The Jacksonville Jaguars would like to forget the 2021 season ever happened. Urban Meyer was a disaster from the start and was fired after 13 games while Trevor Lawrence had one of the worst seasons for a rookie quarterback in recent memory. Jacksonville finished with the lowest scoring offense in the NFL and the fourth-high scoring defense, part of a 3-14 season that leaves the franchise with more questions than answers.
Is Lawrence the franchise quarterback in Jacksonville or did his rookie season do more harm for his NFL future than good? Jacksonville has 10 losing seasons in the last 11 years, compiling an abysmal 47-130 record turning that stretch (the only team with fewer than 50 wins). The Jaguars have a losing culture installed that Meyer failed to change -- and actually made it worse.
Fortunately for the Jaguars, they have an opportunity to hit the reset button with a new head coach that always has a talented quarterback in place. The AFC South is one of the worst divisions in football with the Indianapolis Colts facing quarterback uncertainty after the major collapse (which the Jaguars played a major role in) and the Houston Texans just fired their head coach after one season. There's an opportunity for the Jaguars to turn things around quickly.
How can the Jaguars get fixed this time around? The question may be rhetorical, but the culture can change sooner rather than later.
Find a coach that can actually develop Trevor Lawrence
Meyer was the worst influence on Lawrence, responsible for the quarterback completing just 59.6% of his passes for 3,641 yards with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions (71.9 rating) in his rookie season. Among the 31 qualified quarterbacks, Lawrence was 29th in completion percentage, 28th in touchdown passes, first in interceptions thrown, 31st in yards per attempt (6.0), and 30th in passer rating.
While those numbers are abysmal for a No. 1 overall pick, Lawrence completed 64.7% of his passes for 906 yards with three touchdowns with three interceptions for an 81.9 passer rating -- all when Darrell Bevell was an interim coach. The Jaguars have to hire a coach that can build a staff and develop Lawrence and get the most out of the talented quarterback in 2022 and beyond.
Doug Pederson or Eric Bieniemy would be an ideal head coach to work with Lawrence and build the right culture in Jacksonville. Both know how to build staffs and work with young quarterbacks, having them succeed early in their careers. The Jaguars can get this turned around quickly.
Select pass-rusher with the No. 1 overall pick
The Jaguars have to get the No. 1 pick right in order to turn this franchise around. While Evan Neal would be an excellent asset for Lawrence and immensely improves the Jaguars offensive line, Jacksonville didn't have a pass-rusher who could get to the quarterback not named Josh Allen.
Jacksonville finished with just 32 sacks on the season, tied for the fifth-fewest in the NFL. Allen was the only player on the roster with over seven sacks (and he finished with just 7.5). Allen and Dawuane Smoot didn't get much help from their teammates either as Jacksonville finished with just 183 pressures on the year -- and Allen and Smoot had 100 of them. No player outside of Allen and Smoot had more than 35 pressures on the year.
Getting to the quarterback is paramount in the NFL, and the Jaguars have an opportunity to immensely improve the pass rush with Kayvon Thibodeaux available to them. The Jaguars can't go wrong with Neal or Thibodeaux, but the Oregon defensive end can be an All-Pro in this league for years to come.
An edge-rushing tandem of Thibodeaux and Allen could set the tone for the Jaguars' defense for the next several seasons.
Scheme will help this offensive line
The Jaguars offensive line has starting-caliber players, but they weren't difference-makers. Jacksonville has a decision to make with Cam Robinson at left tackle, but he's a better player in the right scheme. The same can be said with rookie tackle Walker Little, who allowed six pressures in 139 pass-blocking snaps at left tackle. Little is a building block on this offensive line for 2022.
Where the Jaguars offensive line struggled was in run-blocking. Jacksonville averaged just 103.2 yards per game on the ground -- 105 per game under Bevell. The numbers didn't really improve in Bevell's scheme, and this included the Jaguars rushing for 8 yards in Meyer's final coaching performance.
Jacksonville is going to have to find a coach that can create a zone-blocking scheme that can utilize Lawrence's ability on the run and Travis Etienne getting the ball in the B and C gaps. With James Robinson's status uncertain for the start of the year (Achilles), the Jaguars will have to rely on Etienne to carry the running game.
This offensive line needs improvements, but a better scheme will help immensely.