With Marvin Jones already on the books for 2022, Taylor said they identified three important traits in free-agent targets: speed, versatility and variety. They called around the league to find the best on-field fits and did extensive character checks to make sure those players would jell with Lawrence.
The findings: Kirk on a four-year, $72 million contract; Zay Jones on a three-year, $24 million deal; and Engram for a year at $9 million.
Much of the initial reaction outside the building was about how the Jaguars overpaid. None of those receivers had a 1,000-yard season before signing with Jacksonville. Engram and Jones hadn’t eclipsed 750 yards.
But they nailed all three signings — Pederson and Taylor helped Kirk, Engram and Jones all hit career-highs in receiving yards in their first season in Jacksonville. Taylor raved about their improvement, diverse impact on offense and availability, estimating that the trio has missed a total of two practices this season. They are one of four NFL teams with four players (Kirk, Engram, and both Joneses) who had at least one 100-yard receiving game. They are also one of three teams with three receivers (Kirk, Engram, Zay Jones) totaling at least 750 receiving yards on the season.
“Anybody can have their day in this offense. Doug, Press and the rest of the coaches do a great job of making it a pick-your-poison offense, and that’s hard to defend,” Engram said. “What a fun system it is to play in.”
The next step, Taylor said, was to get the 2021 No. 1 overall pick with a rare skill set, moxie and knack for winning to trust that, if he functions within the QB-friendly system in most situations, he will thrive. It took time, but Lawrence did see the vision Pederson and Taylor implemented.
“It felt like halfway through the year — Week 8, 9 or 10 — the light came on,” Taylor said. “He never explained it as a lack of trust. But when it clicked, he took over. And it became his offense.”
The biggest difference coaches have seen from Lawrence in second half of season: increased comfort within the offense, which has translated into quicker decision-making and a faster time-to-throw rate, significantly aiding an improved Jaguars offensive line. Lawrence has been sacked just eight times total over the last seven games. Since Week 9, he ranks second in NFL in completion percentage.