How the Jaguars found themselves during early-season losing streak
Doug Pederson knew the character of the 2022 Jaguars in October.
That’s when they were one of the worst teams in football, on a five-game skid. Jacksonville went the whole month without a win. Each loss — to the Eagles, Texans, Colts, Giants and Broncos — came down to one possession. Again and again, the team couldn’t finish.
Pederson felt encouraged during that stretch, though. He saw his coaching staff teach and make the necessary corrections. He saw the players take those corrections to the field, even if improvement wasn’t obvious in the game results.
“Through that type of adversity, I think you see the true colors of your team,” Pederson said Tuesday. “You kind of build a callus around yourself.”
The adversity set the foundation for what the Jaguars have become.
Jacksonville (8-8) is one of the hottest teams in the NFL ahead of its de facto AFC South championship game against reeling Tennessee (7-9) at TIAA Bank Field Saturday night. The Jaguars have won six of their past eight games, including five of their last six and four straight. They have an emerging franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, an offensive line that can protect him and playmakers at receiver and tight end.
Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars are a game away from playoffs
Craig Carton and Matt Simms weigh in on the Jaguars’ chances of defeating the Titans on Saturday and winning the AFC South.
Jacksonville’s defense has become a takeaway force, too, and has building confidence after holding the team’s past two opponents to a combined six points. If the Jaguars reach the postseason, they have the potential to be a true wild card on the AFC side of the bracket.
But as the Jaguars explain, they knew what they were capable of when everything was going wrong.
Jacksonville had tasted success in September, when it won back-to-back games by 20-plus points — shutting out the divisional-rival Colts 24-0 in Week 2 and routing the Chargers 38-10 in Week 3. The Jags became the talk of the NFL.
Then the team dropped five straight.
While NFL observers hopped off their hype train quickly, Jaguars players continued to speak of their potential. In the locker room, the messaging didn’t drift far from the elevated standard Pederson preached. There was outside linebacker Josh Allen saying, “We have to figure this s— out right now,” after the loss to the Giants on Oct. 23. There was Lawrence, the same day, stating, “We believe we’re a great team” when the NFL world chalked them up as the same old Jags.
During the losing streak, Lawrence said, there was no panic. Nobody pointed fingers.
“And we talked about it, too,” Lawrence said of the losing streak. “After probably three or four of those games, just [mentioned], ‘This is where a lot of teams start to divide, and you start pointing the finger and people start looking for ways out.’
“We never did that. We knew how close we were. You look at all those games, one-score games. Really just a lot of them, it was our own mistakes where we gave away the game. We knew how close we were and that rock would eventually break. And it did. I think that’s a testament to just the consistency and the work that we put in.”
Packers, Jaguars continue climbing in Colin’s Top 10
Colin Cowherd shares his Top 10 heading into Week 18, featuring the Packers, Jaguars and Chargers climbing up the list.
Why didn’t the Jaguars break? Lawrence credits that to Pederson. Leadership, the quarterback explained, starts from the top down.
The team has “rallied behind” and “adopted” Pederson’s even-keel nature through thick and thin, he said.
“I think it’s kind of who I am a little bit,” Pederson said of his personality. “I do believe that my career as a player and a coach, I looked at Mike Holmgren and Andy [Reid] and Coach [Don] Shula and some of the great quarterbacks I played with. You never get too high, you never get too low. You just stay the course. This is a long season. Emotions can run high, but at the same time, I think you just gotta be you and stay steady. Your team is going to reflect you, right? The messaging has to be consistent. The messaging has to be on point.
“What I’m hearing now from the players is exactly what I thought and hoped would happen when we started this journey back in the spring,” he continued. “They are beginning to talk a language here that is all part of the culture.”
Pederson acknowledged that there are some similarities in the unity and confidence of the 2022 Jaguars and the 2017 Eagles, the team he led to a Super Bowl victory.
“We stayed true to what we were doing, and guys do become closer,” he said of the Jaguars. “They understand each other a little bit better. As you get into games like this, you know that the player next to you has your back just like you have his back. That’s where we’re at with this football team, and that can carry you a good ways.”
It has carried the Jaguars to a division title game — and potentially more.
Top stories from FOX Sports:
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 SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.
Get more from National Football League Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more