Jaguars named likely candidate to go from wost to first in AFC South

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence #16 at TIAA Bank Field. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence #16 at TIAA Bank Field. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union] /

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been in the cellar of the AFC South for four straight years. However, Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus believes the Jags have a realistic shot at winning the division in 2022.

Kyed recently drew up a list of three NFL teams that could go from worst to first this upcoming season, and he included the Jaguars. He argues that the AFC South is wide open and thinks that Jacksonville has the chance to be this year’s version of the 2021 Cincinnati Bengals due to the presence of Trevor Lawrence, the addition of head coach Doug Pederson. and the upgrades they made to the roster in the offseason.

"We polled coaches, executives and scouts around the NFL earlier this offseason to find out which passer from the 2021 NFL Draft class they expected to emerge as the best quarterback after this season, and Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence came out No. 1 over Mac Jones, Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, Davis Mills, and Justin Fields. It was nearly unanimous.Much of the turmoil that surrounded Jacksonville last season should be gone with ex-head coach Urban Meyer fired. The Jaguars hired Doug Pederson to take his place and spent a record amount in a free-agency frenzy…"

Lawrence completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 3,641 yards with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions (tied with Matthew Stafford for most in the league). While there was always going to be an acclimation period in his transition to his NFL, Urban Meyer didn’t lay out a plan to properly develop him. With Doug Pederson now at the helm, the former Clemson Tiger is expected to make a leap in his sophomore campaign.

Trevor Lawrence gives the Jaguars a shot at competing in the AFC South

No NFL club arguably did as much as the Jags to put their quarterback in a position to succeed in 2022. Not only did general manager Trent Baalke revamp Lawrence’s arsenal of weapons but he also fortified most position groups on defense.

Wide receivers Zay Jones and Christian Kirk, two of the Jaguars’ most significant acquisitions in free agency, have been as good as expected and have already developed a nice rapport with Lawrence. Similarly, tight end Evan Engram, who signed a one-year deal earlier this year is expected to have a big role on offense.

On defense, the Jags got outside linebacker Josh Allen a bookend pass rusher in Travon Walker, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft. They also signed defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi and linebacker Foyesade Oluokun to fortify their front seven. With a well-rounded defense, Lawrence and the offense won’t have to get into shootouts to win games.

However, the biggest addition Jacksonville made in the offseason was Doug Pederson. The Jaguars now have a coach that can get the most out of his players without having to resort to questionable methods. Of course, none of this will matter if the Jaguars can’t beat and show they are currently better than the Indianapolis Colts or the Tennesse Titans, the defending division champions.

When Pederson took over the Jaguars, he said that this will not be an overnight fix and it will take time to turn things around. However, he’s got the team trending in the right direction. Although winning the division in his first season at the helm is a tall order, there are plenty of pieces in place to compete on a weekly basis, something the Jags have rarely done in recent years.

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