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Jaguars focused on starting fast in Week 1

As the Jaguars head to Indianapolis to face off against the Colts, a constant theme continues to ring throughout the locker room - starting fast.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars Training Camp Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

After starting off the 2022 season going 0-1 on the road in Washington, both Jacksonville Jaguars players and leadership are laser-focused in 2023 on starting fast on both sides of the ball.

Jaguars Offensive Coordinator Press Taylor and Defensive Coordinator Mike Caldwell both met with the media on Thursday as the team prepares to return to Indianapolis to face the Colts on Sunday.

Starting fast:

Press Taylor spoke at length about the team doing their best to eliminate turnovers to assist in building early leads.

“If you score early and they don’t, you build early leads. You always go out and every drive, you’re thinking you’re going to score. That’s certainly a big part of it. Now, last year we felt like there were times we could move the ball early and we turned the ball over. That happened through the preseason as well, our starters had two drives to start the preseason and we turned the ball over in both of them. We threw an interception and we fumbled at the one. Now, they built the confidence that we moved the ball down to the one-yard line, but we obviously want to finish with points. That’s a big part of it. Really, it’s understanding our plan, who is doing what, making sure we have the right plays, making sure everybody is prepared for the moment and as confident as possible while executing their job at a high level.”

This sentiment has been consistently echoed by Jaguar players this week. Safety Rayshawn Jenkins summarized the same in the locker room after Thursday's practice.

With this Colts defense being only slightly different than last season, Taylor also took a moment to touch on the plan of attack when facing a Gus Bradley defense.

“I think he’s pretty true to who he is and the types of defenses he plays and stuff like that. The coverage elements of it. Now, it’s Week 1, they’ve had months off, they have a new head coach, so maybe there’s some new mandates out there to just try something different. Jim Bob [Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob-Cooter] being here, understanding how we attacked this defense twice last year. There’s certainly elements that come up in any game, a lot of it comes down to the unscouted looks of us presenting things to them that they haven’t seen from us, or them presenting things to us that we haven’t seen and how we handle those situations. A lot of times it comes down to the quarterback, your offensive line and what the communication process is. You’re hoping when the unscouted looks show up, everybody falls back on their standard operating procedure, and we figure it out as things go on. As you grow through an offense, through the years and continuity together, you hope you can handle those situations a little better each year.”

To Taylor's point, Gus Bradley is historically a single high, cover three or cover one (man coverage) guy through and through. His defenses will normally give up yardage at will, and later hunker down once within the red zone. However, Trevor has historically been pretty successful in his two prior matchups versus Bradley.

While the 200 yards per game average and total touchdown numbers may not immediately jump off the page, remember the Jags ran for 243 yards in Indianapolis last season. That resulted in Lawrence only attempting 22 passes. That loss arguably fell on the defense surrendering 34 points to Matt Ryan and his team of crossing-route runners. Taylor, it seems is still looking for improvement from his ground game in 2023.

“We were confident in our run game last year, we certainly have the ability to create explosive plays throughout the year. We also had far too many negative plays in those situations. It felt like we were a little volatile at times, but we knew we were capable of rattling off some explosive plays when it was necessary. I’d like to think now that we’ve eliminated the number of negative runs that come up, but things are going to come up and we’ll see where we go from there.”

Jaguars DC Mike Caldwell spoke on how his 2023 Jaguars defense is much more comfortable in who they are and what they can accomplish versus that 2022 defense.

“I think last year when we got here, it was really an unknown. The thing that we saw in film was they played hard. This year we understand that we’re still going to play hard, but we have little bit of understanding of how to use the pieces we have. I think that’s a big part, being able to understand that we know the strengths and the weaknesses of the team now, and able to adjust when we need to.”

While many players reportedly have a better awareness of their roles and responsibilities in their second year in Caldwell's defense, Coach Caldwell explained that he would be taking the "hot hand" approach throughout this year when evaluating their pass rush depth and snaps distribution.

“I think we have a bunch of guys that we’re going to throw out there and we really look at it like a running back. The hot hands are going to go. If you got a guy that’s out there and producing and getting to the quarterback, he’ll get more opportunities. They know that and they understand that. We got a bunch of guys that can rush the pass rush, so you got to be on your A-game.”

Rookie Watch:

Jaguars offensive tackle Anton Harrison makes his NFL regular season debut on Sunday. Coach Taylor touched on what he has seen from Harrison so far.

“You just saw him get better every day. Obviously, he dealt with the shoulder injury early on and missed some days here and there, but he’s really taken to Phil’s [OL Phil Rauscher] coaching, the guys around him, buying into the room and the culture the offensive line room has itself. It’s got to bring some comfort to him knowing you’re standing there next to Brandon Scherff [OL Brandon Scherff]. The comfort of the communication from the guy next to you and relying on a guy to do his job so you know you can do your job. There shouldn’t be any doubt in Anton’s mind about the guy next to him is knowing his job and doing his job. We just want Anton to go out and play and do what we think he’s capable of doing....There’s certainly just the matchups of playing different players and different snaps, different situations come up, different pass rush situations come up where you got to handle this guy. We’re on the road, we’re using cadence which these guys come from college and a lot of these guys have not played with cadence to begin with. There are a lot of different factors that come in, plus it’s the first game. It’s his first NFL start, getting the ability to settle into a game early is certainly key for all of our guys.”

Additionally, across enemy lines, Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson makes his debut Sunday versus Jacksonville. Coach Caldwell spoke at length about what he's seen on tape of the rookie and what the primary challenge(s) will be when facing off against him.

“He’s a great athlete and he’s developing into a quarterback; you see him make great throws at times. The wildcard is that you never know where he’s going to be. He can scramble at any time, they can use him in many different ways. The unknown is there, we’ve gone back and tried to study it as much as we can as far as what they like to do with young quarterbacks and how Florida used him. At the end of the day, we’re going to go out there and do what we’ve been programmed to do, go out there and play hardnose defense.... It’s really assignment football. Everybody has a job to do, which happens on every play, but when you’re going against a zone read, it’s kind of that you have to be in the right spot and not really find the ball. Just understand that if your guy hands a ball this time, you still have to have somebody responsible for the quarterback. If he pulls it, you got to be there also. It really makes us focus on our fundamentals and where our eyes are all the time. Then, understanding the technique that’s required on that play.”

Injury Updates: Jaguars

As a pretty major injury update, Colts Linebacker Shaq Leonard has cleared the concussion protocol and looks likely to play versus the Jaguars. As a side note, the former First-Team All-Pro did not play in either of the 2022 matchups.

While both the Colts and Jaguars rosters have had major roster changes over the recent years, the thing that seems to always stay consistent is the difficulty for either team to win at the other team’s home field. The Jaguars have not won in Indianapolis since 2017 and the Colts have not won in Jacksonville since the 2016 season. Jacksonville will look to break that trend at 1 p.m. on Sunday.