National Football League
How Jaguars plan to bounce back from biggest collapse in franchise history
National Football League

How Jaguars plan to bounce back from biggest collapse in franchise history

Published Mar. 27, 2024 5:27 p.m. ET

Doug Pederson is still bothered by how the 2023 season ended.  

The Jaguars suffered arguably the biggest collapse in franchise history. At 8-3 in late November, Jacksonville was on the fast track to the AFC's No. 1 overall seed. But the team dropped five of its final six games, including the regular-season finale at Tennessee, to miss the playoffs. 

"I don't know if I'll ever get over it," Pederson said at the NFL league meetings this week. "For me, I think it's going to be my motivation, my fuel moving forward." 

That fuel will be supported by the team's offseason moves. 


In the past month, the Jags have invested heavily in veteran leadership and in the trenches, hoping to avoid their 2023 fate. 

Jacksonville lost wide receiver Calvin Ridley in free agency to the Titans and released three key contributors as cap casualties: safety Rayshawn Jenkins, cornerback Darious Williams, defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi. But the organization has made a slew of notable additions in free agency: defensive tackle Arik Armstead (three years, $51 million), center Mitch Morse (two years, $10.5 million), safety Darnell Savage (three years, $21.7 million), cornerback Ronald Darby (two years, $8.5 million), and receivers Gabe Davis (three years, $39 million) and Devin Duvernay (two years, $8.5 million). 

All bring significant playoff experience to a Jaguars team that didn't know how to finish last season. Darby has won a Super Bowl. Armstead has been to two. Davis, Morse, Savage and Duvernay have played in conference championship games. 

"These guys know how to win," Pederson said. "That's kind of the influx of talent that we want to bring onto our roster, guys who've been there and done that. 

"Again, I've got to continue to message the team in the right way," he continued. "We have to have that confidence and that swagger that you're going to get the job done on game day. I think bringing in some of these free agents this spring is going to help that."  

A drastic regression on defense played a key role in the Jaguars' collapse. Run-defense woes, coverage busts and sloppy tackling were at the forefront. 

Jacksonville is hopeful that Armstead's pedigree sets a new tone up front. The nine-year veteran of the 49ers is past his prime (he turns 31 in November) and has missed 13 games the past two seasons, but he figures to have some juice left in the tank. He had five sacks in 12 appearances in 2023. Of the 65 defensive tackles who played at least 486 snaps last season, he was 16th in pressure rate (11.2%), according to Next Gen Stats. As a proven interior pass rusher, Armstead figures to be a strong complement to Josh Allen and Travon Walker in new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen's aggressive scheme.  

And offensively, the Jaguars are banking on offensive-line continuity to improve success in the run game and short-yardage situations, taking pressure off quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The left side of the Jaguars' offensive line was a revolving door in 2023. Left tackle Cam Robinson missed eight games. Left guard Ezra Cleveland, acquired ahead of last season's trade deadline, didn't play any offensive snaps in Week 17. 

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Running back Travis Etienne registered a second straight 1,000-yard rushing season in 2023, but rushing efficiency was an issue. Jacksonville ranked 24th with 96.8 rushing yards per game.

Apart from signing Morse, who is expected to be the starting center, the Jaguars' other four starters up front are expected to be the same (from left to right): Robinson, Cleveland, Brandon Scherff and Anton Harrison. Jacksonville re-signed Cleveland on a three-year deal worth $24 million. Scherff's deal, initially signed in March 2022, was restructured, cementing his spot on the roster for 2024. 

From Week 11 last season, when Cleveland played his first offensive snaps with Jacksonville, through the end of the regular season, the Jags' run game was more effective in various metrics with the five starters on the field compared to when they weren't: in yards per carry (3.5 compared to 3.3), success rate (35.9%, 32.3%) and stuff rate (28.2%, 30.3%), per NGS. 

"If you look at it, Week 18 was kind of a snapshot of the offensive line of what it was supposed to look like," Pederson said. "We're excited about that coming into the offseason to get those guys working together."

While last season's collapse will serve as motivation for Pederson, he said he won't let it "cloud the vision." 

"At the same time," the Jaguars coach added, "it's going to be close in my mind as I move forward with the team this spring. We just have to figure out a way to kind of push through that envelope.

"This is the culture I want to establish in Jacksonville."

This offseason is the start of a journey the Jaguars hope will bring a happier ending. 

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.


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