The Jacksonville Jaguars are “lightyears ahead” of where the team was last year, according to offensive coordinator Press Taylor.
Before the team’s final preseason game last season, not a word was being said about the team winning the AFC South or even competing for a Super Bowl.
This preseason, the hype is exorbitant in Jacksonville, and it starts with how the offense has grown.
“It feels like we are lightyears ahead as an offense,” Taylor said during a press conference on Wednesday. “(But) you have got to prove it every single down. It doesn’t matter how you feel, it matters how you perform.”
When asked about his quarterback taking control of not only his team, but the entire league, Taylor said that is not out of the realm of possibility.
“It feels that way,” Taylor said. “Obviously you have to prove it every down in this league. But it certainly seems like he has picked up where he left off at the end of the season and carried that through the entire offseason.”
Prior to Saturday’s final preseason matchup with the Miami Dolphins, fans haven’t had a long look at their starting offense.
They will get a chance to see Lawrence and the starters for most, if not all, of the first half on Saturday.
Taylor, who has seen his team every step of the way, wants his starters to focus on the little things like communication and getting in and out of the huddle at home against the Dolphins.
“You want to see clear communication,” Taylor said. “It is our chance to be at home, you kind of want the butterflies. There is pressure on the line. You want to get that smoothed out so for Week 1, it is not the first time they felt that way or communicated in the huddle or broken a huddle together.”
The game plan will not be crazy for his team, as Taylor said the team will focus on “bread and butter” plays that the returning players are comfortable with. The squad will also implement some new schemes for new players like Calvin Ridley and Brenton Strange during the game.
With a trimmed-down playbook, Taylor wants to see his team play at a high level without as much on their plate.
“You want to see them execute,” Taylor said. “It is a core game plan for us, it is not exotic stuff. You want to go out and see clean execution from the guys. Making plays, too.”
Outside of Lawrence, much of the recent discourse on quarterback play in Jacksonville has turned to the team’s two backups.
Incumbent second-stringer C.J. Beathard and rookie third-stringer Nathan Rourke have both played admirably during the preseason, leading to questions about depth at the position.
Taylor shot down any potential for roster shakeup and said Beathard will continue to be the second guy on the field under regular circumstances.
“C.J. will continue to get the first action coming out of the half,” Taylor said. “Nathan will get an opportunity if the situation fits. It is not concrete, things could change. We reserve the right to change depending on what happens. C.J. continues to be our second quarterback and Nathan continues to compete in that third role.”
At recent practices, Rourke has been seen earning fewer and fewer offensive reps. That is deliberate according to Taylor, as the team splits reps based on depth chart standing and nothing more.
When asked if the team will roster a third quarterback like Rourke for the season, or stash him on the practice squad, Taylor said that the situation is fluid and based on need at the time.
“I don’t know if there is one blanket philosophy we have on that situation necessarily,” Taylor said. “Part of it, you take the health of your quarterback at the moment.”
Taylor said the team has had conversations about keeping a third quarterback through the year, hearkening to the situation the San Francisco 49ers were put through last season.
When asked about another roster spot of note, a potential sixth wide receiver, Taylor echoed his answer about quarterback depth.
“It is all case by case,” Taylor said.
Taylor said that both the offensive and defensive coaches have input in regard to backup positions like a sixth wide receiver.
According to the coordinator, a fifth wide receiver only gets four or five snaps a game anyway, so a sixth guy will have to serve multiple positions on the team.
A player who is gunning for a potential sixth wide receiver role is Jacob Harris, someone Taylor has been impressed by.
Harris, in his third year in the league, has caught two balls for 65 total yards this preseason.
His stats in the passing game may be light, but Taylor said he has liked what Harris brings to the table in terms of run blocking.
“Jacob has done a good job so far,” Taylor said. “There have only been so many opportunities where it has been live. He is a guy who has done it in this league in competitive situations so he has the tape out there, plus the things we have seen from him. We feel like (run blocking) is a role he can certainly contribute to.”
Jacob Harris is with the #Jaguars’ starting WRs as the rest of the team works on special teams.— Juston W. Lewis (@JustonLewis_) August 22, 2023
It’s the first time in camp I’ve seen him with them during this period.
Could be nothing. Could be something. pic.twitter.com/9Hdzm4W1EP
The team’s usual run blockers– the tight ends– have mostly dominated during the preseason. Taylor said that all goes back to head coach Doug Pederson’s tradition with top-tier tight ends like Travis Kelce or Zach Ertz.
“I think it is just the way he sees things and features the best possible matchups,” Taylor said of how Pederson gets the most out of tight ends. “Certainly tight ends, and dominating the middle of the field, you hope you have the talent at that position to exploit that matchup. That is something Evan (Engram} brings to us. Brenton (Strange) continues to have a role moving forward.”
Strange was real good vs. Detroit. He gave Lions first round LB Jack Campbell some fits https://t.co/jxtxh3X3Ra— John Shipley (@_John_Shipley) August 23, 2023
Taylor did note that even in just one season, he and Pederson likely produced the best wide receiver numbers they have ever put together in their years of coaching with one another.
However, what is in the past is in the past. The Super Bowl is not played in August or September. The road is long and winding for the Jaguars now, and the team can only go back to past successes less and less as the days go on.
“It is a down-to-down league,” Taylor said. “You have to bring it every time, you have to execute regardless of the circumstance.”