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AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Los Angeles Chargers v Jacksonville Jaguars

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PFF position group rankings: Are the Jaguars the next Bengals?

Pro Football Focus just released their 2023 offseason positional rankings - where do the Jaguars’ returning offensive starters rank?

Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

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As we look ahead to the coming 2023 preseason, Pro Football Focus has given Jacksonville Jaguars fans the gift of offseason analysis to argue over.

By compiling each of their summer offensive position ranking articles we begin to get a general overview of how the team over at PFF may view the Jaguars’ returning offensive starters. Most importantly, for those that don’t watch tape of every snap of every Jaguars game, PFF provides insight into what their analysts believe are the team’s areas of strength and identifies any potential areas of concern prior to the 2023 season.

Let’s get into it.

The Good:

Trevor Lawrence ranked 8th in quarterback rankings

Lawrence arrived last season. It took him half the year to get the Urban Meyer residue off, but from Week 9 onward, only Burrow and Mahomes earned a higher PFF grade. Billed as a truly generational talent when he was drafted, Lawrence showed that ability in 2022, and the Jaguars have continued to surround him with talent this offseason.

Of course, everything begins and ends with our golden-haired, golden-armed quarterback. I’m honestly shocked that he was ranked as low as no. 8 on this list. However, he understandably did have a rough beginning to the season, prior to finishing the 2nd half incredibly strong. Should Lawrence continue into 2023 the way he finished off 2022, his confirmed placement squarely into the top 2-3 QB conversation is officially on the clock.

Travis Etienne ranked 15th in running back rankings

Etienne didn’t play his true rookie season due to a Lisfranc injury, but the wait seemed worth it for the Jaguars, as their backfield speedster earned an 82.9 rushing grade thanks to 45 missed tackles forced (sixth in the NFL) and 26 explosive runs (13th in the NFL).

Doug Pederson is a known pass-first coordinator and coach. “You throw to score; you run to win” is and always will be his core philosophy. With the Jaguars finally having a play caller who knows how to scheme the pass catchers open, a quarterback who can get the ball there, and a running back who specializes in making tacklers miss, all it will take is the Jaguars taking more early leads (instead of the many last minute comebacks) to catapult Etienne into the top 10 of next year’s list. Etienne may even have an opportunity to increase his number of receptions in 2023, allowing him more opportunities to create missed tackles in the open field.

Calvin Ridley ranked 28th in wide receiver rankings

Ridley was suspended for the 2022 NFL season for violating the gambling policy, but he heads into 2023 fresh and ready to take advantage of playing with Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville. Ridley is an exceptional route runner and has excellent deep speed. He might not be able to dominate as a true No. 1 receiver, but Jacksonville doesn’t need him to be that guy.

Christian Kirk ranked 31st in wide receiver rankings

Jacksonville seemed intent on justifying the big-money contract they handed Kirk in free agency, and it resulted in him finishing the 2022 NFL season with career highs in pretty much every conceivable receiving metric. He spent 75% of his snaps in the slot, and passes thrown his way resulted in a 104.7 passer rating.

And let’s add our hybrid tight end:

Evan Engram ranked 14th in tight end rankings

Everyone has been waiting for Engram to break out since he was drafted in the first round in 2017, and it finally happened in 2022, as he was paired with a good coach and quarterback that knew how to utilize him properly. A career high in receptions, yards and first downs gained, Engram thrived under Doug Pederson with Trevor Lawrence pulling the trigger.

I’m not normally the optimistic, teal-glasses-on type of fan, but even I feel this projection for Ridley and his role might be on the low side when we look back on the 2023-24 season. An athlete with Ridley’s speed and pure ability to get open one-on-one, paired with a coach who is known for scheming receivers open, just sounds like an “always bet the over” moment. With Ridley’s addition being paired with Kirk, the Jaguars now have two receivers ranked in the top half of the league.

After the season he just produced in 2022, Kirk being consistently lined up against a no. 2 corner, no. 3 corner or linebacker just feels like a cheat code. Additionally, I can’t imagine Zay Jones landing too far outside of this group of 32. With Evan Engram, who for all intents and purposes is a slot receiver who is able to block well, the future is blindingly bright for this group of pass-catchers.

The Bad:

Brandon Scherff ranked 19th in offensive guard rankings

Scherff is coming off the lowest-graded season of his career, posting a sub-60.0 PFF run-blocking grade for the first time since he entered the league in 2015 and allowing a career-high six sacks. Given that this was the first season where he posted a PFF grade lower than 72.0, he should bounce back.

As PFF mentions, Scherff had a rough go at it in 2022, producing one of the worst seasons in his career. However, much of these struggles could potentially be chalked up to his injuries throughout the 2022 season. Scherff was listed as questionable for each of Weeks 15-18 and rumored not to be 100% much earlier in the season.

While Scherff did crack the list at 19th of the top starting 64 guards, neither Ben Bartch nor Tyler Shatley broke the top 32. With Bartch dislocating his knee in week 5 of the 2022 season, he was unable to grade out in the top 32. Tyler Shatley, the Jaguars’ 2022 Walter Payton Man of The Year Nominee, filled in serviceably in Ben Bartch’s absence. In 13 games, Shatley played 819 snaps, committed two penalties, and gave up one sack. However, Shatley was graded at a 60.9 for those games, partially due to his run blocking.

While offensive line play is rarely top of the news-worthy, the preseason competition between Shatley and Bartch should be one of this season’s most interesting storylines. If Bartch returns from injury to form, or if Shatley takes a step forward, this group has a chance to become a strength instead of its current status.

The Ugly:

Luke Fortner ranked 25th in center rankings

Fortner’s rookie season wasn’t great, as his 52.0 PFF grade ranked 32nd at the position, but the potential from his college career means we won’t give up hope on him working out in the NFL just yet. His final season with Kentucky in 2021 saw him earn PFF pass and run blocking grades above 80.0.

*No Jaguar offensive tackles made the top 32 list*

It was no secret for most Jaguar fans that Luke Fortner struggled as a rookie. After opening 2022 (and immediately struggling) against bull rushes from the vaulted Washington defensive line Fortner had an up-and-down campaign. His season seemed to mostly be matchup based: he would normally play serviceably against teams with average to below-average defensive tackle power, while struggling against those teams with dominant nose tackles (Titans, Eagles, Texans, etc). With a second offseason of NFL coaching and weight room, Jaguar fans are hopeful for a better 2022 from the now-veteran center.

Unfortunately, no Jaguar tackle was ranked in the top 32 in the league. Cam Robinson was injured in 2022 after starting the first 14 games (and is pending suspension), Jawaan Taylor is now seemingly making left tackle money while playing right tackle for the Chiefs, and Walker Little started only three regular season games in 2022. Rookies are not projected in these rankings, so Anton Harrison was not listed.

In sum, it would seem that the staff over at Pro Football Focus views the Jaguars’ offensive roster with major strengths at the QB, WR, TE, and RB position groups. That sentence is so incredible I may need to read it again in my inner-fan voice. “The Jacksonville Jaguars are viewed to have one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks and additionally has a top group of offensive skill players in the league!!! What?! Who imagined this in 2019 - 2021?”

On the not-so-positive side, PFF essentially views the entire Jaguars’ offensive line as either an unknown (Anton Harrison) or below average based on their 2022 season evaluations. Unfortunately, much of that concern for the offensive line and the optimism for the skill groups I can agree with. I believe that most football fans, both the hardcore and the haters would agree with this PFF summary of the Jaguars offense. Interestingly, this offensive makeup feels eerily similar to the formation of the current Cincinnati Bengals offense - a top-five quarterback, paired with an elite no. 1 receiver, with great supporting pass catchers, and a quality running back, with the main question being offensive line play.

What say you, Jaguar fans? Who do you believe was slighted in these evaluations? Do you believe our offensive line is our main offensive area of concern for 2023? Who are you looking to make the jump to land on this list by next offseason?

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