There won’t be a youth movement in Jacksonville anytime soon, and it appears that Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer isn’t ready to hand over the reins to some of the team’s top draft picks, at least not this early into the season.
That much was made clear on Sunday when just four out of the team’s 2021 draft picks were made active, just one, quarterback Trevor Lawrence, would receive more than 29 snaps on the day.
In the offseason, Jacksonville spent significant capital on acquiring talent via the NFL Draft. With the first-overall pick in multiple rounds throughout the event, many predicted they’d be able to get immediate help to bolster a roster that was coming off of its worst season in franchise history.
By acquiring perhaps the most talented quarterback to enter the NFL in quite some time, the Jaguars did well with its first pick in this year’s draft, however, time will tell whether or not the rest of the team’s draft picks become significant contributors.
On Sunday, the Jaguars deemed three rookies inactive, including tackle Walker Little, the team’s No. 45 overall pick, defensive end/outside linebacker Jordan Smith, a player the team traded up for in the fourth round, and fellow fourth-round rookie, defensive tackle Jay Tufele.
No. 25 overall pick, running back Travis Etienne, is on the team’s reserve/injured list, while sixth-round rookie, receiver Jalen Camp, was waived during the team’s final cuts this summer.
That would leave just cornerback Tyson Campbell (No. 33 overall), safety Andre Cisco (No. 65 overall) and tight end Luke Farrell (No. 145 overall) as the only rookies outside of Lawrence to receive any snaps at all.
Speaking with the media on Monday, Meyer shed some light as to why a few of his players, including Little, were inactive. Ultimately, the decision appears to have come down to experience and special teams play.
“A lot of time was spent on Chappelle [Russell] versus another d-lineman, we just feel they have a very good returner,” Meyer said of the Texans’ return specialist when asked about the team’s decisions with inactives on Sunday.
“One of the bright spots was that the returner they have was outstanding. We kept him in check all night, our punt team had a 50-yard average and 48-yard net. We spent a lot of time on that, coverage units were really good Saturday. I was really—like my mind always does, I go right to that, ‘Who do they have at returner?’
“If you want to lose a game fast, not cover. So, that was where we spent a lot of time on Walker [Little], well, I think it’s eight linemen. And we just felt like [Will] Richardson has been more consistent than Walker [Little] right now.”
While Richardson does bring some versatility — I’ve heard both Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke are really impressed by the fourth-year player — Little’s status as a second-round pick shouldn’t be understated. There’s a reason the Jaguars took the young tackle out of Stanford so early even though he hadn’t played football in essentially two years.
The rookie looked fine in training camp and made strides during the preseason. Not being more aggressive to field 47 of your best players, and offensive linemen during the year could come back to bite Jacksonville.
Jaguars rookie snap counts:
Lawrence - 74 snaps (100 percent of total offensive snaps)
Campbell - 29 snaps (37 percent of total defensive snaps)
Cisco - 23 snaps (29 percent of total defensive snaps)
Farrell - four snaps (five percent of total offensive snaps)
Lawrence will require a much more thorough breakdown at some point, however, in short, the rookie QB played like one. While he did show signs of why he was selected first overall, the struggles of a first-year player were apparent. Several of his throws were off the mark, and he finished with a three-interception affair.
On the day, Lawrence completed just 28/51 of his passes for 332 yards, three touchdowns and the aforementioned three interceptions. He will be fine moving forward and is perhaps the least of the concerns among all rookies this season.
Campbell’s day wouldn’t be much better than Lawrence’s, in fact, it would be much worse. Several times throughout the contest the team’s top second-round pick got lost in the shuffle when attempting to cover the Texans receivers.
According to Pro Football Focus, Campbell allowed five receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown. Three receptions came against slot receiver Danny Amendola, including a touchdown reception at the end of the first half. One reception by Brandin Cooks for 40 yards, and one by Chris Conley for 17 yards.
To allow for some further context, here is the play in which Campbell was credited with surrendering the touchdown to Amendola. While Campbell is certainly in coverage, a rub by the Texans receiver on Jaguars safety Rudy Ford created plenty of space for the catch to be made.
Danny Amendola just casually rolling out of bed after missing all of camp for 4/30/1 in the first half pic.twitter.com/sIi7TYCCnI— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) September 12, 2021
The performance from Campbell will leave much to be desired as he is slated to be one of the primary defenders in the Jacksonville secondary. Though he played just 29 snaps on the day, Jacksonville is certain to face more three-receiver sets moving forward, forcing its nickel corner to play more throughout the season.
A fan favorite, if only because of the starting safety in front of him, Cisco was able to enter the contest late after Jacksonville pulled starting safety Andrew Wingard from the contest. In his short time on the field, Cisco was credited with one missed tackle and a defensive stop.
There wasn’t much sample size, and his play moving forward will tell the tale.
Meyer offered some insight as to how he felt the second safety position opposite of Rayshawn Jenkins played, and whether or not the rookie will receive more playing time moving forward.
“Yeah, [Andre] Cisco is really coming on. You know, he’s a guy that we were told when we drafted him—we really thought highly of him, we still do—is that he had that ACL, so he’s still—was a little bit on that pitch count during training camp,” said Meyer.
“[Andrew] Wingard was the most consistent throughout, missed a tackle, had a chance to make a couple plays. We’re still, we’re not throwing anybody under the bus yet, but Cisco is a guy that we believe has a great future and he played pretty well when he was in there.”
Look for Cisco to become the team’s starting safety opposite of Jenkins sooner rather than later. Wingard’s performance on Sunday left much to be desired, as he was credited with missing two tackles and surrendering one reception for 22 yards against tight end Pharaoh Brown.
There’s not much to say about Farrell’s performance from Sunday. The rookie tight end played just four offensive snaps on the day, and two snaps on kickoff coverage. Simply put, we will need to wait and see on the team’s young tight end.