With the bye week now behind us, Jacksonville 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 and to discuss their upcoming matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.
Before diving into their comments, for some context below is this week's current injury report.
Thursday’s Jaguars-49ers injury report. Trent Williams back on the field. pic.twitter.com/mqGSvPTbRO— Michael DiRocco (@ESPNdirocco) November 10, 2023
From an opponent scouting point-of-view, the biggest piece of news would arguably be Trent Williams practicing on a limited basis on Thursday. This is his first practice since his October 15th ankle injury. He did not look to be at full strength, per reports but may try to push to play. That will be something to keep an eye on in Friday’s injury reports.
Additionally, with 49ers left guard Aaron Banks reportedly week to week with a turf toe injury, backup 49ers LG Jon Feliciano will have all eyes on him. His matchup with the rotation of Davon Hamilton, Adam Gotsis, Roy Robinson-Harris, and Dawuane Smoot could make or break the game for the Jaguars.
From a Jaguar's point-of-view, it's looking like sunshine and rainbows, as the Jaguars' injury report reflected zero DNPs, with Zay Jones getting in a limited practice. Jones may still be a week or so from playing, but you can never know with these things. Just seeing him out with the team practicing two days consecutively, with no setbacks is encouraging news, with the Monday comments from Coach Pederson surrounding the possibility of Jones landing on injured reserve if any future setbacks materialized.
Also, Walker Little is no longer listed on the injury report and looks to be ready to take the reigns as the starting left guard.
Walker Little is coming back from an injury. Doug Pederson said that Little is the Jags starter at guard.— Jamal St. Cyr (@JStCyrTV) November 10, 2023
Little started the year playing at Left tackle.
Jaguars O-Line coach Phil Rauscher said that Little "does a good job in most things is cause he uses his length." pic.twitter.com/K9KIYiPDNs
With both teams using the bye-week to get healthier, Jaguars offensive coordinator Press Taylor took to the podium to not only discuss this vaulted 49ers defense but also how the opponent's offensive production at times impacts how aggressively Jacksonville calls each game.
I don’t think I personally do (get excited for a chess match of play calling against another offensive coordinator). But I think anytime you go into a game, you approach it with how many points a game are they scoring, what’s the game going to look like, do we need to be a little more aggressive in certain situations. You certainly factor that in and we’ve had games like that where you play that way. We’ll do whatever it takes to win, so if we need to go score 40, we want to be able to do that. If we need to score 20, if we need to hold onto the football, whatever that is, that’s the way we want to play the game.”
We have seen the Jaguars play both ways so far this season - whether sitting on a lead versus the Atlanta Falcons or scoring at will versus the Indianapolis Colts, Taylor has shown his flexibility in calling the game in this way in action.
What makes this 49ers team so unique is their game splits, however. During their five-game winning streak to open the season, the 49ers offense averaged scoring 33 points per game. Since week six, during their three-game losing streak, they have averaged about half of that output at 17 points per game. However, each of the past three games was played without Trent Williams and Deebo Samuel, due to injury. With Samuel back practicing this week and Williams practicing (limited) it will be interesting to see which 49ers offense shows up on Sunday.
Taylor continued, as he touched on his review of where the offense has performed through the bye-week.
The most glaring thing is the giveaways. To have the record we have and to have given the football away like we have is not common, and that’s something we know is not a formula for success. The one thing that is good about it, good or bad, we’ve turned the ball over in scoring positions. So, we’re not putting our defense in a hole with where we’ve given away the ball in most situations or some. But at the same time, I think we have eight turnovers when we’re inside our field goal range. If worst case scenario the drive stalls out and we end up kicking field goals with a really good kicker, those points are critical for us. Instead, we’ve given the football away and given away opportunities to score. That’s our biggest concern, and then we need to be better in short yardage. We need to be better in four-minute situations which we’ve had a lot more of. We need to be better, there’s a lot of areas we need to continue to improve in.
To Taylor's point, with assistance from the Jaguar's NFL-leading defense in turnovers forced, the team has secured a 6-2 record in eight games despite leaving 24-56 points on the field. Leaving three to seven points per game on the field and still winning 75% of games played is an amazing feat, but also not sustainable. This is something, I'm sure the team took a close look at during the break.
The Jaguars are tied for the most takeaways in the NFL this season (18) pic.twitter.com/l81Mwxk18W— PFF JAX Jaguars (@PFF_Jaguars) November 9, 2023
While the Jaguars offense has been incredible at producing explosive plays, they have struggled in short-yardage situations and third-down scenarios. Entering week 10, Jacksonville is 25th best at converting on third downs, at 35.51%. The team looks to flip the script on those numbers this week.
Speaking of explosive plays, plateaued by their success in weeks one through five with a healthy Deebo Samuel, the 49ers offense silently has a top-two explosive passing offense.
Highest explosive pass play rate this season (15+ yards):— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 7, 2023
1. Dolphins (21.9%)
2. 49ers (20.9%)
3. Texans (17.4%)
Kyle Shanahan's former offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan's former pass-game coordinator
However, it will be strength versus strength, as Mike Caldwell's unit allows the least explosive plays in the league.
Explosive plays allowed through 8 weeks of the season pic.twitter.com/Fie2LsVvew— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) October 31, 2023
With the Jaguars getting both Tyson Campbell and Andre Cisco back from injury, it should be just a little easier to limit those explosive plays. Defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell took a moment to praise CB Darious Williams, who will see much of Samuel on Sunday, for his play as of late in doing just that.
I think he’s always had a talent. The thing that he doesn’t get credit for is he’s a really, really smart player. He’s a guy that understands receiver splits, he understands what offenses like to do, and I think Deshea [Passing Game Coordinator/Cornerbacks Coach Deshea Townsend] does a really good job of breaking it down for the DB’s every week. They can go out there and play their best. If I’m a DB, I don’t need to worry about a million routes. I just need to worry about the routes he’s running this week and where he’s running from. I think the coaching staff does a good job of getting him that information.
Interestingly, Trevor Lawrence said something pretty similar praise about Darious in the locker room.
Nevertheless, the coaching staff is not resting on what they have done to date, as they continue to remind the team that this is a week-by-week league. Coach Caldwell touched on the need for his defense to show up every single play and every single week, in pursuit of gaining ground chasing perfection.
There’s a bunch of plays we leave out there and there’s a lot of things that we would like to do better and we just come in here every week, I told the guys, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, let’s go have fun on Sunday. That’s the mindset you have to have and you have to get better every day. What we’ve done in the past, that doesn’t matter. What happens today matters, what happens Friday matters, Saturday matters, and Sunday really matters. We need to do it again, that’s how you look at it.”
Both coach Taylor and Caldwell, stated something to that fashion, as Coach Taylor also touched on the need to continue pushing to be better than before.
I think everybody understands one of the things we’ve been saying is we’re getting better, but we have to get better. That’s something of the approach we’ve all had, as a coaching staff, as players, as an individual unit, or as individual positions within our unit, that’s a big thing for us. We got to continue to get better, but we make no bones about it, we want to win games. If we can contribute to winning, we’re proud of that fact but we need to play better as this thing continues to grow and in Week 10, we need to be better than we were in Week 8.
Both coaches, in different ways also acknowledged awareness that this 49ers team may just be the Jaguars' biggest challenge to date. Coach Caldwell praised the San Francisco offense. Coach Caldwell discussed the versatility and talent on the 49ers offense.
The players, they have talented players. At the same time, you can line guys up at multiple different spots and it looks different. You might have to prepare for it different, they’re doing the same thing, but to a defense, it looks like it’s completely different. You might have a running back lined up at a receiver, and a receiver lined up at running back and that should freak you out. At the end of the day, just one guy is one guy and you go out there and play the look.
Additionally, Coach Taylor praised the depth of talent on the San Francisco defense.
They have great players, that’s the first thing that jumps off the tape. Great players that have been in the system for a while, too. You watch it and it’s a system that was installed since basically the day Kyle [49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan] got there and it’s kind of lived through different coordinators now at this point in time. But, you see the same schemes and same structures as they go, combined with great players. A bunch of first round draft picks on the defensive line and then the one guy that’s not is Hargrave [49ers DL Javon Hargrave] who is a high priced free agent they went and got. [49ers LB] Fred Warner is as good as any linebacker in the league right now, then it’s one of those things where you see a group that’s played in a system for a long time and they way they communicate is really good, the way they feed off each other, they way they know people like to attack them and the way they respond to that. It’s as good of a unit as we’ve seen so far.
Another major wrinkle in this game is San Francisco’s bye-week trade for former Washington Commanders Chase Young, which Taylor also commented on.
You’re adding another first round pass rusher to this group that’s already a dynamic pass rushing unit. We’ve played against him, we’ve played against him last year in Week 1 and being in Philly I saw him a couple of times. He’s certainly a dynamic player and he’s somebody you have to be aware of, opposite of somebody that you have to be aware of. I don’t think there’s a scheme that’s going to come out with something completely crazy that we’ve never seen, especially he’s only been there a week or whatever it is trying to learn a playbook. They kind of line up and go and now you’ve got edges on both sides that add in two guys that are already great pass rushers.”
The Jaguars have a huge test on Sunday, with kickoff at 1 pm at The Bank. Excited yet, Duval?