The 2021 season has, at last, come to a close for the Jacksonville Jaguars. After months of off-field drama, coaching changes, and long Sundays, the Jaguars can now put 2021 behind them and look forward to next season.
Luckily for the Jaguars, they ended the 2021 season with the longest victory Monday possible thanks to a season-ending 26-11 win over the Indianapolis Colts at home. Not only will the Jaguars enter the offseason with a win fresh on their minds, but they picked up that win in a dominating and convincing fashion.
So, what did the Week 18 win over the Colts mean for the Jaguars moving forward and in the short-term? We break it all down below.
Rookie draft class finally shines with increased playing time
Who knows what the 2021 season could have looked like if the Jaguars' coaching staff let the rookies hit the field and grow a bit more. The final 3-14 record likely wouldn't have changed much, but we could have seen even more examples of strong play from what now looks to be a solid class. Other than Trevor Lawrence and Tyson Campbell, the Jaguars' rookie class didn't see the field much until these final few weeks. But after Sunday's win, we can now at least know the Jaguars' 2021 class has some serious upside, at least when it comes to the first three rounds of picks.
Trevor Lawrence had his best game of the season against a defense that was among the best in the NFL at forcing negative plays. Lawrence looked like a dynamic No. 1 pick under center throughout all four quarters, making plays in and out of the structure of the offense that showed why he was one of the highest-rated quarterback prospects in recent years.
Campbell had another strong performance, doing well in both run support (eight tackles, including a one-on-one tackle for loss on Jonathan Taylor and a touchdown-saving tackle on third-down in the fourth-quarter) and in coverage. Campbell's best coverage play came late in the game as the Colts attempted a late come back, with Campbell recovering late and helping break up a pass to Parris Campbell.
Walker Little made his third start of the season and allowed only one pressure in 39 pass-blocking snaps. Little looked comfortable at left tackle for the second week in a row, making a positive impact as both a pass-protector and a run-blocker.
Then Andre Cisco once again made big play after big play, coming up big in run support on several runs by Taylor and also forcing a fumble in the first half on a tackle on Nyheim Hines.
The Jaguars' rookie class showed out in a big way against the Colts and there should be genuine excitement over all of Lawrence, Campbell, Little, and Cisco. Add Travis Etienne to the mix next season and potential development from Jay Tufele and Jordan Smith, and the Jaguars should be happy about their group of rookies.
Roy Robertson-Harris, Adam Gotsis deserve to return to their roles in 2022
The Jaguars beat the Colts on Sunday in large part because of a dominant performance from the defensive line, who was simply better than the Colts' offensive line for all four quarters. Josh Allen and Dawuane Smoot combined for three sacks and numerous run stops, while Malcom Brown and Jihad Ward each split a sack. But if there are two defensive linemen who should have a role on the team next season in part based on Sunday's victory, it is Adam Gotsis and Roy Robertson-Harris.
Gotsis was a force for the Jaguars, stoping Taylor short twice on third- and fourth-and-short. He has been a dominant run defender for two years now, and Sunday was a display of elite run defense from Gotsis against one of the best running games in all of the NFL. And considering his lack of pass-rushing traits is the biggest reason he isn't a starter, it was a good sign to see him record a sack and develop some good push up the middle.
Then there is Robertson-Harris. I am of the opinion that Robertson-Harris was quietly one of the Jaguars' best free agent additions, with the first-year Jaguar making plays against both the run and the pass over the second-half of the season after he recovered from an early-season ankle injury. Robertson-Harris was the Jaguars' best pass-rusher on Sunday, recording seven pressures against an elite interior offensive line and looking like the dynamic and disruptive threat the Jaguars were hoping they would be getting when they signed him.
Jaguars continue to have the Colts' number in Jacksonville, one of the most bewildering streaks in the NFL
Nobody can say the Colts didn't try on Sunday. The Colts looked like they had just saw a ghost after the game, in complete shellshock and disbelief over losing a must-win game to a Jaguars team that entered the week as the worst in the entire NFL. But as shocking as the loss was -- and it was genuinely the most shocking result of Week 18 -- it was far from unusual when it comes to Colts/Jaguars lore. For whatever reason, the Jaguars simply dominate the Colts at TIAA Bank Field and have for almost a decade now.
"Because we didn't play Colts football. And they dominated us on every end today. And I don't know what it is down here. They just keep on dominating us every time we come here," Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton said after the game.
That right there sums it up. The Colts haven't won in Jacksonville since Blake Bortles' rookie season in 2014. Even though the Colts have had the quarterback advantage in almost every one of those matchups and have been hands down the better franchise since 2014, the Jaguars have simply had their number in Jacksonville, no matter what. That didn't change on Sunday, either, as the Jaguars simply looked like a different team against the Colts than they did at any other point in 2021.
Trevor Lawrence once again shows why he is the Jaguars' greatest leverage during coaching search
Trevor Lawrence was a revelation in Week 18. Even for those like me who believe his play in 2021 was far better than his production says, it is clear that Week 18 was far and away Lawrence's best game. He made top-level throw after top-level throw, having just a handful of passes off target all game and making plays with his legs and his arm in every situation possible. Lawrence had an elite performance against a Colts defense that had his number in Week 10, showing genuine growth.
For the Jaguars, there is nothing more they could have hoped for from Lawrence's finale than what he put on the field against the Colts. Potential head coaches will now walk into TIAA Bank Field with Lawrence's performance fresh on their minds. Lawrence was already the Jaguars' most valuable assett and greatest piece of leverage during their coaching search, but Sunday only solidified why Lawrence should be so sought after by coaching candidates.
Week 18 went exactly the way the Jaguars needed it to, even with a quiet 'Black Monday'
Jaguars fans didn't get the news they wanted on Monday morning, with Jaguars owner Shad Khan putting out no statements and the status of incumbent general manager Trent Baalke not being any different than it was the day before. But even with Baalke still in place on Monday, the Jaguars' base can take solace in the fact that Week 18 otherwise could not have gone any better.
A season-ending win in front of a home crowd after a long year? Check. Knocking a divisional rival out of the playoff picture in truly embarrassing fashion? Check. Flexing the upside of their quarterback situation as a fierce rival's own quarterback threw the game away? Check. Clinching the No. 1 overall pick even after a win? Check that one too.
Everything went the Jaguars way on Sunday. This happens so rarely that is deserves to be pointed out each time it happens, and nobody can argue that it happened in Week 18.