By Jeff Moeller, Florida Sports Wire
JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars’ defensive leader and tackling machine Foye Oluokun summed it up perfectly about the current state of the team and its 5-2 record.
“We’re all about the boys, man,” he told the NFL Network after their 31-24 victory in New Orleans Thursday night. “It’s gritty, not pretty. Whatever it looks like, we have to find a way to grind it out. That’s who we are as a team. We’re not no Hollywood people. We’re going to find a way each and every week.”
Yes, the Jags have found ways. This is another version of the South’s Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. They have talent and luck. Call it clutch.
The Jags could have been in a tie situation or facing a game-winning situation if a Saints’ receiver hadn’t dropped a pass behind the secondary in the end zone.
Good teams get the breaks. Let the Jags’ band play.
Still, they have been in the shadows of the 49ers, Cowboys, Chiefs, and even the Bills, who they shut down in London. The Jags should have beaten the Chiefs, and they have a date with the 49ers at the Bank in a few weeks.
For them, it doesn’t matter. The Jags have kept a low profile, and simply conducted their manner in a blue-collar approach. They grind it out on both sides of the ball.
Take Trevor Lawrence, for example. There was plenty of hype about his sprained knee before the Saints’ game, yet Lawrence took off down the field on one of the game’s first plays. He ended the night with a career-high 59 yards rushing and had a 68.9 completion rate (20 of 29 for a modest 204 yards with a touchdown), and it also marked the fourth game he had a passer rating over 100.
Lawrence simply followed the script. He does have a 92 quarterback rating, but only eight touchdown passes and three interceptions in seven games.
Travis Etienne has followed suit. He effectively and efficiently has averaged 72 yards per game and has done most of his damage in the opening half, scoring two touchdowns last week.
Christian Kirk and Evan Engram are off to solid starts, and Calvin Ridley has melded nicely into the rotation. Ridley had a combined five catches from 12 targets in the past two weeks, but he had a season-high seven for 122 against the Bills.
One overlooked standout on offense has been rookie top draft pick tackle Anton Harrison, who has developed quickly on the right side and has been consistent.
Defensively, the unit led by Olukon and Josh Allen have truly jelled. The once maligned secondary is now regarded as one of the better cover units in the league, and they are second in the league with nine interceptions.
Overall, it certainly has been impressive, as they are off to the best start since 1998 won they their first five under Tom Coughlin before they dropped two straight. As far as repeating as AFC South champs, they control their own destiny with two games left with the Titans and a rematch in Houston with the Texans.
Also looming under the radar has been head coach Doug Pederson, who has been the ideal band director.
The Jags will have a gritty challenge ahead when they travel to Pittsburgh next Sunday. The last time the Jags were in the Steel City, they grinded out and held on to a 45-42 victory in a divisional playoff game in 2018.
Sound familiar? Like the days of Blake Bortles in 2018, this Jaguars’ version can grind it out and stay the course.
Their band is playing , and they’re not finished.