Ryan O’Bleness of Big Cat Country was nice enough to answer five questions about his Jacksonville Jaguars ahead of Saturday’s AFC South title game with the Tennessee Titans. I’ve always enjoyed my interactions with Ryan. Be sure to head over to BCB to see his questions with my answers.
1. This Jaguars team is on quite a roll. How confident are you they are going to win this game? What gives you that confidence or doubt?
I think the confidence level is pretty high amongst Jaguars fans. For me personally, I think this is the Jaguars’ game to lose. These two squads seem to be on different paths. One team is on a four-game winning streak and has won five of the past six games overall. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence is also playing lights out right now.
The other team has lost six games in a row and is without its starting quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. Of course, in the previous head-to-head result (with Tannehill still healthy), the Jaguars dominated. It would be an incredibly disappointing result if the Jaguars lose this game.
With that said, nothing is guaranteed, especially when it comes to Tennessee. The Jaguars have only beaten the Titans once in the past six meetings, and Derrick Henry has destroyed Jacksonville on many occasions. This is not a done deal by any means, and I expect the Titans to come in focused and ready to play. We’ll see how Josh Dobbs performs.
2. If the Jags do win this game, how far do you think they can go in the playoffs?
This is a dangerous team that is getting hot at the right time. The Jaguars aren’t afraid to play and compete with anybody, and this is a confident team. However, I still don’t see it as a complete team. I think it will depend on matchups, but I see the most likely scenario as Jacksonville winning in the Wild Card round and then exiting in the Divisional Round, just based on gut feeling. I could just as easily see a first-round exit or another run to the AFC Championship Game.
With that said, I think the Kansas City Chiefs are the team to beat in the AFC, and I think the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals are all going to be tough outs. I don’t see Jacksonville as the last team remaining in that group. But the Jaguars certainly have plenty of momentum heading into the playoffs, and if the team can defeat the Titans for the AFC South title and gets to host a playoff game, Doug Pederson is going to have his squad ready to play.
3. There is quite a bit of draft position swing on the line here. What is the Jaguars’ biggest need heading into the offseason?
I think, as of right now, the Jaguars’ biggest needs heading into 2023 are likely at defensive tackle and cornerback. In the interior defensive line, Jacksonville has DaVon Hamilton who has been solid at nose tackle, but there isn’t a lot of depth behind him. Foley Fatukasi and Roy Robertson-Harris play as “defensive ends” in Jacksonville’s defensive scheme, so adding another player who can rotate into the interior would be ideal.
Tyson Campbell is turning into a really good outside cornerback. Darious Williams started the season as the slot cornerback, but has moved to the outside due to the injury to Shaquill Griffin. Williams has been solid at both spots, but if the Jaguars envision him as nickel back, Jacksonville should look to add another outside cornerback. I am not sure what the future holds for Griffin in Jacksonville.
I think the Jaguars have some secondary needs offensively. I could see the team adding a tight end (and that position will become an even bigger need if the Jaguars don’t re-sign Evan Engram in the offseason), another play-making wide receiver to go along with Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, and perhaps at guard as well. However, this 2022 team has fewer weaknesses than many expected it to have, so depending on how free agency works out, the Jaguars could go into the draft with the “best player available” mentality.
4. Cam Robinson went down since the last time these two teams played. Who is stepping in for him and how big is the dropoff?
Losing Cam Robinson was a big deal for the Jaguars because he was playing pretty well this season. Second-year player Walker Little has stepped into the starting lineup for Robinson and has done his job, though. In two starts since Robinson’s injury, Little has given up six pressures and just one sack, according to Pro Football Focus. Also per PFF, Little recorded offensive grades of 65.1 against the New York Jets and 63.2 against the Houston Texans. His best run-blocking grade of the entire season came against the Jets (70.9). He recorded pass-blocking grades of 63.0 and 61.2 in the two starts, respectively.
I haven’t noticed anything particularly egregious from Walker’s play in his two starts. Obviously he still has a lot to improve on, and most Jaguars would prefer to have Robinson’s veteran presence at left tackle, but the drop-off has not been incredibly noticeable thus far.
5. Jacksonville opened as a 6.5 favorite. You taking the Jaguars?
I will take the Jaguars to win. As mentioned earlier, I feel like these two teams are heading in opposite directions. Jacksonville has come too far to let it slip away now. However, a 6.5-point spread feels a little steep to me. I see this game being more competitive than it was last time around, even if the Titans are starting Josh Dobbs at quarterback. Personally, I would not touch this bet, but I think the Jaguars by a final score of around 27-21.