Week 14 in the 2022 NFL season is in the books and the playoff race is sweltering up as teams charge towards an eventful winter. For some teams, however, their postseason aspirations are dwindling quickly. One of those teams is the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars exit this week, 5-8, second in the AFC South behind the 7-6 Titans, after a dominant 36-22 win against Tennessee on the road. Up till Sunday, the Jaguars had gone eight straight years without winning in Nashville against their bitter AFC South rivals. This win gives the Jaguars a much needed motivational boost to end the season strong. The Jaguars can’t afford anymore losses for the rest of the season, as their playoff hopes are contingent on if they can win their division more than trying to acquire a wild card spot in the very competitive AFC. How are the Jaguars going to win their last four games? They’re going to need big games from quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne.
Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne are not new to being teammates. In fact, they played together at Clemson and were both drafted by the Jaguars in the 2021 NFL Draft. While Trevor was an instant starter, Travis was trying to figure out his role. With a running room led by James Robinson, the undrafted rookie sensation who had over 1,000 rushing yards, Etienne had to be the backup. Head Coach Urban Myer, if you can even call him a coach, worked out Etienne as more of a wide receiver than the running back position that he was drafted for to maximize the productivity of both backs. Even though Etienne was a versatile player coming out of college, only 8 of his 78 touchdowns in his collegiate career came through the air. That is not necessarily enough to want to play him more in the receiver position, but it isn’t uncommon for Urban Meyer to have to have made some questionable decisions in his short lived and disappointing NFL coaching career (i.e. Tim Tebow). Unfortunately, Etienne went down with a season-ending injury in the preseason, so we did not get to see anything from him until the 2022 season.
When Etienne finally got the chance to show his playmaking ability, he didn’t disappoint. Through 13 games, he has ran for 814 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 5 yards a rush. He is also a receiving threat as he has 25 catches for 214 yards for a total of 1,028 total scrimmage yards so far this season. His productivity this season eventually led to the trading of James Robinson as the Jaguars feel that Etienne is the future and ready to lead the rushing offense. While he has shown that he can be a dependable back running and catching the ball, he has also shown that he is dependable losing the ball as well, with him fumbling the ball four times this season. Ball security is going to have to be an emphasis for Etienne moving forward for him to elevate his game.
While Travis sat on the sidelines for the 2021 season, Trevor was thrown into the dumpster fire that was the 2021 Jacksonville Jaguars. After the Jaguars traded fan favorite and social media sensation quarterback Gardner Minshew away at the end of preseason, Trevor was given the full reins to the Jaguars offense. After an abysmal 1-15 2020 season, Trevor was put in the (very easy) position of getting the Jaguars more than one win. Even though Trevor managed to accomplish this goal, he was only able to win 3 games. The 3-14 record led to the team drafting first overall for the second time in a row, which turned into Travon Walker out of Georgia. Lawrence finished the 2021 season with 3641 yards passing, 12 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. Some sports talk pundits and fans were skeptical that Lawrence was the generational talent that many claimed him to be, with some even calling him a bust. But in 2022, he has shown the league that he is here and his time is now.
Through 13 games in the 2022, Trevor Lawrence has shown the skills that made him the number one overall pick. He has already passed for 3,202 yards with 20 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He is on pace to eclipse his 2021 stats by a considerable margin with him already having more touchdowns this season and almost matching his passing yards with four games left to go. While he has shown that he is capable of being the quarterback of the future for the Jaguars, he has also shown that he is still a young quarterback who is prone to make questionable decisions. Three of his interceptions this season have occurred in the red zone and most of them inevitably led to the Jaguars to lose those games. Once Lawrence lessens the impact of his interceptions, those close losses will become close wins.
The 5-8 record does not tell the real story of the 2022 Jacksonville Jaguars. Besides the blowout loss to the Lions in Week 13, the Jaguars have been in every game and played for all four quarters, never looking defeated. This team has a high upside and are still in the 2022 NFL playoff hunt, sitting at 10th in AFC standings. If the Jaguars are able to win out, the Jaguars could be in the playoffs for the first time since 2017. In order to win out though, the Jaguars would have to upset the Cowboys, beat the Jets in primetime, and beating the Titans twice in a season, something the Jaguars haven’t done since 2005. The Jaguars would probably not make it out of Super Wild Card weekend if they were to make it, but the fact that this team, after going 3-14 last season, could even be in the conversation of playoffs is a feat in itself. Doug Pederson has taken this team from the depths of football hell and brought them into the light, allowing them to shine. If Pederson can get more from his team next year, the Jacksonville Jaguars will be a solid playoff contender, with the lethal duo of Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne leading the offense.