On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs face the Jacksonville Jaguars. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Kansas City is favored to win. We welcome Ryan O’Bleness of Big Cat Country — our sister SBNation site covering the Jacksonville Jaguars— for Five Questions with the Enemy.
1. Trevor Lawrence is slowly getting better. How would you evaluate his career so far?
When it comes to Trevor Lawrence, it’s important to realize that his development was derailed as a rookie by Urban Meyer and the previous coaching regime. He truly struggled as a rookie, but was put into an awful situation with a head coach who was in over his head and had a serious lack of talent on the roster around him as a rookie. During his rookie year in 2021, he would make some questionable decisions, lock into one receiver, not get through his progressions quick enough, not put enough touch or accuracy on his passes and would try to do too much himself.
In 2022, Lawrence has still made his fair share of mistakes and has fallen back into those bad tendencies from time to time, but you can tell, especially as of late, that he is learning. Lawrence has struggled in the red zone somewhat this season, going 21-for-44 on his passes (just 47.7 percent) for 130 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. At times in the red zone, Lawrence has gotten a little too aggressive, which has led to turovers. However, he has been mostly solid in the other areas of the field.
Lawrence’s play has been streaky. Jaguars fans have not been too happy with his play overall this season. Some of the criticism is warranted, and some I feel is unfair. It is evident that he still has a lot of learning and developing yet to do, and he is still working toward getting better as a decision-maker. It is also evident that he possesses every tool to one day be one of the best quarterbacks in the league and live up to his potential. I think head coach Doug Pederson is the right coach to get him there.
So far this season, Lawrence has had a couple of really strong games (at home versus the Indianapolis Colts and on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers), a really poor game (on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles in tough weather conditions) and a lot of outings that many may consider average (or slightly above or below average). He had an extremely efficient game last week against the Las Vegas Raiders, completing 25 of 31 passes (80.6 percent) for 235 yards and touchdown with no interceptions. But when you look at the advanced stats from last week, it’s even more impressive.
I think the future is still very bright Lawrence, but he still needs to find some consistency in his game.
2. Josh Allen was reportedly a target of the Chiefs just before the trade deadline. What type of player is Kansas City missing out on?
Allen hasn’t been quite as productive this season as Jaguars fans would have hoped, with just three sacks and 24 combined tackles, but he can make an impact even when he doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. His three sacks rank second on the team behind defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot (five), but that isn’t saying too much as the Jaguars only have 16 sacks as a team so far this season. Allen does have five tackles for loss, which also ranks second on the team behind linebacker Foye Oluokun (seven). He does lead the team with 12 quarterback hits and 20 pressures (hurries, quarterback knockdowns and sacks combined).
Allen is a leader for this young team. Effort isn’t an issue with him, as he is a relentless pass rusher, but it would be nice to see him get home a little bit more. He generally works as a stand-up edge rusher in Jacksonville’s base 3-4 alignment or nickel set, opposite of rookie outside linebacker Travon Walker, which is likely the best role for his skill set. He can sometimes drop into pass coverage when needed, but that is not ideal and he is better used primarily as a pass rusher (that said, he has only allowed one catch for minus-two yards and an opponent passer rating of 39.6 this season, according to Pro Football Reference, but that is only on four targets).
Like Lawrence, Allen has all of the talent in the world and has shown flashes, but lacks consistency. Overall, he is still a relatively young building block for the defense, and personally, I am happy that the Jaguars decided to hang on to him.
3. Being from England, I have seen the Jaguars play.... a lot. Do you fear that the Jags could be on the move one day?
Haha, no, I don’t believe this will happen any time soon, or perhaps ever. It has been rumored for years that the Jaguars could make the permanent move to London, but if it hasn’t happened yet, I don’t think it will. It really wouldn’t make any sense for anybody involved. In Jacksonville, the franchise is valued at $3.475 billion, according to Forbes. Owner Shad Khan has put many resources into the city of Jacksonville and has long-term plans for development there. Plus, having one franchise in London when every other team is in the United States doesn’t make sense logistically — that would create an unfair competitive disadvantages for the London team that would have to travel seven or eight times per year back to the U.S. It would also be expensive to operate.
So, no, I don’t have any fear of this, at least not in the immediate to intermediate future.
4. Who has been the unsung hero of the Jags season?
This is a great question. I’ll give you a few names. My picks on offense would be both of the offensive tackles, Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor. Both players had been heavily scrutinized for their play in the past, but both have had strong campaigns in 2022. The Jaguars have only allowed 12 sacks this season, which is tied with the Dallas Cowboys for second-fewest allowed in the NFL (only the Los Angeles Chargers have given up less sacks). Taylor and Robinson have played like true bookend tackles and have kept Lawrence upright. Taylor has only allowed seven pressures all season long, according to Pro Football Focus, which is mighty impressive. Robinson has allowed 16 pressures this season (less than two per game), according to PFF, and has only allowed 11 pressures since the Washington Commanders game in the season opener. Both players have been credited for allowing two sacks this season.
Defensively, rookie linebacker Devin Lloyd has exceeded all expectations thus far and looks like he will be a strong piece to build around in the future. He has recorded 69 tackles (second on the team), two interceptions (tied for first on the team), seven passes defended and a fumble recovery. Meanwhile, defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot has turned into arguably the team’s best pass rusher out of nowhere, and as mentioned, leads the Jaguars in sacks with five (he also has a forced fumble).
I charted/graded 386 sacks by 88 DL through nine games this season to help bring clarity on which pass-rushers are getting home showing the highest degree of skill against the most difficult circumstances.— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) November 9, 2022
Current top 25 overall
Full analysis: https://t.co/jALLqtTc2b pic.twitter.com/GE2MQBQNP8
5. The Chiefs were big favorites against the Titans and only just came away with the win. Once again, the Chiefs are large favorites. Do you foresee a scenario in which the Jags could shock all and come away from Arrowhead with a win?
Unfortunately, I don’t see this one working out well for the Jaguars. In my opinion, the Kansas City Chiefs are the best team in the AFC. The Jaguars have struggled to defend the pass this season, ranking 23rd in the NFL and allowing 238.3 passing yards per game. Derek Carr and Davante Adams took advantage of that matchup early and often last week, but to Jacksonville’s credit, the Jaguars did shut out the Raiders in the second half. Still, I think Patrick Mahomes is going to have a field day and I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody like Kadarius Toney ends up having a breakout game.
The Jaguars have more talent on the roster than was anticipated to begin the year, and they’ll fight no matter what the score is — Jacksonville was down 17-0 to the Raiders last week before pulling off the 27-20 victory — so I don’t expect the team to back down at all. The only scenario in which I see the Jaguars winning, though, is by getting relentless pressure on Mahomes, sacking him multiple times, causing errant throws and forcing turnovers. But that is easier said than done. Offensively, the offense goes as Lawrence goes, so he will have to play a near flawless game to keep up with Kansas City’s offense and match points,
All of Jacksonville’s losses have been one-possession final scores (eight points or less), so I wouldn’t be completely shocked to see a close game. However, I foresee this one being the Jaguars’ first double-digit loss of the season. I just think the Chiefs are the much-better team.