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Jaguars embrace favorite role in AFC South

Aug 26, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) reacts to a touchdown during the second quarter of the game against the Miami Dolphins at EverBank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville Jaguars

2022 record: 9-8, first AFC South

Playoff picture: The Jaguars had missed the playoffs in 13 of 14 seasons before last year’s division title and incredible comeback win over the Los Angeles Chargers in the wild card round.

Biggest Week 1 question: In the macro sense, the question is: What can the Jaguars do for an encore? The AFC South is very winnable for the second straight year with the Texans and Colts starting from scratch and the Titans retooling. In the micro, the Jaguars need to hold their breath that the pass rush improves after finishing tied for 26th in sacks last year, resulting in the fifth-worst pass defense in the league.

What’s new: Calvin Ridley is the biggest-name wide receiver the Jaguars have had in ages. They acquired him at the 2022 trade deadline while he was serving a yearlong suspension due to violating the league’s gambling policy, so he’s yet to make his Jacksonville debut. A Trevor Lawrence-to-Ridley connection might surpass what Ridley was able to achieve with Matt Ryan in Atlanta. There’s better depth behind Travis Etienne at running back with the signing of D’Ernest Johnson and the third-round selection of Auburn RB Tank Bigsby.

They’re gone: Jawaan Taylor started every game at right tackle for Jacksonville since he entered the league in 2019. He departed in free agency, but the Jags used a first-round pick on 6-foot-5, 315-pound replacement Anton Harrison.

On the money: The Jaguars have been spending smart, and not necessarily lavishly, after catching flak for giving WR Christian Kirk a $72 million contract in the 2022 offseason. Lawrence is on a rookie contract for now but will need to be paid soon if his third NFL campaign is as excellent as expected.

Get to know: “The other” Josh Allen. One year after the Buffalo Bills changed the direction of their franchise by drafting a quarterback from Wyoming, the Jags spent the seventh overall pick on an edge rusher of the same name. Allen gave the Jags 10.5 sacks as a rookie but just 17 in the three seasons since. So it wasn’t the best look when he was the only Jaguar to skip voluntary workouts entering the last year of his rookie contract.

Vegas says: The Jags’ over/under at BetMGM is 9.5 wins. The team has earned double-digit wins just once in 15 seasons (2017).

–Field Level Media