Josh Allen didn’t mince his words. He announced his goal of being the best defensive player in the NFL at the start of training camp, then doubled down on his statement.
A few moments later he lauded the work of his teammates and exclaimed the improvements were there. Almost in a clairvoyant way, predicting they’d jump off to a hot start.
Second-year cornerback Tyson Campbell followed suit a few days later, taking an extended pause before claiming the expectation for this year’s defensive unit was dominance.
Even Jaguars’ defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell joined in the mix, saying his team would be a run-stopping defense and that’s what they’ll pride themselves on.
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After holding one of the best running backs in the league to nine carries for 54 yards and racking up six turnovers — it could’ve been seven — through two games, the Jacksonville Jaguars defense has arrived.
Their play against the Commanders in Week 1 might’ve been overshadowed by the result, but they came away with three takeaways and had a turnover differential of plus-two going into the Colts contest.
Then, as Matt Ryan was dealing on Indianapolis’ opening drive, RayShawn Jenkins intercepted his first pass as a member of the Jaguars. Rookie linebacker Devin Llyod and second-year safety Andre Cisco both grabbed their first career picks en route to a shutout of the Colts.
For Allen, this is all a part of the process.
— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) September 18, 2022
“I think the position where we are now is a part of the process,” Allen said on Thursday after practice. “I knew back then it was going to take a long process. Right now, this is one step to where we want to get to eventually a couple months from now.
"These games are important. Today is important. Tomorrow is going to be even more important. Then the next day. Then Sunday is going to come. It’s really just trusting the process and being able to trust the process.”
Campbell’s play as a standout member of the entire team throughout camp was a sign of what would come during the season. He intercepted his first pass of the season Week 1 and can relish in the fact that several other members of the defense have already come up with takeaways of their own.
To him, it’s about trust and the first two weeks are just the tip of the iceberg of what they can accomplish.
“We’ve just got confidence in our self,” Campbell said on Wednesday. “Everybody trust one another that each person on the field is going to do their job. Once you have a defense, good things start to happen. I think we’re starting to believe who we are and what identity we want to have as a defense.”
Blood in the water?
There could be blood in the water for the sharks of Jacksonville's defense.
During the fourth quarter of the Thursday night loss to the Chiefs in Week 2, quarterback Justin Herbert took a hit that left him on the turf and needed assistance from trainers.
His ribs were injured on the play and he visibly struggled through the final portion of the game.
It was reported that Herbert fractured his rib cartilage and head coach Brandon Staley said he’d be day-to-day Tuesday. Herbert was listed as limited on the practice report for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Caldwell said the Jaguars would prepare with the expectation that Herbert was going to start being that there was 10 days in between the injury and the game against the Jaguars.
When asked about the injury, No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker made sure to state that they don’t ever want to injure anyone. But there is a bit of competitiveness that causes them to want to get after the quarterback more.
“I mean, you think about it, if somebody told you somebody was not feeling too well, of course you’d want to tackle him,” Walker said on Wednesday. “We’re trying to win the game at the end of the day. Not saying that I want to see somebody hurt or something like that. But I’m trying to win, so I’m going to do whatever it takes to win.”
Herbert had a play against the Chiefs where his injury prevented him from running or passing to convert a first down. On the very next play, he fired a rocket to his receiver more than 30 yards down the field to set up a late touchdown for Los Angeles.
This throw by Justin Herbert makes no sense if you're watching this game and know what's going on right now. pic.twitter.com/7x8PMRYKxb
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 16, 2022
His ability to make jaw-dropping passes — even while injured — makes him one of the top quarterback talents in the NFL.
Through his first two seasons, Herbert passed for 9,350 yards and 69 touchdowns while securing Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2020 and being named to the Pro Bowl in 2021. According to Pro Football Reference, Herbert has led eight game-winning drives and been a part of six comebacks.
Jenkins played with Herbert during his rookie season and was impressed with what he saw.
“He can make any throw you can think of. The young man is special,” he said earlier this week of his former teammate. “I played with him his rookie year when he won the Offensive Rookie of the Year. He can do just about anything you can think of. He can run. He’s 6-foot-6 so not many balls are batted back down at the line of scrimmage. He’s a really good quarterback overall.”
Whether he’s at 100 percent or not, Herbert will still be a handful for a hungry Jacksonville defense. It’s a good measuring stick game for them.
(Press) Taylor talks (Jawaan) Taylor
Pro Football Focus released an impressive stat about Jaguars’ offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor earlier this week. Through the first two weeks of the season and through 72 pass-blocking snaps, he’s allowed zero pressure to quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
According to them, he’s the only tackle with more than 50 pass blocking snaps that hasn’t allowed a pressure. Taylor was engaged in an offseason position battle with Walker Little for the starting spot at right tackle.
The battle bled into training camp and was even extended to the first week of the season due to an early injury by Taylor. But he won the job and hasn’t looked back, anchoring a vital unit for the Jaguars.
Jawaan Taylor this season:
🐆 72 pass-blocking snaps
🐆 0 pressures allowed
🐆 82.0 pass-blocking grade
The only tackle with 50+ PBLK snaps yet to allow a pressure this year 😤 pic.twitter.com/l4ZU8X4htd
— PFF JAX Jaguars (@PFF_Jaguars) September 21, 2022
“It just helped me get better man,” Taylor said Thursday. “The competition definitely helped me a lot and just going out and trying to get better and compete with my teammates. At the end of the day, I’m just out here to help my team win games.”
When asked about Taylor in his availability, Jaguars’ offensive coordinator Press Taylor gave a nod to Jawaan’s work ethic.
“He's done a great job and I think that goes back to even the spring of there was real competition for that job and I think it made everybody better, not only Jawaan [Taylor], but Cam [Robinson], Walker Little,” Press said. “Everybody that we have expectation they could potentially play on Sunday had to rise to the level of competition there, so I think those guys all did a great job of pushing one another. You've seen Jawaan's work throughout that spring and [that] has continued to kind of show itself so far on game day. Again, we expect consistent improvement out of all these guys as we go on in the season."
Jawaan Taylor pass pro vs. Colts pic.twitter.com/FZwwOL7f9c
— John Shipley (@_John_Shipley) September 22, 2022
The Chargers tote two elite edge rushers in Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack who headline a versatile defense. When asked about facing them, Jawaan said every week you have to be amped up because everybody in the league is good, but the offensive line would definitely have to be ready to play. Press echoed those sentiments.
“Really, when you come up against two great edge players [Chargers OLB Joey Bosa and Chargers OLB Khalil Mack] like this or really any defensive line or significant defensive player, it's kind of a situation where it's going to take everybody,” he said.
“From the way we install the plan to the way we execute the plan to the tight ends helping, the receivers helping, the running backs helping, the tackles obviously winning their matchups, and then the quarterback being on time, in rhythm. So, all of it kind of goes together to try to contain dynamic edge players like they have.
As of Thursday, the injury report was:
The Jaguars had no injuries to report.
The Chargers listed quarterback Justin Herbert as limited with a ribs injury, wide receiver Keenan Allen was limited with a hamstring injury, defensive back J.C. Jackson did not practice with an ankle injury, center Corey Linsley did not practice with a knee injury, tight end Donald Parham was limited with a hamstring injury and tackle Trey Pipkins was limited with a foot injury.
Juston Lewis is a sports reporter for the Florida Times-Union. You can follow him on Twitter at @JustonLewis_.
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This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Defense off to hot start for Jags More Notes and quotes from Week 3