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Jaguars 2023 breakout candidates: Who’s making the leap?

Breaking down some Jacksonville Jaguars players to watch ahead of the 2023 season

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Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

The Jacksonville Jaguars have their fair share of breakout candidates in 2023. Here are some players to watch heading in to next season.

S Andre Cisco

Cisco impressed in his first full year as a starter after playing sparingly his rookie year under Urban Meyer. The rising third-year safety became an integral part of the Jaguars’ defensive unit last year, racking up 73 tackles, 10 pass deflections, one sack, one tackle for loss, three interceptions and a touchdown in 17 games started.

He and Rayshawn Jenkins have formed a nice duo, and Cisco has proven to be a dependable defensive back with some big takeaways to show for it.

Pro Football Focus has high praise for Cisco as well, listing him as one of 10 breakout candidates to watch in 2023.

Cisco stepped up into a full-time starting role in his second season in the league after impressing late in his rookie year. His 67.1 PFF grade in 2022 ranked 34th at the position, while his 69.4 PFF coverage grade ranked 28th. He could clean up his tackling a bit, after missing 12.5% of the tackles he attempted last year, but his career looks to be firmly on an upward trajectory heading into year three.

After a full season of starting experience plus another offseason under his belt, I’m excited to see what the 23-year-old safety brings.

EDGE Travon Walker

It’s tough to avoid the pressure of a breakout season heading into year two after being taken first overall, but Travon Walker will be a big name to watch in 2023.

Walker showed some bursts of athleticism last year, some of his most notable being an opening day sack and interception of Carson Wentz and forced fumble of Ryan Tannehill. All in all, though, he’ll look to build on a rookie campaign that left him wanting more.

Walker’s been vocal about his hopes to improve in year two. He recently told 1010XL, “Last year, you could tell a little bit I was a little jittery, false stepping too much -- just little small things that cut off like a few seconds off my rush that instead of a pressure I could’ve had a sack. It’s just small, little details that’s not too hard to correct, just got to be more consistent.”

This lines up with Diante Lee’s recent assessment of Walker’s 2022 season for The Athletic:

You could see him searching for comfort throughout last season within a new defensive role. It was the first time that Walker had played as a full-time standup edge rusher, which is a much more significant detail in practice than it reads on paper.

Walker’s best attribute was his explosiveness out of his stance, as it allowed him to generate the power to crumple run blockers and crush pockets from the edge. There wasn’t nearly enough of it on tape, however. Walker was more tentative at the snap and taking on blocks than I expected. He rarely found himself out of position or lost reps as an edge-setting run defender, but he didn’t attack nearly enough.

Walker ended the year with 49 combined tackles, adding 3.5 sacks along with an interception, two passes defensed, and five tackles for loss. His 36 quarterback pressures were the third-most on the team.

Look for Walker to make a big leap in the 2023 season.

RB Travis Etienne

After an injury-riddled rookie year and an impressive bounce back last season, Travis Etienne will be looking to lead the Jaguars backfield heading into 2023.

The recent addition of rookie Tank Bigsby should help take pressure off of Etienne, adding an element of power to the run game that I expect to compliment Etienne nicely.

Jacksonville’s running back room as a whole is deep, with Etienne, Bigsby, JaMycal Hasty, and D’Ernest Johnson all on board. Although initially splitting carries with James Robinson last year, Etienne went on to post over 1,000 yards along with five TDs, a good sign of what’s to come.

WR Calvin Ridley

I was debating on whether or not Calvin Ridley would fall under the category of a comeback player or a breakout player here, but nonetheless, Jags fans are looking forward to seeing the former Falcons receiver in his first full season in black and teal.

You could argue that Ridley’s already recorded a breakout season in Atlanta, posting over 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns in 2020 to earn an All-Pro nod. However, Ridley saw minimal action the next two years, after taking some time off in 2021 and a gambling violation that sidelined him for the entire 2022 year.

Still, Ridley has proven to be a consistent deep-threat when on the field, with 27.2% of his targets coming on deep attempts paired with the highest deep catch rate (62.4%) in the NFL during his second and third seasons.

Ridley joins a receiver room that includes 1,000-yard wideout Christian Kirk, Zay Jones (who just posted his most productive year with 823 yards and five scores), and rookie Parker Washington.

With a pass-friendly offense and one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, Ridley will be making some noise.

Related reading: Davante Adams lists Jaguars’ Calvin Ridley as a top-five NFL receiver

DT DaVon Hamilton

Coming off a recent contract extension and his best year as a pro, DaVon Hamilton will look to further establish himself as a dependable run-stopper for Jacksonville’s defensive line.

The 2020 third round pick has improved each year of his career, and posted career highs in tackles (56), sacks (2.5), pressures (27), and tackles for loss (5) last season.

PFF gave Hamilton a 74.9 overall grade in 2023, a significant improvement from his first two years where he lingered in the 50s.

Which Jaguar do you expect to make a big leap in 2023?