The Jaguars are a team that always feel on the cusp of improvement. They’re frequently big spenders, they routinely add intriguing rookies, and the sum of their parts seems to be enough to at least make them interesting. The reality is that it rarely happens, as they’ve had a winning record just once since 2008, and the last two years they’ve won a miserable four games combined.
That said, it feels like they’re on the cusp of improvement again! With a new, competent head coach at the helm and even more talent added to a roster that already featured a star running back and young quarterback with sky-high potential, the Jaguars may start making some noise as soon as this year. This will be our chance to see them before they do, though it’s doubtful we’ll get much in the way of the starters playing on Saturday.
Here’s how the Jaguars have changed since late last November, when these two teams last met.
WR Christian Kirk
WR Zay Jones
TE Evan Engram
G Brandon Scherff
C Luke Fortner
DE Arden Key
DE Travon Walker
DT Foley Fatukasi
LB Foye Oluokun
LB Devin Lloyd
CB Darious Williams
Firing Urban Meyer into the sun
It seems like the Jaguars are always searching for splashes, and this offseason was no exception.
The first acquisition we need to mention, of course, is Foye Oluokun. The Falcons linebacker was a playmaker in 2021 and earned leaguewide recognition for it, and the Jaguars snapped him up as Atlanta effectively remade their inside linebacker group this summer. It’s going to be weird to see him in another jersey.
The Jaguars focused on adding playmakers, as well. Key offers some pass rushing punch, Williams has a nose for the ball even if he didn’t show it a year ago, and Engram is a glass cannon who is a dangerous receiving option when healthy. The Kirk signing was a bit of a punchline, but he’s a wizard in the slot who could come become one of Trevor Lawrence’s most trusted weapons.
Then there were the two big additions on the line. Scherff is a tremendous guard who will help this line hold up for Lawrence, James Robinson, and Travis Etienne, while Fatukasi provides a fantastic run defender that Jacksonville sorely needed. These big free agent hauls rarely work out quite the way you want them to, but this looks like a good one on paper.
That’s not even including the draft class. Walker is a ridiculously high upside defender who might take a little time to figure it out, Lloyd a phenomenal athlete, and Fortner a likely starter at center right away. That’s not including linebacker Chad Muma, who is deeply intriguing and was a draft want for many Falcons fans.
Finally, they dumped an unbelievably bad coach. The Urban Meyer hire felt like a bad one to me the instant it was made, given his all-college history and impossibly weird ego, but he was worse than I could have dreamt as a coach, motivator, and person. He’s already landed on his feet—of course—and the Jaguars have upgraded at coach in a major way by hiring Doug Pederson.
RB Dare Ogunbowale
WR DJ Chark
TE James O’Shaughnessy
G Andrew Norwell
G/C A.J. Cann
DT Taven Bryan
LB Myles Jack
Mostly, the Jaguars replaced these players with different options. They lost multiple tight ends and added Engram, lost Norwell and Cann and replaced them with Fortner and Scherff, and so on. Time will tell if the players they’ve added are better than the ones they’ve lost, but by and large, that appears to be the case.
Are the Jaguars better than the last time the Falcons faced them?
Unequivocally yes. I won’t claim to know whether they’re on their way to an AFC South title any time soon, but they’ve both upgraded the roster and jettisoned the worst possible dead weight in the form of Urban Meyer. They’re a better team than they were last November.
We don’t know if we’ll see much of the starters on Saturday against the Falcons, but even the reserves should provide an interesting challenge for Atlanta’s backups, given the talent that has been added here. The bigger question of whether this team can reverse many years of woeful football should be answered in the affirmative, and the biggest question is whether the Jaguars are a team on the cusp of arriving or if they need another year or two to get there.