"It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." The opening line to the Dickens classic "A Tale of Two Cities" seems apropos in describing the Jacksonville Jaguars season thus far. Three weeks ago, they left for London with their collective tails between their legs after two straight losses at home: A frustrating loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in which the Jaguars could not find the end zone, followed by a humiliating loss to the Texans where the Jaguars made C.J. Stroud look like the second-coming of Dan Marino.
The Jaguars bounced back in London, reeling off two straight wins versus the Atlanta Falcons and the Buffalo Bills respectively, and both in fairly convincing fashion. Led by a strong defense and a consistent running game, the Jags were able to get out to early leads and hold on for the victories. Upon returning home, they used the same M.O. against the Colts and cruised (almost too leisurely) to the win. With a third of the season in the books, let's take a look at how the Jaguars got here.
The Jaguars offense has had good and not-so-good moments in 2023
The season kicked off in very strange fashion as the Jaguars have struggled to establish an identity. It was supposed to be a team with a high-powered offense that would sling it around the yard, drop 30 points a game on it's opponents, and bail out an at best suspect defense.
Trevor Lawrence would pile up 300-yard games and Christian Kirk, Calvin Ridley, Travis Etienne, and Evan Engram would all head to the Pro Bowl. And to a degree, this has been the case. Lawrence ranks 11th in passing while Travis Etienne ranks sixth in rushing. Evan Engram is third among tight ends in yardage. On top of that, the Jaguars are the only team to have two wide receivers ranked in the top 25 in yardage.
So far this season, the Jags have 15 offensive touchdowns, tied for fifth in the league. They have the same amount of touchdowns as the Eagles and the Chiefs, last year's Super Bowl teams. Jacksonville is also eighth in points scored, averaging just under 24 points a game. Yet it seems like the offense is sputtering along, as evidenced by the 11 plays for a loss in the Colts game... or being shut out in the first half by the Texans... or failing to get in the end zone against the Chiefs.
Trevor Lawrence oftentimes appears to be out of sync with his receivers and the play-calling has been questionable at times. Thankfully for the Jaguars, the defense has flipped the script as they have been the ones doing the bailing.
The Jaguars defense, on the other hand, has exceeded expectations
The Jaguars defense has been a pleasant surprise this year. It has been opportunistic, disciplined, and gritty. The Jaguars lead the league in turnovers with 15. In recent years a turnover for the Jaguars was nothing more than a delicious pastry served before the game.
Now, it is turning the tide during games. Here's an interesting statistic: The Jaguars have forced seven fumbles and recovered all seven. They are also tied for second in the league in interceptions with eight. Jacksonville has become a much more disciplined team this year.
The tackling has improved greatly, and the unit is among the least penalized teams in the league, averaging less than two a game. They have yet to commit a pass interference or unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The defense is showing some grit as well.
As a unit they are stuffing the run, ranking second in the AFC. Linebacker Foye Oluokon is a tackling machine ranking third in the league. Josh Allen is flying all over the opposing backfield, ranking third in sacks behind Danielle Hunter and some guy named T.J. Watt. Darious WIlliams has intercepted a pass in three straight games and was just awarded "The Belt" by Jason McCourty on Good Morning Football for being the best defensive back in the league right now.
That said, the defense is weak where it was predicted to be. The Jaguars rank 26th in sacks and are dead last in passing yards allowed (maybe a DPI or two wouldn't be a bad thing). Granted, some of those yards have been given up late in games with the result already decided. But still, last is last. Overall, however, it has been the defense keeping the Jaguars in games and giving the team the boost it needed to gain victory.
Honestly, I had the Jaguars at 3-3 at this point in the season. I predicted they'd lose to KC and Buffalo, and they'd split the season series with the Colts. After a sweep of the Colts and a successful trip to London, the Jaguars and a banged-up Trevor Lawrence are riding a three-game winning streak into The Big Easy against a formidable Saints defense. Hopefully for the Jaguars, the worst of times is behind them, and the best of times is yet to come.