The Urban Meyer experience has been well documented, and the Jaguars took quick action in trying to right those wrongs with the hiring of Doug Pederson, former head coach of the Super Bowl LII Champions, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Trevor Lawrence gets a fresh restart of his NFL career. Armed with a QB-friendly coach and a revamped room of offensive weapons, what does this team look like in 2022?
Pederson’s last run as a head coach was the 2020 season in Philadelphia, with Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts his primary quarterbacks. The team went 4-11-1 and ranked worst in Passing Total Points and Passing EPA. One year prior, the team ranked 17th in both of those same metrics, although that team made the postseason at 9-7.
12 Personnel: Look for more passes
|Team||12 Personnel Pass Rate||Rank|
*12 Personnel indicates 1 Running Back and 2 Tight Ends on the field for the offense
Pederson ran 12 personnel at a league highest 35% of the time in 2020, passing 64% of those plays. This high emphasis on 12 personnel passing brings us to the tight end room in Jacksonville. Free agent signee Evan Engram and incumbent Dan Arnold are both receiving-first tight ends, but shaky situations around each have left more to be desired on the stat sheets.
Engram spent the last five seasons as a part of the Giants, named to the 2020 Pro Bowl, averaging 86 targets, 566 yards, and 3 touchdowns each year, but he also comes with just above 5 drops a season.
Arnold’s journey is a bit different, spending 4 years in the league as a part of the Saints, Cardinals, Panthers, and Jaguars. Arnold has seen over 40 targets and turned them into 400+ yards in both of the last two years, 324 coming during his time in Jacksonville, before his season was cut short with an MCL sprain.
While Engram and Arnold may be a noticeable step down from Pro Bowler Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, their strength and experience as pass catchers should serve as great transition pieces for Pederson’s new offense. Pederson is unlikely to reclaim the top spot in 12 personnel usage, but should keep a league high rate of passing from the personnel group to go with the high usage.
Run-Pass Option: More to Come
Trevor Lawrence’s time at Clemson was both admired and scrutinized for the heavy use of RPOs. The Tigers used RPOs on 30% of plays his sophomore year and 28% his final season.
In the NFL, that number decreased to 13% under Urban Meyer, and while Pederson’s 2020 featured a slightly higher 14% usage, his RPO usage has been increasing in every season as a head coach.
The X factor here? New wide receiver Christian Kirk is coming from the Arizona Cardinals, the offense that used RPOs at the third highest rate of 22%, a number always within the top 5 under head coach Kliff Kingsbury. QB Kyler Murray ranked first in SIS’ Independent Quarterback Rating on RPO plays (min 20 attempts), where Lawrence ranked 11th. High exposure to an RPO-heavy scheme is new to the Jaguars WR room.
Look for the RPO to be a staple in the offense, as both Pederson and Lawrence used RPOs as a large part of their prior successes.
Travis Etienne Jr
Possibly the largest question surrounding the Jaguars 2022 season is: what do they have in Travis Etienne Jr? Former college teammate of Trevor Lawrence and 25th overall pick, Etienne missed the entire 2021 campaign with a Lisfranc injury.
|Team||Targets to RB per game|
Passing to the running back is becoming increasingly prevalent in the NFL. With Lawrence playing the majority of the season, Etienne was targeted 5.1 times a game at Clemson in 2020, a number that had risen each season.
Etienne is on record saying he could be used as a “Deebo Samuel” for this team, and this comparison is not as far-fetched as many other Deebo comparisons that get thrown around.
Samuel was a difference-maker in the 49ers season. With 797 of his 1,397 receiving yards coming after the catch, paired with 365 rushing yards, getting the ball to Deebo and letting him run was a massive part of the offense. Etienne’s versatility while at Clemson was part of what made him a 1st-round selection. In his senior year, Etienne posted 914 rushing and 588 receiving yards en route to a College Football Playoff appearance.
While he still may be labeled an RB on the roster, Etienne has shown an ability to be used in both facets of the offense, something Deebo’s 2021 season might popularize around the league.
The massive advantage of having a player like Deebo? When in the huddle, the defense can’t identify tendencies based on personnel groupings on the field. The Jaguars were fairly predictable in 2021, 11 personnel featured 74% passes (7th highest) while 12 personnel featured 59% runs (10th highest). The 49ers threw the ball a similar 71% in 11 personnel, but they had a 55/45 run-pass split in 21 personnel, at a league-highest rate of 36% of their plays.
The 49ers could *look* like they were operating in 11 personnel, but line up with both Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samual in the backfield. The Jaguars could employ a similar strategy with Travis Etienne and James Robinson to keep defenses guessing.
This offseason, the Jaguars built around Trevor Lawrence. The offensive line improved by adding a new guard in 2020 All-Pro Brandon Scherff, as well as locking up LT Cam Robinson for the foreseeable future. In the WR room, the Jaguars added sure-handed threats in Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, as well as a dynamic TE in Evan Engram.
Expect to see a Year 2 leap for Lawrence and the Jaguars. Etienne will be used as a weapon in both the run and pass game, but a healthy James Robinson will surely see a lot of rushing work. Lawrence will likely spread the ball around, with Christian Kirk and Marvin Jones Jr being the target leaders, Zay Jones, Laviska Shenault, and Evan Engram not far behind.
The Jaguars start their preseason with the Hall of Fame Game on August 4, opening the regular season with Pederson facing his former QB Carson Wentz and the Washington Commanders on September 11.
Stephen Polacheck of Sports Info Solutions (SIS)