If there was one noticeable difference between last year’s Jacksonville Jaguars offense and this year’s offense, it would be structure.
Last year, there were too many plays where three receivers would be within three yards of each other, or plays where receivers would run into each other and become a perfect encapsulation of the Urban Meyer era. Thus, then-rookie QB Trevor Lawrence struggled. He finished with more interceptions than touchdowns, and his total EPA (expected points added) was second to last in the entire league.
The Jaguars fired Meyer and in the offseason, hired respected head coach Doug Pederson, who above all things has brought structure and balance to an offense and QB that desperately needed it. This was on full display against the Colts, a 24-0 pasting that saw Lawrence go 25-30 for 235 yards and two touchdowns. Examining that game shows how important structure is, and having real actual people run an NFL offense.
First things first: Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Press Taylor have brought increased motion usage before the snap to Jacksonville. Not that every team needs to spam motion just to do it (looks in Pittsburgh’s direction), but for a QB it could give you the answers to what the defense is running. In Jacksonville, Pederson and Taylor are making it easier for Lawrence:
By request: here's all pre-snap motion rates for every team, regardless of whether the player came set or not. pic.twitter.com/nmG5lACDT3— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) September 19, 2022
This was evident in the Jaguars game vs. the Colts, going against a defensive coordinator in Gus Bradley who predominantly ran Cover 3 or Cover 1. The Jaguars used motion to get the answer pre-snap, and basically spammed the Colts with hitches, stop routes, and overs, all very successful vs. Cover 3 or Cover 1.
This long completion to Christian Kirk is sweet because they motion Kirk from the backfield to the slot, creating an empty look. Based on the alignment of the Colts and the communication between the safety and linebacker, the Colts are in Cover 1. versus a four verticals concept, and Kirk running a “jerk” route against a slower linebacker. This is just deliberate game-planning and execution, and the Jaguars and Lawrence were successful because of it:
The first touchdown to Christian Kirk is also really cool, because they use motion to beat the Colts again with Kirk. Christian Kirk is lined up off the ball on the far side of the trips formation, but then motions into the backfield (we’ve seen a lot of receivers line up in the backfield this year!). The Jaguars use an angle route from the backfield to get Kirk into space, but it looks almost like a trail or follow concept.
What that means is one receiver runs a shallow route, and then another receiver “follows” behind him. The expectation, and what the Colts do, is match the linebacker with the first shallow route, giving Kirk inside leverage against the slot corner and a safety way too deep in the end zone to do anything. Touchdown Jaguars.
This play stands out to me, but not necessarily for the results. The Jaguars line up in trips formation to the wide side of the field, and TE Evan Engram is the only receiver to the other side. What stands out to me about this play is that there are answers for anything the Colts run. The Colts ran Cover 1, so Engram ran a shallow across the field, creating separating and getting the first down. But watch the rest of the play, and it’s clear there was an answer for anything the Colts were to run:
So to the trips side, the Jaguars were running a Dagger concept, which if the Colts were to play Cover 3, would’ve given them any advantage they wanted. The over by Kirk would take away the linebacker, and the deep route by Zay Jones would take the safety away, leaving Marvin Jones on the dig vs the corner, or left wide open.
The Colts run Cover 1, so Lawrence has his answer in the shallow. Built in answers for a coverage help your young QB!
On a larger scale, Lawrence’s great day in Duval shows the need for structure, and a cohesive plan in a coaching staff to get the most out of a young QB. Far too often we expect these young QBs who are stuck without good play-calling or structure to turn chicken crap into chicken salad, and it puts a lot on a QB who hasn’t seen every coverage in the world. Teams with actual adults in the room when designing the game-plan mean a lot to young QBs because there’s a plan. The Jaguars came in with a plan and executed it perfectly.
Jacksonville won’t be facing Gus Bradley and his defense every week, however. This Sunday they travel to Los Angeles to face the Los Angeles Chargers, who are led by Brandon Staley and his versatile defense, and fearsome pass rushing duo Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. Pederson and company have already shown the ability to game-plan, they’ll need it on Sunday.