The Seattle Seahawks (2-5) have one more game before the (much-needed) bye week, as they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5), who are coming off their bye week after a dramatic last-second win over the Miami Dolphins in London. Hard to believe that it was only four years ago that this same matchup had major playoff implications for both teams. Now it’s one of the worst looking matchups on the schedule this year.
Normally we do 5 Qs and 5 As with the opposing SB Nation team site, but we might as well do six questions. There isn’t a limit to how many questions we can ask! We just like numbers that end in 5 or 0. Anyway, here’s Big Cat Country’s Ryan O’Bleness with the responses to my questions.
1.) We’re six games into the Trevor Lawrence era, how do you think he’s performed thus far?
Lawrence had a rough start to the 2021 season, which isn’t uncommon for rookies, but he has dramatically improved over the past three games. During the first three games of the seasons — all losses for the Jaguars — Lawrence threw seven interceptions compared to five touchdowns, and only completed 54.2 percent of his passes. He was only averaging 223 passing yards per game, and also lost two fumbles in that stretch. It was obvious that Lawrence was forcing throws, not taking easy checkdowns or throwing the ball away when he needed to. He was trying to make too much happen himself, and while he didn’t have a lot of help around him from his teammates or even the play-calling, it was obvious Lawrence was having a tough time adjusting to NFL competition.
However, in the last three games, Lawrence has shown off exactly why he was such a highly-touted prospect and his development has been easy to see. He has only thrown one interception in this recent three-game stretch, has completed 66.3 percent of his passes and is averaging 265.3 yards per game through the air. He’s only thrown two touchdowns in that span, but also rushed for two additional scores, and has shown his mobility not only on scrambles, but also boasted his ability to get out of the pocket, escape sacks and make good throws on the run. He’s also shown a big-time improvement in his yards per attempt numbers, going from 5.51 yards per attempt in the first three games to 8.18 yards per attempt over the past three games. He’s making better decisions when it comes to the checkdowns or getting rid of the ball.
So, it was an uneven start on the season as a whole, but things are clearly trending in the right direction. His development will only continue to improve as the season progresses, and the Jaguars, along with the fans, are very excited and confident in Lawrence’s future.
2.) The Jags took a ton of former Seahawks in the offseason both on the coaching staff and on the roster. Darrell Bevell is your offensive coordinator and Brian Schottenheimer is the QBs coach. Is Bevell the playcaller or is that Urban’s role?
Bevell calls the play and chooses the offensive personnel. Meyer helps with the offensive game plan and can obviously overrule or interject Bevell’s decisions during the game, although when asked about the questionable play-calling and personnel decision after the loss to the Tennessee Titans, Meyer said he didn’t want to “micromanage,” which was an odd comment, since you know, that his job to make the final decisions. Ultimately, situations like going for it on fourth down and things like that are Meyer’s call, too, obviously. As for Schottenheimer, he just focuses on the quarterback coaching work, but also can assist with game-planning on offense and is a good sounding board for Bevell and Meyer due to his experience.
3.) Seattle’s cornerback situation has been uh... interesting since Shaquill Griffin departed for Jacksonville in free agency. Actually it’s been pretty bad. The stats suggest that Griffin has played at a high-level. What have you seen out of him?
Griffin came to Duval and immediately provided a veteran presence and leadership in the secondary and for the defense as a whole, along with fellow free agent signee and safety Rayshawn Jenkins. Griffin is the team’s No. 1 cornerback and has been really solid for the most part. He has had good moments, and has started shadowing opposing teams’ No. 1 wide receivers as of late. Like any cornerback, he has given up some plays at times, too, but has had more good moments than bad in my opinion. According to Pro Football Reference, Griffin has given up 24 catches on 38 targets (63.2 percent) for 314 yards and a quarterback rating of 89.1, but he hasn’t allowed a touchdown. He is giving up about 8.3 yards per target. He also has recorded 26 tackles and four passes defensed. Pro Football Focus gives him an overall grade of 66.9 and a pass coverage grade of 66.2.
4.) It can’t be all bad in Jacksonville at 1-5. Who/what have been the bright spots on this year’s team?
Outside of the positive developments with Lawrence, running back James Robinson is off to a great start in 2021. He came out of nowhere as an undrafted rookie free agent last season and finished the 2020 campaign with 1,070 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns. So far this season he has rushed for 460 yards, which ranks seventh in the NFL, and five touchdowns, which is tied for third in the league, despite having the bye week last week. He is also averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
Jamal Agnew, who signed as a free agent during the offseason has been a pleasant surprise. He has two special teams touchdowns — a 102-yard kickoff return against the Denver Broncos and a 109-yard missed field goal return against the Arizona Cardinals. While he was signed for his special teams prowess, he has also really stepped up as a wide receiver, and his role has grown there with DJ Chark Jr. out for the season with a fractured ankle. On the season, Agnew has 12 catches for 146 yards, with the majority of those catches and yards coming in the last two games. Marvin Jones Jr. is another wide receiver who has provided veteran leadership and made some big plays for the offense.
Defensively, the Jaguars have struggled with consistency, but players like Griffin, Jenkins, linebacker Myles Jack and linebacker/edge rusher Josh Allen have all flashed as playmakers, but all need to do it on a more consistent basis. It would be nice to see the young players on the unit continue to develop and make a bigger impact, such as rookie cornerback Tyson Campbell, second-year linebacker/edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson and second-year defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton, among others. All of these players are very talented, but need to show consistency and continued improvement.
5.) Do you get the sense that Urban Meyer will see a second season in Jacksonville? Between the offseason and then the reports of him not getting respected by players in the locker room after that video following the Bengals game, and the actual results on the field, it isn’t looking great.
It hasn’t been the best start for Meyer’s tenure, that’s for sure. Early on, he made the puzzing decision to hire Chris Doyle as director of sports performance, who the University of Iowa cut ties with after he was accused of racist remarks and bullying players. Following the backlash after that hiring was announced, Doyle immediately resigned. There were reports of players not liking Meyer’s college-like ways and assistant coaches butting heads with him (for what it’s worth, I think a lot of this was overblown as Meyer and the players often say the locker room is very close). Then of course there was the infamous video that was obviously a very poor choice of behavior for Meyer, and was a distraction to the team. The Jaguars also started 0-5 before finally beating the Miami Dolphins in London to end a 20-game losing streak going back to 2020 (pre-Meyer).
So it’s been a bit of a roller coaster and honestly he’s made many mistakes along the way already. But for better or worse in the NFL, winning cures a lot. Jaguars owner Shad Khan made a huge investment and commitment with Meyer and tabbed him as the guy to turn this dormant franchise around, and Khan won’t be willing to admit he was wrong about that this early into the era. While the Jaguars aren’t going to win many games this season, Khan still believes in Meyer, and if the team shows continued improvement, togetherness and a foundation for future success, then Meyer’s job security is pretty strong. If, however, the Jaguars continue to lose games, regress and there is animosity toward Meyer in the locker room, and if there are more off the field issues, then sure, he could get fired following the season. But I don’t see it quite yet.
I think Meyer is still adjusting to the NFL compared to college and everything is a learning experience for him. This was always meant to be a rebuilding year and the Jaguars were never going to win a lot of games this season regardless of who was at quarterback or who was the head coach. I’m not a big believer in firing guys after one season — especially when they inherit a roster depleted of talent — although Meyer needs to clean up his off-the-field act as well as his actual coaching and decision-making. He has a lot to learn and a lot to improve upon, but I do still expect him to be the head coach in Jacksonville next season, and I would be surprised if that isn’t the case. But it is his responsibility to turn this thing around and possibly build off of the momentum from the victory over Miami.
Bonus 6th: With the way the Seahawks are playing with Geno Smith, do you have heightened confidence in a win on Sunday?
I certainly think the Jaguars are better off facing Geno Smith than Russell Wilson, and I’m sure most Jaguars fans and Seahawks fans would agree with that assessment, Wilson is a difference-maker, while Smith is essentially a backup quarterback level player in the NFL. That’s not meant to be a knock on Geno, and it doesn’t mean that he can’t make some things happen against a struggling Jacksonville pass defense, but I think Wilson would strike a lot more fear into defensive coordinator Joe Cullen and his unit.
Overall, though, I think the Seahawks are the better team, even without Wilson. Historically, the Jaguars have struggled mightily with West Coast road trips, too. I think Jacksonville will fight and keep it close, and Lawrence plays well against a porous Seattle pass defense, but I think the Seahawks pull out a tight win in the end.
Thanks to Ryan! Head over to Big Cat Country and you’ll find my answers to his questions in their column. May the less bad team win.