With 9 out of the 53 active roster spots taken up by rookies, expectations are high for the Jags’ newest class of playmakers. While some rookies are at the bottom of the depth chart and struggled to receive snaps, others were able to see the field right away and make their presence heard.
Instead of breaking down every rookie on the roster, as was done in the preseason (the rookies’ time to shine), let’s take a look at a few standouts and offer a grade for their performance.
Tank Bigsby: It’s hard to recall last weekend’s game without remembering two major face-palm moments, courtesy of our 2023 3rd-round draft pick from Auburn. The first was a painful drop that ricocheted off Bigsby’s hands right into the arms of Colts DB Tony Brown, who returned it 34 yards, ultimately leading to a Colts TD. While a few Twitter voices will nit-pick and say the pass was a bit high, there was zero excuse for this drop, and it cost the Jags 7 points for the opponent.
This ball now belongs to Tony Brown.— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) September 10, 2023
The second was this play below, which is perhaps most accurately described as bizarre. After Lawrence was hit in the pocket and the ball came out, Bigsby scooped it up and stood still, assuming the play to be dead. However, as Jags’ fans and Myles Jack know far too well, the play stops at the whistle... and the refs had not blown the whistle. Despite the fact that Colts LB Zaire Franklin “was really just trying to be an a*****e”, the play ended up being a fumble by Lawrence, recovery by Bigsby, and then another fumble by Bigsby, which the Colts returned for a touchdown. Oof.
However, all was not lost for Bigsby, who followed up his mistakes with this beastly run for a first down, during which he carried half of the Colts' defense for an additional 5 yards to get the first down. He followed this up with a score, ending the day on a high note.
Overall, it was a mixed day for Bigsby. While his debut was plagued with rookie mistakes and would earn him an F on the day alone, he also demonstrated the ability to run it up the middle and make plays that made him such an exciting prospect in the first place. Look for him to improve and reduce his mistakes in the weeks to come.
Overall grade: C-
Anton Harrison: Harrison was the only other rookie to receive substantial playing time, logging 36 snaps in pass protection and 34 snaps in run protection. He finished the day with 2 pressures and 1 sack allowed. He also whiffed on one of Jamal Agnew’s run plays, leading to a tackle for loss.
Of the four rookie tackles to start for their respective teams, Harrison had the lowest PFF grade (51.8), behind Paris Johnson (52.2), Peter Skroronski (70.4), and Darnell Wright (72.1). While he was primarily facing a talented pass-rusher in Kwity Paye, the schedule ahead will not get any easier, so Harrison will need to step it up moving forward. Still, it is worth noting that Harrison is a rookie, and tackles often take time to fully develop. He certainly showed enough to keep fans optimistic.
Overall grade: C+
Other Rookie Performances:
Brenton Strange: Despite being picked a round ahead of Tank Bisby, Strange saw much less playing time in his debut. Granted, the TE room is headlined by Evan Engram, whom the Jags recently inked to a 3-year, $41.25 million deal, so starting snaps may be hard to come by. Still, it was a fairly quiet day for Strange, who played on 27 snaps: 19 in run protection, 3 in pass protection, and 5 for which he ran a route. He finished the day without a target, and had two notable whiffed blocks. The first came on a 4th down conversion attempt: Evan Engram was thrown a short pass to the left, however s before he could make a play, a Colts defender blew past a block by Strange and tackled Engram behind the first down marker. Strange also missed a block on Bigsby’s notable run for a first down in the red zone, however made up for it by grabbing onto Bigsby and helping to carry him to the first down in a remarkable feat of strength.
Overall, it was a mediocre day for Brenton Strange. Like Harrison, he struggled a bit in protection, but he offered glimpses of talent that intrigued the Jags in the first place. Unlike Harrison, Strange has a tougher path to find more playing time in a crowded TE room. Watch for him to continue in his situational role.
Overall grade: C
Yasir Abdullah: Abdullah was on the field for relatively few plays in Week 1, logging only 6 snaps. However, he was able to make an impact in the short time on the field, logging one pressure on 5 pass-rush snaps. Coincidentally, thanks to the low sample size, his 20% pressure rate was the highest on the team in Week 1. Watch for Abdullah to play his way into more snaps over the course of the season.
Overall grade: B
Parker Washington, Christian Braswell, and Elijah Cooks were active but didn’t receive any playing time in Week 1. Antonio Johnson and Tyler Lacy were both injured.
Overall, it was a mixed week for Jags rookies. Harrison was the only full-time starter and was average in his debut. Bigsby and Strange also received substantial time on the field as rotational pieces, simultaneously demonstrating both frustrating rookie ineptitude and impressive playmaking capability. Abdullah made the most of the time he was given, but it is difficult to extrapolate performance for an entire game from so few snaps.
Looking forward, it seems as if the Jaguars’ rookies will play about as much as expected - some plenty, and others very little. That’s the flip side of having a roster loaded with talent. Still, the ones who played each offered exciting glimpses, and we should see plenty of growth over the course of the season. Hopefully, the 5 who failed to see the field will do so in the coming weeks.
Duval, which rookie are you most excited to watch in Week 2? Let us know in the comments!