We have plenty of reasons to celebrate fall in Jacksonville, but clearly the most important one is this: The Jaguars – and their fans – are back! With the season opener against the Texans coming up on Sept. 12, here are six players you’ll want to keep your eye on this year. Go Jags!
Perhaps no player in the entire NFL will have more eyes on him this year than Trevor Lawrence, the number one draft pick and one of the highest-rated quarterback prospects in league history. Expectations couldn’t be higher for Lawrence, who has just been named the Week 1 starter, meaning fans will have a full season to enjoy watching him. With Lawrence leading the team, it’s a thrilling new chapter for the Jaguars.
While the news that first-round pick Travis Etienne will miss his rookie season due to injury was, in head coach Urban Meyer’s words, a “shot to the jaw,” the silver lining is clear: a less crowded backfield means more snaps for James Robinson. Last year, Robinson came out of nowhere as an undrafted rookie free agent to rush for 1,070 yards, giving the Jags an unexpected – but very welcome – offensive boost while leaping, stiff-arming, and juking would-be tacklers. He’s the team’s best rusher, and with Etienne out, expect him to see plenty of targets in the passing game, too.
A candidate for a big-time bounce-back season, outside linebacker Josh Allen is coming off a disappointing year in 2020 after delivering 10.5 sacks in his impressive rookie season. The Jags will need Allen at his best this year, bringing all his speed and explosiveness off the edge, and wreaking havoc on opposing offenses.
No Jaguars player is more exciting with the ball in his hands than Laviska Shenault Jr., who brings tone-setting physicality and edge-of-your-seat playmaking to the position. After a tantalizing rookie season where he brought in 58 catches for 600 yards and five touchdowns, can he take another step toward becoming a top-tier wide receiver?
As the leader of the Jags’ defense, Myles Jack will once again be flying around the field making plays this year as a do-everything linebacker. The 6th-year player out of UCLA had a career-best 118 tackles in 2020 after moving from the middle to the outside, and he’s primed for another monster year as the centerpiece in defensive coordinator Joe Cullen’s new defense.
One of the team’s biggest acquisitions this off-season was cornerback Shaquill Griffin. So far, reports say he has looked the part of a lockdown corner in training camp, and he should anchor the Jaguars’ secondary this season. An exciting player who had three interceptions and 63 tackles with the Seahawks last year, Griffin brings athleticism, competitiveness, and a winning mindset to a defense that needs to improve significantly against the pass.
No matter who you’re looking forward to watching this year, we can all agree that it’s great to see football back. Make sure to check out The Hawthorne blog for more articles on sports, entertainment, and ways to stay active in Jacksonville.