“This team is going to look different”
GM Trent Baalke meets with the media. https://t.co/FQmaJDcZQe— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) January 25, 2024
The last seven days began with a much-anticipated media appearance by Trent Baalke. The Jaguars general manager had come under scrutiny from some quarters following a season of ultimate disappointment in Jacksonville. But Baalke robustly defended the state of the franchise - but indicated he was ready to make the small changes needed to get the Jags over the hump:
“The easiest thing to do in the NFL is take an average football team, a struggling football team, and make it competitive,” Baalke said. “The hardest thing to do is take a competitive football team and make it a championship football team. We’re in that phase. We have to take a competitive football team and turn it into a champion. That’s not easy, but that’s our job. It takes good football players, it takes good coaching, it takes good management, it takes great ownership. We have everything we need here. Now it’s time to go do it.”
“We feel we’ve got a good nucleus of players, but this team is going to look different. When we strap it up in April, when the offseason program gets going, the team’s going to look different. How much different? Depends on a lot of the discussions we’re going to have over the next couple of weeks.”
With Baalke suggesting he’s willing to make the big calls necessary, all we can do is wait and watch.
“He’s only going to get better”
Could Anton Harrison play LT next season? pic.twitter.com/9SuYyADdSP— 1010 XL / 92.5 FM (@1010XL) January 25, 2024
After the gathering journalists had gotten Baalke to pick the meat off the carcass of what was a season that ended too early, attention turned to reasons to be optimistic for next year. Rookie Anton Harrison came in for praise from Doug Pederson last week - and the Jags GM doubled down on that sentiment:
“He’s only going to get better. There’s another young guy that really loves the game, loves to work and loves to compete. Coming into the National Football League and going up mano-mano on some of the best pass rushers, a gauntlet of pass rushers throughout the course of the year; you look at the pressure rate that he gave up and a guy that wasn’t given a lot of help in terms of chips and double teams and protection - you have to be nothing but proud of how he handled himself as a rookie.”
High praise coming from all quarters is well deserved, and it certainly seems that the Jags knocked their first-round pick out of the park last offseason. With Harrison set to be a cornerstone of the offense for a decade, more of the same this offseason is needed.
“None of us are content with where we’re at”
As the general manager addressed the media, some of the roster were finishing off cleaning out their lockers for the offseason. One of those was receiver Christian Kirk, who offered his thoughts on how the season ended. Unsurprisingly, Kirk’s second season at EverBank did not hit the heights he expected:
“It was humbling for us. I think for the core and the foundational pieces that are in this organization, it just opens our eyes to where we’re at,” Kirk said. “None of us are going to sit here and be obviously content with where we’re at. We all know that there’s a long way for us to go and we’re just we’re not there yet to being a championship team. We kind of got hit with the injury bug in other places as well, we just weren’t able to bounce back from it. Football is never about one person. It’s about all 11 on both sides of the ball coming together and being at their best.”
“We unfortunately were unable to do that.”
The frustration and disappointment were still evident with Kirk, who struggled with injury himself in 2023. When healthy, he’s a valuable weapon for Trevor Lawrence - here’s hoping he stays out of the treatment room next season.
“It’s definitely cool when stuff like this happens”
Let’s finish off the week on a positive note; a trio of Jaguars stars earned Pro Bowl invites, with edge rusher Josh Allen and tight end Evan Engram joined by long snapper Ross Matiscik for the trip to Orlando. This is Matiscik’s first time being awarded a spot at the NFL’s end-of-season showpiece, and needless to say, he’s delighted with it:
“It’s obviously a really decorated honor; I’m really excited. It’s more about all the hard work I’ve put in over the years being noticed and recognized as a long snapper. A lot of that gets overlooked. So it’s pretty cool to see it get recognized.”
“It’s not something that happens overnight. I think if you ask any long snapper, they’ll tell you it was years and years in the making, just perfecting their craft and getting to a point where they trust their ability and they’re kind of able to do it with their eyes closed. It’s not overnight success by any means, but it’s definitely cool when stuff like this happens.”
Matiscik has spent four years in the league, all with the Jaguars. Not only was he invited to the Pro Bowl this year, but he was also named a first-team All-Pro too. The season may not have been noteworthy for the team as a whole, but it’s one Matiscik will not forget.