Micro and macro areas where the Jaguars can improve in 2023

• The Jaguars defense needs to get better on 3rd downs

• They must cut down on the holding penalties

• The Jags must also do better in the red zone

Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars
Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars / Jack Thomas/GettyImages

The Jacksonville Jaguars are coming off a highly productive season that ended in a trip to the playoffs. However, that was last year and if they want to return to the postseason and win the AFC South once again in 2023, they'll need to improve in some areas.

While some could be quick fixes, others will need the Jaguars' full attention. With that in mind, here are six areas that could use improvement next season.

Jaguars areas for improvement in 2023: The Micro

Offense: Passing Under Pressure

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence took a huge step under Doug Pederson. However, one area where he struggled over his first two years is passing when pressured.

Lawrence's -0.35 Expected Points Added (EPA) per attempt while pressured ranked ninth among quarterbacks to lead (start 5+ games) their team to the playoffs and Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts were the only quarterbacks worse in the category that won a playoff game:

This may have been partially due to the Jaguars facing the league-hardest Pass Protection Efficiency Defense in 2022 and this is expected to decline to the 14th hardest. However, even with this difficult schedule, Lawrence only saw a 28.6% percent pressure rate which was 8th best in the league.

With offensive line turnover expected, Pederson and Lawrence need to find a way to limit the bad plays when under pressure.

Defense: Limit Defensive Holding

Overall, the Jaguars were the seventh least-penalized team in 2022. However, they did rack up nine defensive holding penalties in the regular season (one in the playoff). This was the sixth-most in the NFL.

Not only was it the quantity of the defensive holding penalties that hurt the Jaguars, but the timeliness:

  • 6:20 remaining in the fourth quarter against the Commanders in Week 1 when up by two. The Commanders scored a touchdown (and two-pt conversion) to take a six-point lead.
  • 7:37 remaining in the first half against the Texans in Week 5 when tied 3-3. The Texans scored a field goal, eventually winning the game 13-6.
  • Two defensive holding penalties in the final 2:30 of the first half against the Chiefs in Week 10, the Chiefs scored a touchdown to extend the halftime lead to 20. The first one was a third down.

Team-Wide: 1st Half Point Margin

Year-after-year first-half point differential is one of the biggest indicators of team success. Look no further than 2022:

The top eight teams all made the playoffs. Furthermore, the Jaguars (trailed at halftime in eight games) and the Vikings (trailed at halftime in six games) were the only teams with a negative halftime point differential to win their division.

Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars’ ability to come back in games, largely due to strong third-quarter performances, was impressive but is unreliable. In 2023, it will be key to hold more first-half leads.

Jaguars areas for improvement in 2023: The Macro

Offense: The red zone

While the Jaguars' offense started humming in the second half of 2022, the red zone was an area of struggle. The Jaguars were 20th in the NFL in EPA per play while in the red zone:

Notice, the truly elite teams in the NFL (Chiefs, Eagles, Bengals) all ranked in the top six of EPA per Play while also seeing 32 percent of their drives reach the red zone. While the Jaguars did reach the 32 percent threshold, they struggled once they got there.

The main area hampering the Jags were untimely turnovers (Lawrence's interception against the Broncos and Texans and Travis Etienne’s fumble against the Giants come to mind) that turned nearly guaranteed points into a loss of possession. Protecting the ball and converting more red-zone drives will be beneficial in 2023.

Defense: 3rd Downs

The median team’s third-down conversion rate in 2022 was 39.7 percent. The Jaguars gave up at least 50 percent of third downs in eight of the 17 games:

This was particularly damaging in the opener against the Commanders and Week 6 against the Colts, where the Jaguars gave up at least 66.7 percent of third down attempts despite the average yards to go being at least 6.5 yards.

Conversely, by creating third-and-long situations against the Colts in Week 2 and Jets in Week 16 helped limit those two teams to a combined three points in those games.

Team: Win the Close Games

In my previous article surrounding strength of schedule, I noted that the 2023 Jaguars are slight underdogs (less than three points) in five games, and in an additional game, they are favored by one point (Ravens). In 2022, the Jaguars struggled in these games:

The Jaguars were the only team to win their division despite losing more three one-score games, and they lost six. The Jaguars will need to find ways to turn this record around to compete with the best in the AFC.

Bonus: Where Luck Can Help

Fumbles and Field Goals

According to Sharp Football Analysis, the Jaguars opposing kickers in 2022 made 26/27 field goals, with the lone miss being Justin Tucker’s 67-yard attempt at the end of the Ravens' Week 12 game. This is 3.98 field goals over expectations based on advanced kicking analytics. This regressing to the mean may also help contribute to the Jaguars improving their one-score game record.

The Jaguars also lost a league-leading 13 fumbles. While this can sometimes be a symptom of the player (Josh Allen and Daniel Jones consistently top the charts in fumbles lost), most of these fumbles came from Travis Etienne and Trevor Lawrence early in the season and they seemed to clean this up in the second half. Enforcing ball control (and getting some more luck) can severely help the Jags in the long run.

Fore more of Andrew Kessler, make sure you give him a follow at @DuvalAndrew904 on Twitter. And for more stories, make sure you check the Black and Teal on a daily basis.

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