How the Jacksonville Jaguars are slowly “Establishing the Pass” in 2023

The NFL is changing, and the Jaguars are a bit behind the eight ball when it comes to establishing the passing game.
Jacksonville Jaguars v Pittsburgh Steelers
Jacksonville Jaguars v Pittsburgh Steelers / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages

Sid Gillman, longtime football coach and mentor to Vince Lombardi, once said “any coach that wants to establish the run is full of *expletive*, as he has to establish the pass if he wants to win.” Gillman retired from coaching in 1980.

Forty-two years later, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Trevor Lawrence, and head coach Doug Pederson are slowly starting to embrace this philosophy.

Jaguars throwing rate on first down

Interestingly, the Jaguars throw at the seventh-fewest rate (44.6%) amongst NFL teams in 2023 on first down. This is down slightly from 2022 (49%).

However, this percentage changes to 62% on second down. More notably, the Jaguars have the highest pass rate on second down after an incompletion on first down (95%) in the NFL this season:

These statistics show that Pederson and Press Taylor view play calls in terms of the best chance to get a first down, refusing to let a failed pass attempt on first down deter them from returning to the passing game on second down.

Jaguars throwing rate in the first quarter

On a more macro scale, the Jaguars throw the ball at the tenth-lowest rate in the first quarter (51.6%) in the NFL this season:

This is again down from 54% in 2022. However, the Jaguars are throwing the ball slightly deeper in the first quarter.

In 2022, only 40.3% of the first-quarter pass attempts traveled 6+ air yards. In 2023, this number is up to 48.4%. All of this despite Zay Jones missing most of the season so far.

The Jaguars have been able to control most of the games they have played in this season, while building leads early in games. However, continuing to pass more on early downs and in the first quarter could force defenses to drop more players in coverage, opening up the running game later in the game.

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