The Jacksonville Jaguars will have a chance on Sunday to rewrite team history.
“It is a good football team,” Pederson said of the Chiefs on Wednesday. “They are well coached. Disciplined group. Great players, great quarterback.”
Last year, the Jags lost two games to the Chiefs, notably falling in Kansas City in the playoffs.
This year, Pederson’s team will have to eliminate almost every mistake to win and move the needle in the budding rivalry between the teams.
“We have to look at what we did last year, and what we didn’t do,” Pederson said of the game plan. “There were some opportunities that we missed. We have to make sure we capitalize. It will be a four quarter, physical football game.”
The topic of game planning has been a big one on fan’s minds, as last week it was announced offensive coordinator Press Taylor was going to call plays.
The final say on things still falls in Pederson’s lap, but it isn’t just Taylor and Pederson who have an iron fist over the offense.
“There is a lot more to it than putting plays together,” Pederson said. “For us, it is all of (the coaches). We challenge all our assistant coaches to have an element of game planning.”
Game planning is never easy for the Chiefs, and it got a little trickier this week as two of the Chiefs’ best players are in a sort of limbo in terms of playing status.
Star tight end Travis Kelce will practice this week, but only in a limited capacity. The veteran pass-catcher is recovering from a bone bruise.
Even still, Kelce at a limited capacity is almost as good as it gets.
“He is a difficult tight end,” Pederson said. “They move him all over the place. He is shifty, elusive that way. It is hard to defend him. But you have to have a plan. We will be prepared for it and him.”
Defensive tackle Chris Jones will play this week after settling his contract dispute with the Chiefs, however his playing shape and playing time has yet to be determined
“Great player,” Pederson said of Jones. “Has a big impact on the pass game. You have to know where he is going to be on the defensive line. He is a load in there. You have got to make sure you have not just two, but four hands on him.”
In two games against the Jaguars last year, Kelce recorded 20 catches for 179 yards and three scores. Jones tallied 1.5 sacks and one tackle for loss in the regular season, but had just one solo tackle in the playoffs.
“Obviously with Chris Jones, (he) gives them a shot on defense,” Pederson said. “We will see where (Travis) Kelce is this week.”
All the talk about Jones and Kelce is not even touching the fact that Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes is completely healthy and coming off his second Super Bowl MVP.
Last year, Mahomes passed for a combined 526 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against the Jags.
“He is probably the (hardest) guy to get on the ground,” Pederson said of Mahomes. “He is so elusive. Either the ball is coming out quick or he has the ability to make guys miss and extend plays. That is a challenge. He is the best at it. Plus, he has great vision down the field.”
If the Jaguars were to win, regardless of who suits up for the Chiefs, Pederson wants his team to treat it like a normal win but does acknowledge the game’s significance for the franchise.
“It is early, it is Week 2. A lot of football ahead,” Pederson said. “Obviously it would be a great win for us. It would be a great opportunity to pull one out, it would be a great benchmark.”
By the second week of the year, Pederson does anticipate errors like those displayed in the Colts game to be more fleshed out, which can only help his squad.
“The mistakes go away a little bit,” Pederson said of the jump from Week 1 to Week 2. “You are obviously not a finished product. But you do see some of the mental mistakes go away.”
The Jaguars are dealing with injuries on their side, with two notable offensive lineman hurt.
Starting right guard and captain Brandon Scherff, who left the Colts game but did return, is “day-to-day” and the team is leaving his availability up in the air. He did not practice on Wednesday.
Center Luke Fortner, who is dealing with a “lower body” injury, is also “day-to-day.” Pederson did note that Fortner was a bit further along in recovery than Scherff.
Rookie safety Antonio Johnson is still unavailable, as he deals with a hamstring injury. Pederson said he is “still a ways” away from returning.
Corner Gregory Junior, who left the Colts game with a hamstring injury, was limited in practice on Wednesday.
4 guys not dressed out for Jaguars warmups:— John Shipley (@_John_Shipley) September 13, 2023
- C Luke Fortner, RG Brandon Scherff, S Antonio Johnson not out here
- CB Gregory Junior is out here but with no helmet or pads
With notable players missing, and the acme of football success coming to town, Pederson’s team has to be as mentally sharp as ever in what he predicts will be a game that comes down to who makes the last mistake.
“As the game progresses, (the Chiefs) get better,” Pederson said. “One of the things we have been able to do more recently is the same thing. It could come down to a kick, whoever has the ball last. It is going to come down to those types of moments. We have to be prepared for that. Anytime you play these types of teams, you have to be ready for the fourth quarter.”
A marquee matchup for Pederson will be former Jaguar offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor going up against Josh Allen and Travon Walker.
“It is going to be a good matchup to watch,” Pederson said. “Jawaan is a really good football player. Our two guys (Allen and Walker), the work is cut out for them.”
Pederson did praise Taylor, while noting Taylor’s history of movement at the line of scrimmage.
“Good player. We know who he is,” Pederson said of Taylor. “ He has great anticipation with the snap count.”
Pederson, and many of the Jaguars’ players, have said they don’t sit and reflect on last year’s losses to the Chiefs. A new year means moving on.
But if the Jaguars are to pull off a win and move to 2-0 on the season, they will have to look back at the past if they are to change their future.
“We missed the opportunities that were there,” Pederson said of last year’s two losses. “Maybe fortunately for us, it was a learning experience. You can’t make those mistakes and expect to win.”