Consider the trip to London a success.
The Jaguars returned home to Jacksonville after a 25-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday - the second of two wins on foreign soil that has completely flipped the outlook for the franchise this season. Head coach Doug Pederson met with the media on Monday to discuss the trip, beginning the press conference with an update on some of the injuries the team sustained at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium:
“Cam [Robinson] had a left elbow hyperextension during the game, he was evaluated on the sideline and went back in. He’ll be fine, regular treatment with him this week. Walker [Little] is actually having an MRI as we speak, so I’ll have more information for you later. Zay [Jones] also has an MRI, so we’ll know more on those two later this afternoon.”
Pederson was also asked about the progress of linebacker Duawane Smoot, who had been ramping up his return this week from a torn achilles sustained last December:
“Yeah, [Dawuane] Smoot did really well in practice. He looked good, he got a couple of reps with the defense but more importantly, he got a lot of reps on the look team. He was able to prepare Anton [Harrison] last week and he did a nice job. We’ll see where he’s at, still in that 21-day window, but he’s doing extremely well.”
Smoot’s return to a much-improved front seven is a real bonus for the Jaguars - the 7th year pro was actually leading the team in sacks before his unfortunate injury last year. With Mike Caldwell’s unit already impressing, getting even more pass rush would add another dimension to this defense.
Speaking of - Pederson offered his thoughts on how the defense helped them secure the win on Sunday:
“The defensive backs played extremely well. We know Buffalo has a really good passing attack and they got some really good perimeter receivers with [Stefon] Diggs and [Gabe] Davis and really good tight ends. It was going to be a challenge for our perimeter guys all day and I thought they did a really nice job. It looked like they were going Darious’ [Williams] way a little bit during the game, but then Darious came up big with the big interception and kind of took it away from Diggs there. Overall, just really held it together and did a nice job of tackling on the perimeter. Getting the guys down, creating some third down scenarios where we ultimately were able to get off the field. Rayshawn [Jekins] did a nice job whether he was blitzing or anticipating a run, tackles for losses and things of that nature around the box. All things that Rayshawn does extremely well. Guys played well on the backend.”
Doug Pederson impact on this franchise. Jaguars used to find a way to lose that game. Now 3-2 and just put up almost 500 yards of offense on Bills. pic.twitter.com/aJwrvROCGr— Brent Martineau (@BrentASJax) October 8, 2023
It’s fair to say that Doug Pederson embraced the trip to London as an opportunity this season - when perhaps in seasons past, it was more of an inconvenience for the team. The Jaguars head coach was happy to admit it gave his players a real chance to bond:
“We didn’t build a lot of campfires and huddled around campfires during the two weeks or 10 days. But the fact that we got to spend time in the hotel together, players went to dinner together, they just hung around and played some golf together. Different things like that are just a time where you get to know someone a little more. When you’re in the heat of the battle out there and of course in the game, you lean on each other that way and we were able to do that for those 10 days. I think the guys really embraced that and now it’s a matter of coming back here, continuing that same sort of mindset as we prepare for this week and for the first half of our season, which is the next couple of ballgames.”
Whilst the Jaguars are familiar with the excursion, sticking around for another week was a new twist. Whilst he was happy with the stay, Pederson was unsure if it was something that become a regular fixture of the teams’ calendar:
“I was just asked that as a question; that is not confirmed one way or the other. It was just asked if I would consider playing two games back-to-back in London. We did have a great experience over there, I would recommend it for all 31 teams to have the pleasure of spending two weeks in London. At this point, there is no confirmation on us doing this anytime soon.”
Winning one game in London was a must for a team finding its feet through the early part of this season. Winning both was welcome - particularly with the second one coming against one of the AFC heavyweights. The game against the Bills was seen this offseason as a real yardstick for the Jaguars and how far they’ve come in Pederson’s tenure. Needless to say, he was proud of his team’s performance:
“That’s a really good football team. Buffalo has a great football team, they’re playing with a lot of confidence and a well-coached team. For our guys to go out and go toe-to-toe with them, I think it shows where our guys are and the type of team that we have. It’s a no-quit mentality. They hung in there for 60 minutes. It wasn’t a perfect football game, by no means. There are a lot of areas that we can continue to improve, but I think overall, looking at it, it gives you confidence moving forward. It gives you an outlook as to what you can be and who you can become, the type of football team that we are right now. We got some areas to clean up, and we’ll do that and continue to get better.”
All eyes on Indianapolis
Sources: #Colts starting QB Anthony Richardson received an initial diagnosis of a Grade 3 AC joint sprain, which would mean he’d miss a month or more. He has an MRI this morning to confirm.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 9, 2023
Either way, it’s likely Gardner Minshew next week and moving forward. pic.twitter.com/27Z04eGlJL
With the international double-header now firmly in the rear view mirror, thoughts turn to Week 6 and a home game against the Indianapolis Colts. Usually afforded a bye week after a trip across the Atlantic, Pederson was mindful of the effects of the long distance trip on his players:
“The fatigue aspect is real, it takes a couple of days to get back on the eastern standard time from a time-zone that’s actually five hours ahead. It does take a couple of days. I’m going to be very mindful of that this week and making sure the guys get plenty of rest during the week but at the same time, getting our work done the rest of the week and preparing for Indy on Sunday. It’s a give and take this week, the players have to understand that, and we still have to get our work in.”
It seems the coaching staff will be careful to balance rest and preparation ahead of an AFC South matchup. After already facing and beating the Colts in Week 1, the Jaguars are preparing to face a different-looking Indy; one that sees the return of running back Jonathan Taylor, but also a change at quarterback. After suffering what Shane Steichen confirmed to be a AC-joint sprain against Tennessee last weekend, rookie QB Anthony Richardson looks set for a spell on the sidelines. That means a familiar face will likely be lining up under center when these two face off on Sunday. Pederson seemed prepared - and unperturbed:
“I think all indications are leaning towards Gardner [Minshew] playing this week. Obviously, two different styled quarterbacks. Anthony [Richardson] is big, strong, he’s a runner, very powerful and can throw the ball very well. Gardner is going to still be athletic, still going to be able to move around and get the ball out of his hand, all those types of things. Two different styles, we got quite a bit of film on Gardner Minshew as well so our defense will be well-prepared.”
The Jaguars’ season is back on track. Now back in familiar Florida, they’ll want to use the momentum they built in London to push on and take a grasp of the division in the coming weeks.