The games lost due to injuries nearly doubled for the Jaguars in 2022

Offensive and defensive lines, wide receiver and a particularly strong secondary

I play

Every NFL team has injuries.

This is a contact sport and players will hurt each other.

As Jacksonville Jaguars players emptied their lockers and left Miller Electric Center on Monday, less than 24 hours after being eliminated from playoff contention with a 28-20 loss to Tennessee, they spoke in hushed tones about a season that has gone from 8-3 and a two game lead in the division to miss a chance to win the AFC South for the second year in a row.

One question was asked most often: Why?

Part of it can be explained by the weekly injury list.

None of the Jaguars players made excuses for missing five of their last six games, but they were open about the reality of injuries in the NFL. And that was the cold, hard reality of Jaguar 2023.

“There’s only so much you can do to prevent some injuries, but after that it’s out of your control,” said cornerback Tyson Campbell, who missed six games this season with hamstring and quad injuries.

“It’s football … it’s a cruel sport,” said apparently indestructible tight end Evan Engram, who hasn’t missed a game with the Jags in two seasons and also never appeared on the final injury report. “We’ve had a lot of key players get injured at crucial times this season.”

Defenseman Dawuane Smoot, who missed the final two games of the regular season and the 2022 playoffs with an Achilles tendon injury, said it’s pointless to complain about injuries because so much is left to chance.

“You never know what the year is going to bring for someone,” he said. “It sucks that people get injured. There are good years and bad years. Last year I fell and this year I stayed healthy. Every year they get thrown.”

Coach Doug Pederson was more specific.

“All of these things can affect your football team, but we never want to use injury as an excuse for why we win or lose games,” Pederson said. “It’s our job to make sure we get everybody ready to play and the players that are brought up, it’s their job to get ready to play.”

The Jaguars’ fortunes took a turn for the worse

The Jaguars injury situation is almost the opposite of last year:

  • The Jags had 21 players appear on the final weekly injury reports in 2022, combining for 24 injuries. Nine players were suspended, missing a total of 43 games. This season, 28 players have been on the injury report, with 39 injured and 18 listed as out. They missed a total of 78 games.
  • The 2022 Jaguars had two injuries in training camp, putting players on the injured reserve list and five on the season, including Cam Robinson and Dawaun Smoot. Five players on IR before the start of the 2023 season, including rookies Cooper Hodges and Ventrell Miller. Eight other players were placed on IR after the season started, including starters Christian Kirk, DaVon Hamilton, Robinson and Jamal Agnew.
  • The hardest hit position groups from a purely numerical standpoint were the secondary (seven players who missed games) and both lines (four players missed games on the defensive line and five on the offensive line, counting two who went on IR before the season , tackle with Josh Wells and Hodges).

Left side of the O-line revolving door

Center Luke Fortner, right guard Brandon Scheff and right tackle Anton Harrison played every game. The turmoil was on the left side, where three players started at tackle and four at guard.

Robinson had to serve a four-game suspension early in the season, then went on four-game IR later in the season.

The results were predictable. There were eight starting lineup combinations on the offensive line, where communication and unit cohesion are perhaps more important than any other position.

Last season’s offensive line starters were intact for 14 games until Robinson was out for the season. Walker Little replaced him at left tackle for the last three games and in the playoffs, and there were no other changes.

Strong safety Rayshaun Jenkins and cornerback Darius Williams were the only defensive backs to start every game. Campbell, the team’s tight end, started the first six games and then came in and out of the lineup before playing the last three.

The defensive line situation was a mess from the start, with Smoot missing the first four games still nursing his Achilles injury from last season and Hamilton missing the first seven with a non-football-related back injury.

Kirk, Jones’ injuries cut short the offense

Three injuries to wide receivers affected the offense almost all season.

Last year’s starting wide receivers, Kirk, Zay Jones and Marvin Jones Jr., did not miss a game. Kirk missed the last five games with a groin injury, Zay Jones was out with three injuries that cost him eight games, Agnew (who was out just two games in 2022) missed six and rookie Parker Washington was out for five games.

The one constant was Calvin Ridley, who started every game.

Then there was quarterback Trevor Lawrence. He had injuries to his knee, ankle, shoulder and fingers, as well as a concussion. He may have played hard, but his inaccuracy in the last month of the season may have been the combination of all these ailments affecting his practice time and performance.

“Could be,” was Pederson’s terse comment on the practice issue after the Titans loss.

The jaguars had shin splints

The most common injury this season was the hamstring (back of the thigh), with eight players listed.

It was a recurring problem for Campbell, rookie cornerback Christian Braswell (who missed 11 games), rookie safety Antonio Johnson (who missed his first four games) and put safety and special teams kicker Daniel Thomas on injured reserve for the last two games of the season.

Campbell, who missed just two games in his first two seasons as a pro, said the hamstring injury can be complicated.

“This was my first experience with a soft tissue injury like this, and they’re definitely tough,” Campbell said. “You’re rehabbing and you think you’re ready to go, but your tendon is telling you it’s not ready yet.”

There were also seven knee injuries and six ankle injuries.

Ankle injuries were the most prevalent in 2022 with six, followed by three hamstring injuries and three shoulder injuries.

Injured substitutes hampered progress

Pederson said the toughest situations have been IR players missing four straight games.

Five starters missed four games at a time: Kirk, Hamilton, Smoot, Robinson and Agnew. Backups Washington, Gregory Jr. and Braswell also went on four-game IR.

“It was the ones with guys who missed four games, IR missed four games,” Pederson said. “It upsets a lot of things, it upsets them individually, it can disrupt a unit … especially the offensive line with the amount of injuries there, especially the guys on the left, the Cam situation. All of this can affect your football team.”

The next men: mixed results

The football saying about injuries is “next man up”.

In other words, behind every starter is a backup who ideally has practiced and prepared just as much. The Jaguars had to rely on the next player many times, but that player often fell short:

  • Washington scored two touchdowns at wide receiver, but ran the wrong way against Cincinnati, turning its head too late. When Lawrence hesitated, Little was pressed against him and stepped on his ankle.
  • Backup wide receivers Tim Jones and Elijah Cooks combined for 39 targets, but caught just 14 passes for 118 yards.
  • Veteran guard Ezra Cleveland was brought in during the bye week with hopes that he would improve the team’s interior offensive line in short-yardage situations. The Jags have never gotten better, and their season can be epitomized by failing to score on two plays from the Tennessee 1-yard line last week.
  • On the other hand, CJ Beathard was without a turnover, earning his first start at quarterback since the end of the 2020 season when he stepped in for Lawrence to beat Carolina 26-0; rookie safety Antonio Johnson made some big plays late in the season; and Brown threw two passes in the win over New Orleans, his first game taking over for Campbell at cornerback.

Safety Andrew Wingard said the number and severity of injuries came down to simple luck.

“Look where we didn’t have all the starters, but we still had guys,” he said. “Buster [Brown, cornerback] there is a ball. I’ll play ball when I get in. Things happen fast in this league. It’s Christian Kirk turning in a funny way to catch a ball and it catches his groin at the perfect moment. It’s been a tough year for all of us, mentally and physically.

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