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Jaguars rookie rundown: Week 17 review

Jaguars rookie class delivers mixed performance in win over the Carolina Panthers

Syndication: Florida Times-Union Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Unio / USA TODAY NETWORK

After a four-week-long freefall from holding the number one seed in the AFC to being one loss away from playoff elimination, the Jacksonville Jaguars righted the ship this past week against the Carolina Panthers in a resounding 26-0 win. While the game was certainly far from perfect, it was encouraging to see the Jaguars exhibit some fight rather than keel over in the face of adversity and public criticism.

The role of the Jaguars’ rookie class has been highly variable throughout the season and largely diminished over the Jaguars’ losing streak. However, Week 17 saw increased action from the rookies once again, and while some were less than impressive, others were able to make a reasonable impact on the game. Let’s see who was able to make an impact, including a surprising name:

Notable Performers:

Anton Harrison: Harrison was once again an anchor on the Jaguars offense line in Week 17, allowing 0 pressures on 29 pass-blocking snaps and earning himself a 75.3 PFF grade in pass-blocking, the highest of any guard or tackle on the team. He also earned a team-best 81.2 PFF grade in true pass sets. Like last week, Harrison struggled opening lanes in the run game, scoring a team-low 38.9 PFF grade in run protection. Still, considering the struggles of the entire offensive line in both the passing and running game, it is encouraging to see some consistency from Harrison in at least one of those realms. In fact, Harrison now carries the highest pass-blocking efficiency of any rookie tackle at 97.5%.

Grade: B

Antonio Johnson: Despite spending the early season either on the injury list or lower down the depth chart, Johnson has established himself as a promising playmaker in recent weeks, earning himself increased playing time. He finished the game with two tackles, zero missed tackles, and an interception to drive the nail in the coffin while allowing only 1 catch for 9 yards while in coverage. Johnson currently leads the Jaguars rookie class with a PFF grade of 74.6

Grade: B+

Parker Washington: In a game during which the passing attack was mediocre and relied largely on short passes to Evan Engram or Calvin Ridley, Parker Washington was again somewhat of an afterthought, earning only one target which he caught for 2 yards. It is hard to fault him considering the constraints on the passing game with C.J. Beathard under center, as receivers were frequently getting open but not getting targeted. His most notable contribution was a 15-yard punt return after Jamaal Agnew went down with an injury. With Agnew out for the season, Washington should at least see consistent action in the punt return game next week.

Grade: C-

Brenton Strange: With the Jaguars' offensive line struggling as of late and a backup quarterback playing under center, the Jags deployed Strange essentially as an additional lineman on Sunday, as he logged 26 snaps in blocking while running only 4 routes. He finished the day with a respectable 67.7 run-blocking grade, a 78.9 pass-blocking grade, and 1 reception for 1 yard.

Grade: C+

Tyler Lacy: Lacy had a quieter day on Sunday, logging one run-stop and zero pressures in three snaps in run defense and nine snaps in pass-rush. He earned the lowest PFF grade of any Jaguars defender on Sunday.

Grade: D

Tank Bigsby: In stark contrast to his zero snaps in Week 16, Bigsby received 15 snaps and a season-high 10 attempts for 32 yards on Sunday. He fared surprisingly well considering a porous offensive line, breaking off a season-long 12-yard scamper. While Bigsby is still the 3rd best running back on the roster, it will be intriguing to see how the Jaguars choose to implement Bigsby into the offense next week against the Titans.

Grade: C+

The Rest:

Elijah Cooks received 0 targets on 8 routes run (despite consistently getting separation). Yasir Abdullah was a healthy scratch. Christian Braswell remained out with injuries.

Summary:

For all of the Jaguars’ struggles over the past month, the emergence of Johnson has been perhaps the lone bright spot, followed arguably by Anton Harrison’s improved consistency in pass-blocking. Both of these trends continued this past Sunday, accompanied by an increased role of other rookies in light of numerous injuries to starters. While no one else particularly stood out as impressive, the game was also void of the glaring rookie mistakes that plagued the Jaguars earlier in the season (I’m looking at you, Tank Bigsby).

Looking ahead to a pivotal win-and-in matchup against the Tennessee Titans, a few starters are recuperating back to health and appear poised to play this week, bumping the rookies back to the bench. Still, we should continue to see players such as Harrison and Johnson receive substantial playing time as starters and may even glimpse some snaps in rotational roles from players such as Strange, Bigsby, Washington, or even Cooks.

Jaguars fans, any bold predictions for the rookies in Week 17?