Are the Jaguars actually good or is this a mirage?


Are the Jaguars actually good or is this a mirage? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

It's something we're all very familiar with.

Doug Pederson taking over a young, losing team from a failed big-time college coach and instantly giving them hope.

It happened here six years ago, and it's happening right now in Jacksonville.

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Pederson, who spent 2021 out of football after getting fired by the Eagles, has the Jaguars playing winning football in his first season after replacing Urban Meyer, who lasted 13 games in Jacksonville.

Pederson has already won as many games in three weeks as Meyer won in 13 weeks before getting fired with a month left last season.

The Jaguars - who have had one winning season since 2009 - are 2-1 for the first time since 2018 and coming off a 24-0 win over the Colts and a 38-10 win over the Chargers - their fourth-worst home loss in 20 years.

They are fast and young and physical and dangerous on both sides of the ball as they head to Philly to face the 3-0 Eagles Sunday looking for their first three-game winning streak since 2017.

Offensively, Pederson and offensive coordinator Press Taylor - who was with the Eagles under Chip Kelly and Pederson - have 22-year-old Trevor Lawrence looking like a different guy than last year. He's thrown six TDs and one interception and is completing 69 percent of his passes.

"This is a good offense," Jonathan Gannon said. "I have a very high opinion of Doug. He's a very good play-caller. He doesn't have a lot of tendencies. You can't bank on certain things coming. He's doing a good job with the quarterback playing extremely fast. He has weapons. They protect him. You have to be aware of their skill guys because their skill guys have very significant skill sets. We have a big-time test ahead of us."

James Robinson is an under-rated running back, but he's ninth in the league with 77 yards per game and a 4.5 average. Christian Kirk has lived up to that massive contract with 18-for-267 and three TDs, and slot Zay Jones has already been targeted 24 times with 19 catches.

But the key to all of it has been Lawrence, the first pick in last year's draft. He threw 12 TDs and 17 INTs last year but has been remarkably efficient this year.

"I think he's processing at a high level," Gannon said. "He's very accurate, has a big arm, he's athletic, he's tall, he can see. That's why I always see, when you watch the tape of him, certain quarterbacks play real fast. He's one of those guys. We have to be on it."

As much as the Jags have turned things around on offense, their defensive transformation under defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell - an Eagles linebacker from 1998 through 2001.

They're fourth in the league in points allowed after three games, they've only allowed five touchdowns, and they lead the NFL with eight takeaways - only one fewer than they had in 17 games last year.

"This is a salty group on defense," Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said. "If you look at them up front, they're very powerful, they're very strong, they're really good against the run.

"Their two edge rushers (Travon) Walker and (Josh) Allen are very powerful. Inside they have the rookie linebacker from Utah (Devin Lloyd), who is playing really good football.

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"Then defensively on the back end for them, they have (Tyson) Campbell, they have (Shaquill) Griffin, they have (Andre) Cisco, and they have (Rayshawn) Jenkins. I spent some time with Rayshawn in L.A. Good player. Flies around.

"They're playing really good football. Have a lot of respect for what they're doing defensively right now. It will be a really tough challenge for us, but one we're looking forward to."

When the schedule came out, this was a layup.

But if you watch the team that went into SoFI Stadium and beat up the Chargers, you see pretty quickly this is a legitimate NFL team.

"You can just tell that they're well-coached," Nick Sirianni said. "It doesn't surprise me at all because I know how good a coach coach Pederson is."


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