Ryan O’Bleness of Big Cat Country was nice enough to answer five questions about the Jacksonville Jaguars for us heading into Sunday’s games. If you want to see his questions with my answers you can bang it here.
1. Is Trevor Lawrence going to play? If not, what can we expect from CJ Beathard?
Lawerence is practicing on Friday. He is considered “day-to-day” with a toe injury. He did also speak to the media earlier this week, which usually is a good sign a player will give it a go, but that isn’t certain. If I had to guess right now, my gut feeling is that Lawrence will do everything he can to play on Sunday and is likely to suit up, especially after getting in at least a limited practice session.
As for Beathard, I think what you see is what you get with him. He is a solid backup quarterback and a guy you can trust to manage the game, but he’s likely not going to put the team on his shoulders and win a game solely due to his play. It would take a lot of help from the guys around him. He got some solid starting experience early in his career with the San Francisco 49ers and his career passing numbers aren’t bad, but obviously aren’t great. He’s completed 295 passes on 502 attempts (58.8 percent) for 3,508 yards with 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also has four rushing touchdowns. Beathard’s only thrown five passes as a Jaguar (with four completions for 39 yards), so the sample size is way too small to judge his fit in Jacksonville right now.
2. Are you convinced Lawrence is a franchise QB? Why or why not?
Yes, I do believe Lawrence is a true franchise quarterback. It’s been a slower development process with him than many Jaguars fans were hoping for (Urban Meyer is at least partially to blame for that), and he still makes mistakes you would hope he would have corrected by now, but he’s playing quite well over the past four contests or so. Over those four games, Lawrence has completed 100 out of 139 passes (71.9 percent) for 994 yards with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. He has had his struggles in the red zone this season, but that’s to be getting better.
Even in the blowout loss to the Detroit Lions last week, Lawrence was solid for the most part and was plagued by drops from his wide receivers.
Lawrence continues to flash the unlimited potential that he has been highly-touted for. It’s a matter of doing it consistently now, and head coach Doug Pederson is likely the right coach to get him there, but it appears Lawrence has been taking the right steps. Hopefully the toe injury isn’t a big setback.
3. The Jaguars started 2-1 and looked like they might be the Titans biggest threat in the division. What went wrong in the five game losing streak? Have they corrected the issues?
I think the biggest thing to remember is that this is still very much a rebuilding team with a new head coach, young players and a long culture of losing. Pederson is trying to change that, but this team is not yet ready to win consistently. In those first three games, what was clear is that Jacksonville had a lot more talent on its roster than originally anticipated. Lawrence’s play against the Indianapolis Colts (the first time) and Los Angeles Chargers was extremely strong. The defense also played well in those contests. There just seemed to be an energy within the team.
The team goes as Lawrence goes, though. He had a turnover-filled outing against the Philadelphia Eagles in a monsoon and that started the five-game losing streak. The defense took a big step back during the losing streak (the run defense regressed and the passing defense got even worse, especially with things like crossing routes in the middle of the field). There were questionable coaching calls from Pederson and his staff. Really the answer to what went wrong was “all of the above,” but each loss was only by one score, so there was some bad luck in there too.
Some of the issues have been corrected, but some still linger. Over the past four games, as I mentioned, Lawrence’s play has ascended. The decision-making from Pederson and his staff has been better in my opinion, too. However, the defense has still had issues stopping the run and the Lions torched the Jaguars through the air (337 passing yards). The 2-2 mark in those four games feels about right to me.
4. How many years are the Jags away from being a contender?
This team isn’t as far away as I thought it was entering the season. It’s hard to predict, but I would say about two years away from being a true contender in the AFC. With how weak the AFC South appears, it is certainly likely that Jacksonville will compete for a division crown next year in 2023, but at the current moment, I am not sold on that, and even if the Jaguars accomplished that, I wouldn’t bet on them being able to make noise in the playoffs. Keep in mind, the Jaguars add wide receiver Calvin Ridley in 2023 as well. I would expect the team to work out an extension with him
In 2024, Lawrence will be in his fourth year and very likely in the prime of his career. Other young building blocks like outside linebacker Travon Walker, inside linebackers Devin Lloyd and Chad Muma, cornerback Tyson Campbell and running back Travis Etienne Jr. will be veterans. Ridley (if still in Jacksonville in 2024, and also in 2023) and Christian Kirk would make a strong wide receiver tandem and the team will continue to add talent through the draft, free agency and trades. That is just my guess, but I could see a pretty loaded roster by 2024.
5. The Titans are a 4-point favorite in this one. Which side of that bet are you taking? Give us your score prediction.
The Jaguars haven’t beaten the Titans in Nashville since 2013 and have lost five in a row in the series overall. I will take Tennessee in this matchup every time until proven otherwise. After being embarrassed in Detroit last week, and assuming Lawrence is healthy enough to play, I do expect the team to be focused. I see this game being close. However, I will take the Titans to win and cover.
Titans 27, Jaguars 21d