The Jacksonville Jaguars are set up for success this year.
There are two parts of that sentence that need a little more context. First, we need to define success. DraftKings Sportsbook has their over/under wins total for the season at 6.5 wins. In other words, Las Vegas thinks the Jaguars have a better chance of getting six or seven wins than any other total this season. The fact that the floor is double our win total from last year tells me that from a cold, hard, box score outlook — this team is predicted to improve by people with literal money on the line.
But notice I didn’t say “will have success” or “are going to be successful” but rather set up for success.
It begins and ends with Trevor Lawrence
Patrick Mahomes won the MVP award in his second season. Then Lamar Jackson did the same thing a year later. Dan Marino did it a few decades before either of them. Kurt Warner won a Super Bowl in his (sort of) second season.
Whether real or imagined because we cling to hope no matter how small or fleeting, the sophomore bump for NFL quarterbacks is something fans talk about. And to some extent, expect.
But it’s not just box scores and stat sheets. Trevor Lawrence will very likely improve upon his sub-60% completion percentage and 214.7 passing yards per game from last year largely because the Jaguars put pieces in place around him — not enough, in my opinion, but more so than they did last season.
And one of the most important pieces is the head coach.
Doug Pederson will help the Jaguars’ most important player
Doug Pederson is the antithesis of Urban Meyer in many ways. Doug has NFL experience. Doug has had success. Doug knows who Aaron Donald and James Robinson are. And Doug favors an offense with multiple safety valves and Plan B’s for his quarterback.
Don’t believe me? During his tenure in Philadelphia, tight end Zach Ertz was the team’s leading receiver for four out of his five seasons. And he won a Super Bowl like that. Nick Foles wasn’t making a lot of bonehead throws like the one you see above because the Eagles coaching staff was protecting him from situations where that sort of throw could easily happen.
Everything is pointing towards Lawrence improving (radically) in the “egregiously bad throws” department. But most of all, Pederson knows how to reduce the chances that his quarterback would even find himself in this scenario.
Immediate help in the passing game doesn’t hurt
The Jaguars prioritized veteran help in free agency this past March. Again, in my opinion it wasn’t enough, but it’s still an influx of talent. Brandon Scherff is a big help along the interior of the offensive line — a weak spot in years past. Zay Jones went for a big gain on the first passing play of the preseason. Evan Engram knows how to get open in the red zone for a touchdown.
But it was Pederson’s instincts on the sideline that give me the most hope for the regular season. He noticed right away that the standard offense wasn’t cutting it and switched it up to more motion and mobility. Immediate results. I’ve said it before, but Pederson’s career as a backup actually works in his favor with a clear starter like Lawrence. He’s had a front row seat to guys like Brett Favre. He knows what works to get the best out of them, and what discourages their development.
And Pederson’s experience as a backup, and knowing he wasn’t as good as the Hall of Famer he watched everyday, is a plus too. He knows little ways to kickstart production. He knows how to get around just not having it and minimize mistakes until he does.
Will they get at least six wins?
That’s the magic number. It’s the floor of what I think would stave off disappointment from your average fan. And it’s the number for which if they do any better, we’d be happy. Pleasantly surprised, but happy.