In the offseason, I noted several micro and macro areas where the 2022 Jacksonville Jaguars should improve this season. Here, I follow up to see how the Jags have done in these areas through the first half (basically) of the season.
Micro areas for improvement for the Jacksonville Jaguars
Offense: Passing Under Pressure
Trevor Lawrence currently ranks thirteenth among qualifying quarterbacks in passer rating when pressured (93.6). This shows a marginal, at best, improvement from 2022, where Lawrence ranked 13th.
However, there is one area that Lawrence has excelled in while pressured: scrambles. Lawrence is tied with Patrick Mahomes for the second most scrambles (24) this season, trailing only Lamar Jackson. Additionally, Lawrence’s 8.8 yards per scramble rank fifth among quarterbacks with at least ten scrambles. When asked, Lawrence has been effective in rushing the ball (leading the team in rushing yards in Week 7) despite the knee injury.
Defense: Limit Defensive Holding Calls
The Jaguars’ defense racked up nine defensive holding penalties in 2022 (sixth-most). Through eight weeks, they have zero. While the Jaguars team has been one of the least-penalized teams in the NFL, the defense has led the way.
Through eight games, the defense has accounted for twelve penalties for 128 yards. Perhaps most importantly, the defense does not have a single fourth-quarter penalty, with only four penalties for twenty-four yards in the third quarter.
Team-Wide: 1st Half Point Margin
Last year, the Jaguars were one of the four teams with a negative first-half point differential to make the playoffs. This year, they have the fourth highest in the NFL at 5.25 per game (yellow indicates a team has a record above .500):
While there is a sizeable gap between the Jaguars and the top three teams, this puts the Jaguars in elite territory. Interestingly, division-rival Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans are also above-average in this statistic.
Macro areas for improvement for the Jacksonville Jaguars
Offense: The Red Zone
The first area where the Jaguars have regressed, after underperforming last year, is in the red zone offense. It is worth noting that ed zone efficiency has declined this year league-wide. Regardless, the Jaguars have scored a touchdown on only 47.6 percent of drives that reach the red zone (twenty-third in the league).
Most concerning, however, is their inability to reach the red zone. In 2022, the Jaguars reached the red zone on 32 percent of drives, tied for sixth in the league. This year, the Jaguars have reached the red zone on only 22 percent of drives.
Defense: 3rd Downs
The Jaguars’ third down conversion rate allowed (38.5 percent) and average yards to go (6.8) have only marginally improved from 2022:
However, many of the underlying statistics provide a different picture. On third down, the Jaguars' defense ranks third in overall success rate and fourth on drop back success rate. Surprisingly, they rank 25th in rushing success rate despite their dominance stopping the run on early downs.
Team: Win the Close Games
Last year, the Jaguars only won 40 percent of their one-score games (4-6). Through eight weeks, they are 2-1 in one-score games:
This is a small sample size to reveal anything significant. However, that may be the best sign. While you may not feel it watching the game, most of Jaguars’ wins have been by larger margins. While winning the close games is important, winning by larger margins feels even better.
Bonus: Has Luck for the Jacksonville Jaguars Changed?
Fumbles and Field Goals
Last year, the Jaguars were particularly unlucky with opponents' field goal success as well as their tendency to lose the ball when fumbling. So far, the Jaguars have been near average in both categories:
Both Brandon McManus (89.5 percent) and the Jaguars opposing kickers (83.3 percent) are hitting field goals at around the same rate as the NFL average (85.5 percent). More revealing, the average distance of a McManus attempt (24.8) is much further than the Jaguars' opponents (15.1). This gap would likely not have been as vast before McManus hit two 50+ yard field goals.
While the Jaguars were unlucky to lose as many fumbles as they did in 2022, they have little excuse this year. Of the twelve offensive fumbles, the Jaguars have lost eight of them. This rate is nearly exactly the NFL-wide average. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills (3) and New England Patriots (5) are the only teams to lose all their fumbles while the Miami Dolphins (4 of 13) have been the luckiest at recovering their own fumbles.
Overall, the Jaguars have made steady improvements in several of their poor areas from 2022, largely contributing to the 6-2 record. However, as they always are, there are still further areas for improvement.