3 most pleasant surprises from the Jacksonville Jaguars 2023 season

• The Jaguars failed to make the playoffs in 2023. But there were several bright posts. Here are 3 players how were pleasant surprises in 2023.

Dec 17, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA;  Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Darious Williams (31)
Dec 17, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Darious Williams (31) / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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1. Travon Walker, outside linebacker

By the end of the 2022 season, many pundits were ready to label outside linebacker Travon Walker a bust, even though he had just wrapped up his rookie season. Looking back, they rushed to make a judgment. Sure, as the first overall pick in the 2022 draft, Walker began his NFL career with immense expectations. The fact that fellow edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, who went to the Detroit Lions at No. 2, didn't help matters.

But despite a quiet rookie campaign, the Jaguars didn't hit the panic button. They knew it was going to take Walker time to hit his stride. Although it was a bit odd to use the top overall pick in the draft, they believed he had the tools to develop into an elite pass rusher. Having mostly lined up with his hand in the ground at college, the former Georgia Bulldog made the switch to standup linebacker in Jacksonville.

By Year 2, things have slowed down for Walker. Having one season of experience rushing the passer from a stand-up position set him up to make a leap in 2023. He got better as the season progressed, routinely bringing the heat and containing the edge. He got better especially in the second half, registering six sacks in the last seven games, to give him a total of 10 for the year.

Walker still has room for improvement but he's trending in the right direction. While the comparisons with Hutchinson will continue for the remainder of his career, it's fair to say that the Jaguars picked the right players. In 2023, they got a small sample of the game-changer they expect Walker to be.

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