No. 1 Jaguars player who must get off to a hot start in 2023: Brandon McManus, K
Newly acquired kicker Brandon McManus already has the confidence of the Jaguars staff. In his tenth year, McManus brings experience and something else the Jaguars lacked at the position last year: A booming leg. Kickers don't get much love in the NFL unless you're Justin Tucker. Peyton Manning once called his a "a drunken idiot".
But McManus deserves some love for what he can bring to the team, and his importance must not be overlooked. Riley Patterson, last year's kicker, had a solid sophomore season converting 85 percent of his field goals and 97 percent of his extra points. Both percentages were actually higher than McManus' last year. Patterson even converted 60 percent of his field goals from 50+ yards. Here lies the deception. Patterson only attempted three field goals of 50+ yards last year. McManus attempted 13, converting eight of them. Ironically, Patterson's weak foot was his Achilles Heel.
McManus makes head coach Doug Pederson's job much easier. He no longer has to labor over whether he should try a field goal, go for it on fourth down on the 35-yard line, or punt it away and try to pin the offense deep in its own territory. Going for it on fourth down is always a risky prospect and can result in a momentum shift if the defense comes up big.
While Logan Cooke is among the best punters in the league, asking him to consistently drop punts inside the 10-yard line is a little much. It is better for the Jaguars to trot out McManus to drill a fifty-yarder and get points on the board, something they were unable to do in that situation last year.
Something else to consider with McManus is his 70% touchback rate on kickoffs last year compared to Patterson's 50%. This means 20% fewer kickoffs will be returned, nullifying any chance of great field position or even a touchdown for the opponent. In an AFC South that has veteran kickers such as Nick Folk, Matt Gay, and Ka'imi Fairbairn, the addition of McManus gives the Jaguars experience, stability, and confidence in the position.
Every host of Good Morning Football on the NFL Network predicted the Jaguars to win the AFC South this year on their September 5th episode. Each host credited head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Trevor Lawrence for the team's turnaround and bright future. While Trevor and the other members of the T-Jags are certainly vital cogs in the 2023 Jaguar machine, Andre Cisco, Walker Little, and Brandon McManus will need to be valuable contributors to the ball club in T-minus five days.