Following an extremely physical, primetime Monday Night Football loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Jacksonville Jaguars are hoping to right the ship in week 13 versus a similarly injured Cleveland Browns team, playing without their starting quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Jaguars’ offensive coordinators Press Taylor and defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell both met with the press for their weekly media availability on Thursday to recap last week's matchup, provide insight on injury contingencies, and generally discuss their upcoming matchup with the Browns which could drastically impact playoff seeding for both teams.
To provide some context to the questions and answers provided, below is the current injury report for both teams for context:
Full #Jaguars & #Browns Thursday Injury Report— Mia O'Brien (@MiaOBrienTV) December 7, 2023
Trevor Lawrence being upgraded to “Limited” + Braswell’s 21-Day window being opened are only changes for JAX. Myles Garrett practiced in full for CLE. #Jaguars | #DUUUVAL pic.twitter.com/gdZBvrzAAS
For the Bengals, CB Denzel Ward and rookie CB Cam Mitchell are both practicing this week. Ward missed the past two games with a shoulder injury and Mitchell has been on IR since week 9 with a hamstring injury. Ward seems likely to play with Mitchell’s 21-day window now opened to potentially return this week. Additionally, the Browns will likely be led by veteran backup QB Joe Flacco this week.
Jaguars offensive coordinator Press Taylor was the first to broach the topic of injuries in his Q&A when discussing the possibility of playing one or multiple games without QB Trevor Lawrence, who is nursing a high right ankle sprain.
There is precedent that Doug can take a backup quarterback and win games. That’s one of the big parts of it. I think a lot of it probably comes down to Doug’s history as a backup quarterback, what he’s been through, what he knows it takes to make that person comfortable and put them in a situation to succeed.
Taylor is referencing Doug Pederson's history as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. In the 2017-2018 season, after losing his early season MVP-level playing QB Carson Wentz, Pederson led the Eagles on an improbable run with backup QB Nick Foles to win the franchise's first Lombardi trophy.
It is still up in the air whether or not Lawrence will be able to play with such a quick turnaround from Monday to Sunday on a high ankle sprain. However, Lawrence already practicing on Thursday in itself was a surprise to many.
In addition to Lawrence's injury, the potential loss of LT Walker Little may have many potential downstream effects, as discussed by Taylor.
We will continue to evaluate all of our options in terms of putting the best five out there. There’s a number of different contingency plans that we could possibly get into based on what gives us the best possibility to go play well...
He later continued...
[Ezra Cleveland playing LT] could be one of our options. Again, there’s a number of things that we could potentially do. Our ultimate goal is to put the combination of five out there that gives us the best chance to play well.
Ezra Cleveland is working with the tackles at practice today.— Jamal St. Cyr (@JStCyrTV) December 7, 2023
He spent some time talking with Josh Allen after some of the early drills. pic.twitter.com/M1Jcr2jTpy
With Walker Little again a DNP for the second straight day, the Jaguars could potentially be down to our 3rd string left tackle versus the Browns. The prospective offensive line would likely be:
- LT: Blake Hance/Ezra Cleveland
- LG: Ezra Cleveland/Tyler Shatley
- C: Luke Fortner
- RG: Brandon Scherff
- RT: Anton Harrison
Additionally, with Tre Herndon still in the concussion protocol and Christian Kirk likely heading to IR soon this would look to be another heavy Gregory Junior and/or Antonio Johnson week at nickel with Parker Washington manning the Slot Receiver role.
Jaguars HC Doug Pederson, when asked if surgery was possible for WR Christian Kirk's core muscle injury, said "I believe so."— Michael DiRocco (@ESPNdirocco) December 5, 2023
Coach Taylor took a moment to touch on what the loss of Kirk means to the offense.
I think there’s a certain trust that he has from the quarterbacks. All of the quarterbacks. Obviously, he and Trevor [QB Trevor Lawrence] have the most time on task together. Christian has a certain skillset that we feel like we’ve really identified and honed in on, things he does well, but things the quarterback can trust. There’s just that certain unknown element with throwing other people in these positions to do things that he does really well in our system. We have other guys that have skillsets that we’ll do our best to maximize and utilize those guys in certain situations, but it’s a big loss for a player with Christian’s caliber physically, but also mentally what he can do and the flexibility he has within the game and the system to be able to move around a little bit.
Mike Caldwell later followed up the conversation on injuries to speak on Jaguars slot CB Tre Herndon.
We have a couple of options (if Herndon is unable to play Sunday). Buster [CB Montaric Brown] can play, [CB] Greg Junior. We have a couple of guys that can go out there. [S] Antonio [Johnson] did a good job when he filled in out there the other night. We have options, we have young guys back there. Again, next man up, let’s get ready to go.
Well, you look at it, starting off with Buster [Montaric], he’s coming in and playing really well outside. He got opportunities making plays on the ball and you go with Buster, he got injured early, now he’s back into the mix. You can see him getting comfortable out there, he’s playing a little bit more these last couple of weeks. I’m excited about him. Antonio was injured early, but he has a skillset, he’s long, he’s able to blitz, he’s able to get his hands on receivers. All three of those guys have a chance to play and they will play. We’re excited to see them.
The subject of communication issues and crowd noise has come up on a few occasions this week, as the Jaguars' defense seemed to struggle to get lined up on multiple occasions on Monday. Caldwell also touched on this issue.
You want the crowd as loud as it can be. It’s our job to communicate. We have to get in the huddle, get tighter, make sure we echo the calls and get the call to everybody. It has nothing to do with crowd noise, it’s just us. We understand that it should be loud at home, it will be loud at home, and we just have to handle it.
He later reiterated a similar sentiment, stating:
Anytime things don’t happen the way you expect them to happen, it throws you off. That’s what happened, we got thrown off by it. Normally you can hear the call, normally you can understand the call, and in that situation, guys weren’t able to get the call. You could see them try and get in the huddle tighter, and that’s what we have to do. Get in the huddle tighter, make sure everybody has the call, get on the same page and let’s go play. But, we want the crowd as loud as it can be. That’s what you want in the defense, you want them to feed off the crowd. They did a great job Monday night and we’ll hold up our end of the bargain.”
With Andre Cisco temporarily exciting the game, losing Tre Herndon in the first quarter, losing Gregory Junior temporarily, and losing Folorunso Fatukasi in-game, communication became even more key in getting everyone correctly lined up. Effective communication didn't seem to take place on Monday.
I think it’s the crowd noise. It’s a good thing, as a defensive coach and as a defensive player, you want it to be as loud as it can be. We just have to do a better job of communicating.
I think Coach Caldwell wrapped up the team's overall temperament pretty well in his opening comment.
It’s a good thing it’s a short week, we’re chomping at the bit to get back out there and give it another go.
It's time to flush week 13 down the drain Jags fans. We have a game to win in Cleveland.