Behind Enemy Lines: Q&A with Big Cat Country

While preparing for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Big Cat Country’s Ryan O’Bleness and I sat down for a little Q&A for each other’s posts.

1. It’s a bit wide but How? ‘Or’ What are the Jacksonville Jaguars? Have things calmed down after a dreadful 2021 season? Is Doug Pederson the coach?

It is difficult to have a real reading on this team. I think Jacksonville is a very young team that is competing, but still unsure how to win consistently after a long culture of losing that has plagued the franchise for so long. This is a team that has played many one-scored games, but often lost leads in the fourth quarter.

I think the Jaguars are more talented than fans and pundits initially thought going into the season, but this team’s cap likely remains around the seven-win mark. The team is tracking quarterback Trvor Lawrence (more on him in a moment), and the defense took a few steps back after a relatively solid start to the unit.

As for the 2021 squad, the Jaguars are in a much better position heading into the December 2022 schedule. There’s a night and day difference with Doug Pederson at the helm versus Urban Meyer’s antics. Pederson is a head coach who has accomplished things in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl as a player and a coach, and it’s obvious his players believe in his vision and want to play for him. Pederson is also very good at drawing creative pieces and creating offsets. None of this could be said about Meyer.

I think Pederson is the right coach to turn around this long dormant franchise. However, he made some rash decisions in the game throughout the year, and it certainly hasn’t been perfect for him, but which coach is perfect? This team still has a long way to go, but if anyone can make Jacksonville a true contender for the AFC again, I think it’s Pederson.

2. What does Trevor Lawrence look like this season? Do Jaguar fans see development and progress?

Lawrence has been inconsistent, but is starting to organize. Jaguars fans were pretty hard on him, especially earlier in the season, because he hasn’t quite delivered on the promise of his unlimited potential yet. But when you’re called a “generational talent” and considered the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, the expectations are pretty unfair. Even though Lawrence has a sky-high ceiling and all the skills and traits to one day be the NFL’s best quarterback, or nearly so, what fans and watchers need to realize is that he still needs to time to develop in the NFL. , especially at quarterback.

He showed bad tendencies in his first two seasons: getting locked into a receiver, not tracking his progress fast enough, not checking when needed, getting too aggressive or trying to do too much himself, etc. evident in the last few weeks that he is learning. Where he has particularly struggled this season is in the red zone. It may be a problem to be too aggressive or overzealous inside the 20-yard line. He seemed to have made better decisions there in the last game or two, though. But over the whole season, he managed only 25 of 50 passes for 166 yards with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions in the red zone. Low completion percentage and turnovers have been the areas of concern as there are still points on the board there.

Overall for the season, Lawrence completed 227 of 348 passes (65.2%) for 2,334 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions with an 89.7 passer rating. Most of those numbers rank around the middle of the pack in the NFL so far this season, but in the last two games Lawrence has played very well. In those two contests, Lawrence completed 54 of 71 passes (76%) for 498 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also uses his legs more, going for 79 yards on 10 carries (7.9 yards per carry) during that span. It’s a small sample, but maybe Lawrence is starting to get the hang of it.

He also had some great early season games in wins over the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers. He had a very mediocre game filled with turnovers in heavy rain against the Philadelphia Eagles, and I would rank the other games around the “average” mark (maybe slightly above or below depending on the game).

Lawrence also throws a few “wow” throws every game that make you realize how good he is and how awesome he is. could be. He needs to work on his touch and accuracy a bit, but he has the skills to land just about any throw. It’s really a matter of efficiency and consistency with Lawrence, and probably only a matter of time before he truly unleashes his potential. Pederson is the right coach to get him there.

3. You’re suddenly Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman. How do you plot against the Jaguars defense?

Jacksonville’s defense looks likely to cross roads and throw in midfield. The Colts had plenty of success in the teams’ second meeting on Oct. 16, and the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce also did some damage. This is expected against an offense led by Mahomes, but what was more concerning was the Jaguars’ inability to stop a rushing Kansas City attack that was not statistically strong early in the game. The Chiefs rushed for 155 yards, led by Isiah Pacheco’s 82 rushing yards.

The Jaguars still rank 11th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (110.1 yards per game), but after a strong start to the season in that regard, things seem to be trending down. The Ravens run the ball very well, ranking second in the NFL with 162.8 rushing yards per game. Of course, that’s largely down to quarterback Lamar Jackson’s ability to play with his feet, but if I’m Greg Roman, I’m testing Jacksonville’s rushing defense. Give Kenyan Drake the ball early, call Jackson’s number in the run game, use the play/run pass option to their advantage, etc.

If the Ravens are able to establish the running game, that’s when I’d open it up to play some action passes, cruisers down the middle, and a few vertical deep shots. I wouldn’t test Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell too often, but the rest of the secondary is very beatable. Jacksonville ranks 24th in the NFL in passing yards allowed (247.6).

If the Jaguars don’t force Jackson to beat them in the air and can’t make Baltimore one-dimensional, it’s going to be a long day for Jacksonville.

4. Which two Jaguars players (one offense, one defense) should Ravens fans be paying close attention to in this game that may not be on their radar?

No one is talking about offensive linemen, so offensively, watch how the two tackles, Jawaan Taylor and Cam Robinson, perform in this one. Those two had good years overall, but the Jaguars gave the Chiefs five sacks last game. Taylor particularly struggled against Kansas City’s Chris Jones. It will be interesting to see if they bounce back against Calais Campbell and the Ravens. In terms of talented players, Christian Kirk and Travis Etienne Jr. are the big names, but wide receiver Zay Jones has been a pretty reliable target for Lawrence and may be a guy Ravens fans aren’t expecting much of. .

On defense, defensive lineman Duwaune Smoot has become, seemingly out of nowhere, one of Jacksonville’s top passing throwers. He leads the team in sacks with five and also has three tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

5. The line for this game is Ravens -4 according to DraftKings sportsbook. Do you agree with this line? Where would you place it?

Since Baltimore is on the road, I think that line seems fair and I wouldn’t necessarily change it more than a half point or so. The Ravens are a better team overall and are currently in a better place than Jacksonville, however. I expect the Jaguars to compete and stay relatively close, but I also expect Jackson to be too much for this Jacksonville defense to handle. I’m not betting much, so take that with a grain of salt, but I think the Ravens are winning by more than a field goal, so my advice would be to take the Ravens to cover.

6. Crows Wrestle on the road against the Jaguars, going 3-7. What would have to happen for the Jaguars to pull off the upset?

Well, as mentioned, Lawrence has to play a great game. That means he has to be precise, he can’t give the ball away, and he has to maintain drives that lead to points more often than not. He has to play smart and take what the defense gives him. Lawrence will also need Etienne to be successful on the field to take the pressure off the passing game, but that’s easier said than done against Baltimore’s third rushing defense (86.4 yards allowed per game). It is important that the offense stays on the pitch long enough to give the defense a break and keep them well rested.

Defensively, like I said, Jacksonville can’t afford to let Jackson win with his arms and legs. The Jaguars need to contain him in the rushing game and force him to win in the air. The defense must also generate turnovers and leave the field on third down. The Jaguars allow opponents to convert third downs at a 42.15% clip (24th in the NFL).

Again, I don’t see that happening, and I expect the Ravens to win, but I see it’s a tightly contested game for the most part.