JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 2021 season is (mercifully) over for the Jacksonville Jaguars. There are going to be significant changes for 2022, beginning with a new coaching staff, so here’s a breakdown of the offensive roster with an eye toward next season.
It wasn’t the kind of season many expected from Trevor Lawrence (59.6 completion percentage, 12 TDs, 17 INTs), but considering all he had to deal with – a league-high in drops, the dysfunction of former coach Urban Meyer’s tenure, and injuries to key players like DJ Chark Jr. and Jamal Agnew – the young man did okay. His best game was his last in a victory over the Indianapolis Colts, so he heads into the offseason with some positivity.
Players under contract in 2022: Lawrence, C.J. Beathard
The skinny: Lawrence will have to learn another offense (his third in three years) and needs to quicken his decision making, which is normal for a rookie transitioning to his second pro season. Whichever coach is hired will need to make building around Lawrence the No. 1 priority. The Jaguars can’t get it all done in 2022, but adding a veteran receiver in free agency, drafting at least one, and finding another tight end would be a good start.
It was a strange year for James Robinson, who got benched twice for fumbling, even though he was the Jaguars’ best offensive player. And the circus surrounding why he was benched and who decided when he should go back in was a joke -- and Lawrence had to step in and tell the staff that Robinson needed to be on the field.
Despite that, and the staff’s ridiculous reluctance to use him early in the season, Robinson still rushed for 767 yards and eight TDs in 14 games before suffering a torn Achilles tendon. Robinson’s average of 4.7 yards per carry ranked 1oth among backs with at least 100 carries.
The staff also believed there was minimal drop-off between Robinson and Carlos Hyde, who ran for 253 yards and averaged 3.5 yards per carry. That didn’t make sense, either.
The skinny: The timetable for Robinson’s return is unclear, but the recent return of Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers from a similar injury in six months gives hope that Robinson could be ready for the start of the 2022 season.
No one is sure what to expect from Etienne, who missed his rookie season with a Lisfranc injury, or what kind of role he will play. Meyer’s staff planned on using Etienne at wide receiver as well, but the new staff may nix that and have him work exclusively at running back. He was drafted to boost the Jaguars’ big plays: The team had 16 big plays (runs of 20 or more yards, receptions of 30 or more yards) in 2020 but just 15 in 2021.
The Jaguars led the NFL with 39 drops, including an NFL-high 21 by wide receivers, and Laviska Shenault Jr. was tied for second in the NFL with eight. Not exactly the kind of "help" you need to give your rookie quarterback. It also didn’t help that the group lost its two deep threats – Chark and Agnew – in Weeks 4 and 11, respectively. Marvin Jones Jr. finished with the second-highest reception total of his career (73) and posted 832 yards and four TDs but had just one TD after Week 6.
The group was running the wrong routes deep into the season, and at least two of Lawrence’s interceptions were because of that.
Players under contract in 2022: Jones, Agnew, Shenault
The skinny: This position group needs to be significantly better in 2022. Chark is scheduled to become a free agent, but bringing him back makes sense because he’s a proven player and should be available for reasonable money after he missed most of the season and had a disappointing 2020.
Agnew was signed as a kick returner but blossomed into a solid receiver, so signing Chark would give the Jaguars three solid receivers (Chark, Agnew, Jones). The new staff needs to find a role for Shenault that plays to his strength of being a physical runner.
For all the criticism, the Jaguars’ tight ends weren’t that bad. They combined for 74 catches and 750 yards, which both ranked in the top 20 in the NFL. That was the most catches by the group since 2016 (84) and the most yards since 2015 (836). Most of the production came from Dan Arnold, who was acquired in a Week 4 trade with the Carolina Panthers. He caught 28 passes for 324 yards in eight games.
The skinny: Manhertz was signed to be a blocker, and Farrell didn’t do much as a rookie (seven catches, just one after Week 9). He did show some flashes of being able to contribute in both areas and could be solid No. 3 option. Arnold is intriguing because of his speed and ability to run after the catch like a receiver; he could be 50-catch option in the new offense.
This group allowed only 32 sacks and helped the Jaguars average 103.2 rushing yards per game despite being down three starters by the end of the season (right guard A.J. Cann, center Brandon Linder and left tackle Cam Robinson).
Robinson played solidly on the franchise tag, but right tackle Jawaan Taylor really struggled -- he was tied for third in the NFL with eight holding penalties and his 11 total penalties were tied for fourth. Linder missed eight games because of injuries and COVID-19, but Tyler Shatley filled in nicely, as he has over several seasons.
The skinny: The unit needs to be reworked, beginning with a decision on Robinson. The Jaguars could sign him to a long-term deal, franchise tag him again or tag him and trade him, but letting him out the door for nothing wouldn’t be wise. Little played well in the last two games at left tackle, but is that enough to feel good about him taking over that spot in 2022?
Left guard Andrew Norwell has been pretty good the past two seasons and could be brought back, but Cann likely won’t be re-signed because Bartch played solidly in his place. Taylor is a problem (his 17 penalties over the past two seasons are tied for the most in the NFL) that the Jaguars could solve by keeping Robinson or drafting a left tackle and moving Little to right tackle.
Linder has one year remaining on his contract at $9 million and counts $10 million against the salary cap, but the Jaguars can cut him with no dead money and that might be the way they go because Linder can’t stay healthy. He has missed 41 games in eight seasons, including 22 in the past four. He’s played in every game just once in his career (2019) and has played double-digit games just once since 2017.
Josh Lambo missed his first three field goal attempts and two of his PATs before he was cut. Matthew Wright made 21 of 24 field goal attempts, including two from beyond 50 yards in the final four minutes of the Jaguars’ victory over Miami to help snap the franchise’s 20-game losing streak.
Players under contract in 2022: Wright
The skinny: Wright bailed the Jaguars out the way Lambo did in 2017, but one potential issue is that he didn’t have a strong enough leg to consistently get the ball into the end zone on kickoffs (just six touchbacks on 31 kickoffs).