The Jacksonville Jaguars 2023 season finally kicks off on Sunday with a road showdown with its division rival, the Indianapolis Colts. The AFC South foes split their season series last year with the Colts winning their most recent battle, so the Jaguars will be looking to tip the scales back in their favor as the reigning division champs.
The Jaguars are the betting favorites (-4.5) to win this one, but the Colts will be looking to prove something with their new head coach Shane Steichen, as well as their new quarterback Anthony Richardson. Jacksonville made a bad habit of playing down to their competition a season ago, so fans should expect to see the team play like AFC contenders in this one. For that to happen, they’ll need these three X-factors to perform well.
Devin Lloyd’s rookie season was a bit of a roller coaster as the Utah product was able to make some splash plays here and there but struggled with consistency in filling his responsibilities on the field. Fast forward to today and it seems things may be starting to click for the 2022 first-round pick. Lloyd has received excellent marks since the start of training camp, as he looks to be playing and processing faster than a season ago.
His impact will be a major factor against the Colts in week 1 considering what is expected of Indy’s offense in this one. Without Jonathan Taylor, Anthony Richardson’s role as a runner could be a significant piece to Shane Steichen’s game plan, and Lloyd will be tasked with helping to prevent any big chunk plays from the rookie quarterback.
This is the perfect type of game for fans to see the improvement of Lloyd when it comes to his run fits and pursuit angles as he will have to react and get downhill in a hurry when Richardson gets out of the pocket. If Lloyd can put together a strong outing in this one, fans should be excited about what is to come for the young linebacker in 2023.
Tackles of the Future
The Jaguars are in the unenviable position of having their starting left tackle, Cam Robinson, suspended for the first four games of the 2023 season. This has caused a big shift in personnel at both bookends as Walker Little kicks out to fill his void, while rookie Anton Harrison mans the right tackle spot.
Since being selected in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Walker Little has spot-started for Robinson on six different occasions and has faired well in those outings. Harrison, however, will be making his NFL debut as one of the youngest offensive linemen in the entire league. The 27th overall pick in this year’s draft, Harrison has all the tools to perform well on Sunday afternoon, but the speed of the NFL can take some time to get used to for young tackles.
The two will have their hands full against a solid Indianapolis pass rush that includes DeForest Buckner and Kwity Paye, so both players will need to perform well in order for this game to go how we all expect. Their performances are arguably the biggest X-factor on the offensive side of the ball for the Jaguars in Week 1.
This one is about as obvious as it gets but Calvin Ridley is the X-factor of all X-factors for the Jaguars in week 1. Making his debut for Jacksonville in this one, Ridley will be looking to prove he’s still at his All-Pro form from a couple of seasons ago. He’s certainly looked every bit as advertised during training camp and through the preseason but we are about to get our first full game of Calvin Ridley and it should be a show.
Trevor Lawrence & Jaguars offense looks on the money. Two drives, 158 total yards including that TD drive at ease vs. Dolphins 1st team D.— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) August 26, 2023
Highlight was this Lawrence to Calvin Ridley 28-yard connection called a catch. You make the call: pic.twitter.com/zAJo1Am7sw
The Colts’ secondary is a mess right now. After trading Stephon Gilmore this offseason, Indianapolis will have a lot of youth on that unit and Calvin Ridley should have a significant upper hand no matter where he lines up. Even if he isn’t making a play, his presence will force safety help over the top which will just help open up one of either Christian Kirk, Zay Jones or Evan Engram. It should be a big day for the passing game and Calvin Ridley will be the straw that stirs the drink in this one.
Who will you be watching for this weekend, Jags fans?