just timing it up to get off the same time the ball is being snapped," Taylor said. "Playing tackle you have to get off the ball with urgency. These edge rushers will come off the ball very fast, so as much as I can get off the ball as fast as I can, I do it.”
“It’s not really the ends, it’s mainly the coaches [who complain]. I even saw a video of Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks head coach) last year when we were playing Seattle say something about it, but it’s not too bad. A ref may come up to me and say ‘scoot up a little bit’ in my stance, but nothing about getting off the ball.”
So, why the sudden emergence of Taylor? Why after 49 uneven starts has he begun to play at an All-Pro level?
Some may say due to his contract year. Some may point to the competition with 2021 second-rounder Walker Little at right tackle this spring.
But not Taylor. To him, his improved play is for a greater, more purposeful reason.
"Everybody thinks the competition, and the competition definitely helps, but also, my dad passed in January, so I’m trying to dedicate the season to my dad," Taylor said. "Just go out there trying to get better every week and help my team win games.”