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Jaguars Monday presser: “The deeper into the season we get, the better we play”

Doug Pederson met the media on Monday following the Jaguars’ win over the Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

A doink never sounded so good.

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson met with the media on Monday, fresh off the back of a hard fought 24-21 win over the Houston Texans the day before. Despite the close scoreline in a game that was decided by a field goal attempt from Texans kicker Matt Ammendola that missed by the slimmest of margins, there were plenty of positives for Pederson to discuss - beginning with another stellar performance from the defense:

“We talk a lot about turnovers and that’s obviously a big factor in wins and losses, we know that. I think the other thing we’ve got to look at here is the defense having 4.0 sacks for a minus-43 yards in this football game. That’s huge as well. Plus, I believe there was a turnover on downs during the game. I credit that as a turnover and things of that nature. These guys play extremely hard, our defense, to be able to control the line of scrimmage, Mike [Caldwell] has them playing at a really high level. They’re playing fast, the secondary did a nice job covering up guys yesterday when CJ [Stroud] went into scramble mode. I just think the guys have really bought into Mike and his scheme, we talked a lot about second year in the system and playing with more confidence and playing fast. I think that’s a credit to Mike and his staff.”

It wasn’t just the defense that caught the eye on Sunday. The contest was billed as a battle of two ascending quarterbacks, and neither Trevor Lawrence nor CJ Stroud disappointed. For Pederson, it was another example of how Lawrence has elevated his game in recent weeks:

“He’s been taking care of the football, it was an unfortunate play yesterday, but he’s been taking care of the ball the last couple of weeks. Honestly, there’s still some room. You watch the film and there’s still room to grow and improve and really anticipate certain things. What I’ve been most impressed with is how he’s just leading the football team in Houston. He’s made some big throws on third down, big throw to Calvin [WR Calvin Ridley] for the touchdown and the two-point conversion. Great throw to Calvin, it was just off his fingertips in the back of the endzone. He’s just continuing to make impressive throws and continues to grow.”

The Jaguars were particularly efficient on third down on Sunday, converting on 7 of 13 attempts - a stark contrast to earlier in the season. Pederson offered his thoughts as to how the team had managed to improve in that area:

“One, Trevor [Lawrence] was very accurate throwing the football. Receivers were where they needed to be when Trevor needed them there. Christian [Kirk] made a huge over the middle type of catch yesterday, Calvin [Ridley] made some good catches on the sideline, Zay [Jones] came up big. Really, it’s just their execution. That’s something that we continue to get better at. It’s an area we focused on all season and it was good to see yesterday, to stay on the field and extend drives. I just think the offensive line blocked extremely well, the running backs picked up pressure when they needed to, it was really a good team effort on third down yesterday to stay on the field.”

It was notable Pederson went out of his way to mention the receivers. Calvin Ridley in particular has seen his workload grow over the last two games - and the Jaguars head coach was asked what he put that down to:

“I think it’s more he and Trevor [Lawrence] being on the same page. The more they work in practice and the more they talk about certain things. Then, just Calvin’s understanding of the offense and how [WR Coach] Chad Hall details the routes for him. It’s a combination of all of them. I think the biggest thing and the biggest factor is Trevor and Calvin are on the same page and they communicate. Then, by design, we try to get Calvin on some favorable matchups and let him use his athleticism, strength and speed to attack defenders.”

Another injury on the offensive line

The Jaguars might have escaped NRG Stadium with the win on Sunday, but it came at a cost. Left Tackle Cam Robinson left the game in the first half, and was visibly upset on the sidelines. At the time of the press conference, Doug Pederson was unable to commit to the status of his blindside blocker:

“Yeah, we just know it’s his left knee. He’s getting further testing today, we’ve got a couple of days here to see and make a determination for this game coming up Monday night. The benefit is we’ve got the extra day. We’re going to continue to monitor him these next few days and see how he feels coming back on Thursday.”

Since then, Robinson has been put on IR, and the Jaguars have moved Chandler Brewer up from the practice squad. With the addition of Ezra Cleveland before the trade deadline reinforcing the numbers on the offensive line, missing Cam Robinson for at least four games might not be as alarming as it would have been earlier in the season. That said, Pederson was keen to praise the intangibles Robinson brings to the group:

“He’s a big part of the offensive line and it’s been great after his suspension to get back in there. He does bring a lot of energy and a level of physicality to the offensive line. He’s been a really big bright spot there. If he can’t go, we’re still good. Just like you saw yesterday, Walker Little bounces back out to left tackle and my hat is off to him and Ezra [Cleveland] both. In an extremely loud environment, on the road, Walker got very few tackle reps during the week and has to bounce out there and play tackle. Ezra has to go in and play left guard. My hat’s off to both of those guys and what they did. Again, if Cam can’t go, it’s a loss, but at the same time, we feel comfortable with the guys stepping up.”

Considering the tears that Robinson was shedding on the sidelines, perhaps the player himself knew there would be an extended period on the sidelines. Pederson felt there were other factors that may have caused the outpouring of emotion:

“I just think that it’s such an emotional sport. He’s been a big impact and what he’s gone through this year, then getting the news that he probably couldn’t return back to the game or at least try to come back into the football game. I think it was just an overwhelming and emotional experience for him and a lot of players go through that. Like I said, we’ll continue to monitor him this week and just see where he’s at as this week progresses.”

On to Cincinnati

The vital victory over the Texans on Sunday saw the Jaguars take a firm command of the AFC South. That said, this team are not resting on their laurels - and all eyes will now be on padding the win column, beginning with a Monday night matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. Someone who enjoyed a bigger role in Week 12 was Luke Farrell, and Pederson was pleased to see him get some work. Could the tight end continue to be involved against Cincinnati?

“First of all, there’s a ton of confidence with Luke. He is a good receiving tight end, he has great hands. You can see the strength and the ability to run after the catch that he has. The type of throws that he’s getting are short to intermediate or the keep game by Trevor [Lawrence], things like that. We have him in every week, it’s just a matter of getting it to him and it all depends on what the defense dictates to us on whether or not we call those or not. This past week was an opportunity for us to get that movement game and get Trevor on the edge, and get Luke the football. We’ve got plays for him every week, obviously we don’t get to them every week, but it just so happened that yesterday he made a nice catch and run in that game. We continue to try to get everybody involved and he’s a big part of that. Trevor does have a lot of confidence in him, he trusts him, he knows where he’s going to be and that’s a positive for our offense.”

The Jaguars play under the Monday night lights for the first time in Week 13. Pederson was happy to see his team have an opportunity to show out in primetime:

“It’s obviously exciting, it’s great for our organization and franchise and for our players to be in the national spotlight on a Monday night. We’re fortunate to have a home game in front of our fans. It’s always an electric moment, it’s very exciting to be a part of these games. We’ll have conversations this week, it’s really just approaching it the same, learning to control your emotions. I want the guys to feel relaxed, but at the same time, continue to have that edge that we’ve had the last couple of weeks. I think that’s something that’s shown up. Monday night is a special night, you’re the only game on, everybody is watching you and you want to put your best foot forward. We’ll definitely have some conversations this week and try to prepare our guys the best we can.”

A blip against the San Francisco 49ers notwithstanding, the Jaguars are in fine form, winning seven of their last eight matchups. With confidence growing, Pederson was unconcerned about keeping his player’s feet on the ground:

“I’ll tell you this: the deeper into the season we get, I think the better we play as a football team. It’s really easier for me to keep the guys focused and keep their attention to detail. This time of year, too, there’s a lot of speculation and talk of playoff picture and seedings and all that stuff. That generates a little bit of interest there. Even though we don’t look past the week we’re in, you can’t help yourself but listening to the outside noise and the media talk about that. For us, this is what I appreciate about our guys, they really stay in the moment, they stay in the present. They just focus on the task at hand and that’s just getting better this week. It’s fun when you’re winning, because you want to continue to play more games and continue to win and have success. The minute you let up, look into the future a little bit, is when you get beat. It’s my job to make sure that the guys stay locked in and present.”