After the 9-day "mini-bye-week" since the Jacksonville Jaguars were victorious over the New Orleans Saints, on Thursday Night Football, Jaguars offensive coordinators Press Taylor and defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell both met with the press for their weekly media availability on Thursday to catch up on all things Jaguars. Before discussing this week's matchup that's sure to rekindle memories of the epic AFC-Central Divisional battles of the past era, OC Press Taylor took the podium to wrap up last week's game versus the Saints and the challenge of playing without Zay Jones.
I think Zay just has such a versatility to his game that we mix and match it with multiple people. To get the speed element that Zay has, Ag [WR Jamal Agnew] plays a role in that or we move Christian [WR Christian Kirk] and Calvin [WR Calvin Ridley] around to do that. To get the physical blocking aspect, Tim [WR Tim Jones], Elijah [WR Elijah Cooks], maybe a little bit more 12 personnel to do some of the things that Zay can do. Zay is so versatile for us, he has the vertical threat with the speed, he’s got length that we don’t necessarily have in the receiver room. The combination of length, speed and blocking ability without him, we can piece it together with a couple of other people. Then, he’s got experience some of those other guys in the backend don’t necessarily have. As the game changes and as the picture changes within a down, you know what Zay is going to do because Zay has seen it a million times. Zay and Trevor [QB Trevor Lawrence] have that chemistry and that communication that they go through where you’re piecing people to do a job that one person did. Again, Zay is a huge part of our offense, so certainly it’s somebody we miss. I think we have done a decent job of intermixing people into the game and finding different ways and different roles to use those people.”
As an update, Jones has not participated in practice since reinjuring his knee against Buffalo in week five. Here's hoping for a limited practice status for Zay in Friday's practice or Saturday's walk-through. If Jones were to again sit this week, this would make his fifth missed game out of the past six, with him partially participating in the Buffalo matchup before exiting early. However, with the team's week nine bye approaching, the staff may opt to hold him out precautionarily.
Coach Taylor also discussed the team's goal of getting Calvin Ridley more involved while balancing that against taking what the defense provides.
I think we certainly need to figure out ways to get him (Calvin Ridley) the ball. That’s a big part of it, Calvin is a great player and deserves touches and changes the game when he gets touches. At the same time, you’re taking something away to give something up. We want to do the right thing and just go where we’re supposed to go with the football based on whatever they’re allowing us. Maybe it’s you’re getting into shell looks, there’s a lighter box, we have the ability to run the ball, you’re getting into bracket looks and somebody else has a good man matchup and we can work that way. There’s certain things that we want to be able to do to allow Calvin to have an impact with the ball in his hand. He impacts the game the second he steps on the field, whether we’re getting him the ball or not, defenses are certainly aware and you see defenses that have certain plans for him in different situations. He’s somebody that we feel needs the ball.
Throughout the matchup versus the Saints, many Jaguars fans expressed their displeasure with Calvin Ridley ending the first half with zero targets, whereas Jamal Agnew had 6 targets, including one that nearly resulted in a Marcus Lattimore interception, which was thankfully overturned on review.
I think people pay respect to great players. Calvin is a great player, he’s got certain looks where teams are going to be more willing to play a shell or more willing to cloud to his one way or another, more willing to bracket to his side. Again, that’s a case-by-case type of deal, we’re the type of team that we feel like we have the ability to spread the ball around. We have a lot of really good players, a lot of really good skill players that based on whatever matchups you’re presenting to us, we feel like we have answers within concepts or within just a scheme to get to somebody else. I think Trevor [QB Trevor Lawrence] does a great job of going through progressions and finding the open man based on whatever we’re calling as it goes.
Flipping the switch to this week's matchup, the Steelers present a unique matchup, teams that are similar to the Atlanta Falcons and Buffalo Bills on defense, but with a better offense than Atlanta (in my opinion). Coach Taylor took a moment to highlight his thoughts on this generation's current Steel Curtain defense.
I do think this is a good run defense, obviously they’ve been giving up some runs here and there to certain teams, but a lot of times they’re in tight games and things like that. People are continuing to stick to the run, every possession is so valuable right there as opposed to building the lead and teams are having to throw the ball to get back in it. I think that’s a little bit of it, but we view this as a really good front seven that does a good job pressuring the quarterback as well as stopping the run at certain times.
The Steelers currently have the 8th best defense in the NFL, per DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), one spot behind the Jaguars' week seven opponent the New Orleans Saints. They're 11th in the league in total sacks, despite most teams above them playing one additional game. Finally, they carry the second-best turnover differential in the league at +6 - tied with the Jaguars. By no means will this matchup be a pushover. Pittsburg does well not to turn the ball over often on offense (5th best), while limiting their offensive turnovers (4th lowest in the NFL, behind the Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals, and the Los Angeles Chargers).
I also really enjoyed the below exchange and wanted to highlight it for those who didn't watch or weren't present.
Funny exchange with @Jaguars OC Press Taylor, hearing a question about TJ (Watt) & his brother and immediately assuming the question was referring to Travis Etienne Jr (TJ) and his younger brother. Also enjoyed hearing he doesn't watch Florida football #Jaguars pic.twitter.com/iuyzZujX1Q— Travis D. Holmes (@TravisDHolmes) October 26, 2023
DC Mike Caldwell took to the podium to discuss the Steelers' offense and the challenges they present.
Really, they look different when 18 [Steelers WR Diontae Johnson] came back. He was injured, now he’s back. Him and 14 [Steelers WR George Pickens] out there together along with two backs and a quarterback, they’re an offense that presents a bunch of problems. They’re big outside and they have quickness outside with speed so they’re an offense that we have to account for a bunch of guys and like every week in the NFL, it’s going to be a tough task. We have to go out there and play our game and do our best to stop them.
With the likely return of CB Tyson Campbell this week and the possibility of a return of IDL Davon Hamilton, the defense may be getting healthier right on time before the bye week. Coach Caldwell spoke on what Hamilton's potential return adds to the defensive front.
He’s strong inside, he’s able to push the pocket like you mentioned, and that enables our outside guys to rush more freely and rush a little higher because the quarterback won’t be able to step up. At the end of the day, he also has a skill to go from left to right and make a guard or center miss and be able to push the pocket that way. He gives you a little versatility and we have multiple guys down there, all of them do it a different way. He’ll adjust his way of doing it and help us out.”
Diontae Johnson being listed as a DNP, after being a full participant on Wednesday and coming off a hamstring injury is something to keep an eye on for Friday's injury report updates.
Steelers Thurs injury report: Diontae Johnson (hamstring) & Larry Ogunjobi (shoulder) did not practice.— Steelers Depot 7⃣ (@Steelersdepot) October 26, 2023
Limited were Joey Porter Jr. (calf), Levi Wallace (foot) & Cameron Heyward (groin).
Full Anthony McFarland Jr. (knee), Cole Holcomb (ankle) & G Nate Herbig (illness).… pic.twitter.com/o6tHtet1ch
That's all for Thursday's presser updates. Check back on Friday for our final presser updates and final injury report updates.