The Jacksonville Jaguars are entering the 2023 season with high expectations, with a handful of their players expected to deliver big results. In particular, left tackle Cam Robinson and wide receiver Calvin Ridley are under the most pressure to perform in the eyes of Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports.
Benjamin drew up a list of 14 non-quarterbacks who are under the most pressure to perform. Robinson and Ridley, along with right tackle Jawaan Taylor, who signed a four-year deal worth $80 million with the Chiefs in free agency, made the cut. Benjamin says that Robinson will need to be at the top of his game once he returns from his suspension. On the other hand, he thinks Ridley has lots to prove as a one-time start.
Regarding Taylor, Benjamin says he'll have the daunting task of living up to the top-market contract he received from the Chiefs, which is the second-richest for a right tackle in the league this year. Here's the skinny on Robinson:
"If there's one underrated red flag on an otherwise ascending Jaguars team, it's the trenches. Robinson holds everything together as Trevor Lawrence's bodyguard, but he'll be sidelined four games due to suspension. After that, he'd better be on his A-game to help offset whatever occurs in the meantime. He's due $17.6 M per year -- more than all but six left tackles in the game. "
A second-round pick in the 2017 draft, Robinson has spent his whole NFL career with the Jags. He got a three-year deal worth $54 million last year but he violated the league's performance-enhancing drug policy and is scheduled to serve a four-game suspension to begin the 2024 season. Even though the Alabama product has become a mainstay of the Jacksonville offensive line, nothing guarantees he'll get his job back once he's reinstated because Walker Little will take his place in the lineup and will probably be given the chance to keep it long-term if he shows out.
On the other hand, Ridley missed the 2022 season for betting on football games, and back in 2021, he struggled with mental health and a broken foot. This leads a few analysts to wonder if he'll be able to shake off the rust and bounce back in his first season with the Jags. But even since he was reinstated, he's done nothing but work on being ready to remind everyone how great he is. Here's what Benjamin had to say about him:
"On one hand, Jacksonville got by with Christian Kirk and Zay Jones leading Trevor Lawrence's receiving corps a year ago. On the other, the Jags are now considered legit playoff contenders, and Ridley is already promising 1,400 yards despite playing just five games the last two years. On a contract year, he's got plenty to prove as a one-time all-star."
The Jaguars success in 2023 won't fall on Cam Robinson's and Calvin Ridley's shoulders
Robinson has recognized he made a mistake and has since apologized to everyone for his actions. Because the Jaguars made a big investment in him, they might want to plug him back into the lineup once he's reinstated. However, they might be better off keeping Walker Little at left tackle if he fares well. Of course, he needs to prove he can hold his own but the team's brass has options during Robinson's suspension.
On the other hand, Ridley has gotten lots of praise from teammates and the Jaguars coaching staff since he was allowed to join them. While there's a chance he might not be able to live up to expectations, there's little indication he won't be able to do it. Conversely, there are signs he'll be a legitimate candidate for Comeback Player of the Year honors in 2023.
But even if Ridley doesn't play at an elite level, the Jaguars have a pair of proven options in Zay Jones and Christian Kirk, both of whom proved last year they can get it done. Heck, Ridley can be just 'good' and he'll still have a positive impact on the offense in 2023.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have stocked their roster with several difference-makers over the last two years, so they don't have to rely on one or two players to win games next season. And while they surely expect Cam Robinson and Calvin Ridley to shine in 2023, they'll probably be fine if they don't.