Well lookie there!
Entering the game, Jacksonville was tied atop the AFC South with Indianapolis. Many labeled this as a trap game with the Jags coming back from 10 days overseas and the Colts earning a 3-0 record with #MinshewMania2.0.
However, the Jaguars’ defense, Trevor Lawrence, and Travis Etienne came through yet again with a strong performance to add one to the ‘W’ column. And if a win at home against a division rival wasn’t enough, Jacksonville’s rookies provided the cherry on top by making a few plays of their own.
Anton Harrison: If the Jags ever open an amusement park, the Anton Harrison Rookie Season Roller Coaster would be the prime attraction. Coming off arguably his worst week of the season last week (yes, worse than the Chris Jones debacle), Harrison logged what may be his best week of the season against a very solid Colts defensive line. For the second time in three weeks, Harrison officially logged zero pressures allowed (key word is officially) and finished the day with an offense-high PFF grade of 74.4 In fact, his 83.5 pass-blocking grade on 35 pass-blocking snaps was the highest of any right tackle in Week 5. If Harrison can keep things going, he may just end up being a key contributor on a playoff team by season’s end.
Grade: Bigsby made an early appearance on the first drive with a nice bruising run up the middle for a first down on 3rd-and-1. Though he was stuffed for a loss of 4 a few plays later, this was the product of a blown block by Scherff, leaving an open rusher to tackle Bigsby. Interestingly, his carries all but disappeared after that first drive, and he finished the day with 3 carries for 2 yards. Travis Etienne is still the clear workhorse back (and absolutely killing it) but it’s nice to see Bigsby take a few snaps.
Brenton Strange: Perhaps the most surprising rookie stud of the week was tight end Brenton Strange, who made his first appearance on the stat sheet early on with a 17-yard run-and-catch to bring the Jags into the red zone on the first drive. Though he was tackled a couple yards short of the end zone on his first reception, he found paydirt later on for a 10-yard score. He also threw a couple of nice blocks for Etienne, demonstrating his dual potential as both a blocker and pass-catcher. Strange’s biggest issue on Sunday was yet another penalty: he had a false start penalty for 5 yards in the fourth quarter, two plays prior to the play-that-must-not-be-named. Fortunately, the impact was pretty minimal. All things considered, this was a very good showing for Strange, and he will hopefully build off this performance moving forward.
Other Rookie Performances:
Tyler Lacy: Lacy continues to be somewhat of an afterthought with 0 tackles on 10 snaps on Sunday. With limited snaps at a relatively un-flashy position, it’s hard to get a gauge of his potential, but he has yet to make a substantial impact.
Parker Washington was placed on injured reserve and Antonio Johnson was again absent from the stat sheet during his second game of the year. Christian Braswell and Yasir Abdullah were both out with injuries. Though Elijah Cooks was active for the first time this year, he did not appear on the stat sheet despite 10 snaps on the day.
Though it cost a few minor injuries to key starters, Jacksonville pulled together a strong win against the Colts to finish the clean sweep for the season. Secondly, and more importantly for the context of this column, the Jaguars’ rookies were actually a substantial part of this win.
Harrison helped give Lawrence time to throw and Strange helped put 6 points on the board (almost 12, if you consider his near-touchdown leading to an Etienne score in the first quarter). As the Jags enter Week 7 likely down a few starters, look for more rookies to get some playing time.
A final note: for Twitter/X users saying my grading is harsh - sorry, I’m not one for grade inflation. What will it take to get an A? Give me 100 yards and a touchdown for Strange/Bigsby or a penalty-free 80+ PFF grade against the pass and the run for Harrison.
With that in mind, who will have the first A worthy performance? Let us know in the comments!