The Jacksonville Jaguars finished the 2021 season with a 3-14 record, which was the worst out of any NFL team. Statistically, the Jaguars ranked toward the bottom of the league in many categories. The team’s coaching and leadership under Urban Meyer was essentially nonexistent.
Flash forward to 2022, and Jacksonville has made a lot of strides toward being a more competent football team, but there is still a lot of work to do. The most obvious and needed change is at the head coach position, with Super Bowl LII-winning Doug Pederson now at the helm.
Jacksonville’s offense added several playmakers through free agency and should also see a big development from quarterback Trevor Lawrence in his second NFL season. The defense was bolstered throughout the offseason, including during the 2022 NFL Draft, and appears to be much-improved heading into training camp.
However, the Jaguars still have a long way to go before the team will be competing for a playoff spot. For Jacksonville to turn things around and play meaningful football games late in the 2022 season, there are several areas of the game where Jacksonville needs to get better at compared to its 2021 effort.
Here are five areas in which the Jaguars must improve in if the team plans to have any success during the 2022 campaign:
Scoring offense and scoring defense:
This is obvious and may be a bit of an oversimplification, but the most basic goal in football is to score more points than the opponent. In 2021, the Jaguars struggled mightily to put points up on the board. In fact, it was an abysmal performance from Lawrence and the offense in that regard. Jacksonville scored just 14.9 points per game last season, which not only ranked dead last in the NFL for the year, but was also the lowest full season output since the Arizona Cardinals averaged 14.1 points per game during the 2018 season.
Simply put, a franchise will not win many games scoring under 15 points per contest. For comparison, all 14 playoff teams in 2021 averaged at least 20.2 points per game, and 13 of those 14 teams scored at least 22 points per game (the Pittsburgh Steelers were at 20.2 points per game). It seems as though the Jaguars would need to be closer to around 20 points per game to be a true competitor in 2022, but showing any kind of moderate improvement here is important for the team’s development moving forward.
Defensively, it wasn’t much better for Jacksonville. The old adage is “defense wins championships,” but in an ever-changing NFL where many of the recent rule changes often favor the offense, it is essential for a defense to be able to get off of the field and prevent the opposition from getting into the end zone as often as possible.
The Jaguars allowed 26.9 points per game last season, which ranked 28th in the NFL. Of course, some of that is due to poor starting field position and bad situations that the offense put the defense in, but the defensive unit must do a better job of limiting touchdowns. The Jaguars gave up 52 touchdowns in 2021, which was tied with the Detroit Lions for the fourth most allowed in the NFL.
The Jaguars averaged 1.7 turnovers per game in 2021, which resulted in a total of 29 giveaways — only the New York Giants had more (30). Jacksonville threw 17 interceptions on the season — all from Lawrence — and only six teams threw more picks. Meanwhile, the Jaguars’ 12 lost fumbles tied for the most in the league.
On the other side of the ball, Jacksonville created just nine total takeaways, which ranked dead last last in the NFL. Jacksonville’s seven interceptions were only ahead of the Las Vegas Raiders (six), and its two fumble recoveries were the fewest in the league.
Overall, Jacksonville had a putrid turnover differential of minus-20, which once again was easily the worst in the entire league. Turnovers play an important role in deciding games. There is a strong correlation between turnover margin and wins and losses. For example, in 2019, teams that won the turnover battle in a game went 151-46-1 (76.6 percent), according to SportsLine.
It goes without saying that the Jaguars have to take much better care of the ball on offense, and create more turnovers on defense, to win more games in 2022.
While the Jaguars struggled to create turnovers, the defensive unit also had a hard time getting to opposing quarterbacks and generating sacks. Jacksonville recorded just 32 total sacks, averaging about 1.9 sacks per game, which ranked 27th in the league.
According to Football Outsiders, the Jaguars had an adjusted sack rate — which “gives sacks (plus intentional grounding penalties) per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent” of just 5.5 percent, which also ranks 27th in the league.
Jacksonville was a little more respectable in terms of pressure rate (quarterback hurries, knockdowns and sacks combined). According to Pro Football Reference, the Jaguars had a pressure rate of 24.2 percent, which ranks 18th in the NFL. However, in 2022, Jacksonville needs to finish the job more often and actually sack the quarterback at a better pace. Hopefully pairing No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker with Josh Allen will help in this regard.
Miscues — Dropped Passes and missed tackles:
Offensively, the Jaguars dropped 33 passes as a team in 2021, the seventh most in the NFL, per Pro Football Reference. The team also had a drop rate of 5.5 percent, which was tied for seventh most in the league. As a team, Jacksonville had a 61.9 percent catch percentage.
There were far too many drops last season that ultimately ended drives prematurely and prevented Jacksonville from scoring points. With a retooled wide receivers room with Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, and tight end Evan Engram also joining the fold, the Jaguars’ pass catchers will need to improve in this regard.
Defensively, the Jaguars missed 130 tackles in 2021, according to Pro Football Reference. Only the Detroit Lions had more (132). This is far too many missed tackles, and it often led to big plays for the opposition. It should be an area defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell and his staff look to seriously address with the unit heading into the 2022 campaign and throughout the season.
Another statistical category where the Jaguars ranked toward the bottom of the league in last season was third-down conversion percentage. Jacksonville converted just 35.85 percent of its attempts on third down (76 out of 212), which ranked 28th. In 2022, the Jaguars have to be able to convert on third downs and extend drives to ultimately put points up on the board. However, the Jaguars were actually solid on fourth down last year, going 18-for-31 (58.06 percent, 10th in the NFL).
Meanwhile, Jacksonville’s defense allowed opposing teams to convert at about a 43 percent clip (95 out of 221), which put the Jaguars 25th in the NFL. So, issues on third down plagued Jacksonville on both sides of the ball. The Jaguars also allowed opponents to convert 14 times on 21 fourth-down attempts (66.7 percent, 30th in NFL). While it is important for the offense to convert on crucial third and fourth downs, it is just as important for the defense to be able to get off of the field and get the ball back to Lawrence and company.
To be frank, the Jaguars need to improve in just about every area in 2022. Time will tell if the the team has made enough strides in the offseason to truly increase its win total.