Jaguars and Raiders players to watch in Thursday’s Hall of Fame game

Touchdown Wire’s Laurie Fitzpatrick gives us the players to watch for the Jaguars and Raiders in Thursday’s Hall of Fame game.

After six long months without football, the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars kick off the 2022 NFL preseason in Canton, Ohio with the Hall of Fame game, which takes place this Thursday, August 4th. The Raiders are honoring legends Cliff Branch and Richard Seymour, and the Jaguars have their first-ever Hall of Fame inductee in Tony Boselli.

Both teams had big offseason changes. The Jaguars are now led by former Super Bowl champion head coach Doug Pederson. The Raiders have new head coach Josh McDaniels who was under Bill Belichick as the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator.

As expected, both teams will likely hold out their starters, but this gives the young players a chance to stand out and prove why they deserve a roster spot.

“It’s going to be exciting just to get the team on the field against another opponent obviously,” said Pederson. “And then for the first time for all of us with the coaches and new players and really the whole team. So, we’re looking forward to that.”

Both teams have rookies and empty roster spots that we will be keeping eye on.

Let’s first dive into a few players to watch in the 2022 preseason opener!

Jaguars don’t have the worst odds to win the AFC South

Jacksonville currently has the third-best odds to win the division.

Jacksonville finished with the worst record in the NFL the last two seasons, and that means this team also finished in fourth place in the AFC South Division both seasons. Heading into 2022, it wouldn’t exactly be a shock to see the Jaguars end up in that position again.

But that’s not what the latest odds show. Per the current betting lines from Tipico Sportsbook, the Jags have the third-best odds to win the division at +1000, behind the Tennessee Titans (-130) and Indianapolis Colts (+140). They’re quite a bit ahead of the Houston Texans, who have the worst odds at +2000.

That’s quite a gap, but it’s likely due to the sheer uncertainty in Houston. Though Davis Mills was perhaps the best rookie last season, his ceiling is unclear. The team also made a fairly uninspired coaching hire in Lovie Smith this offseason after a down (though slightly better than expected) 2021 season that saw first-year coach David Culley get fired.

The Titans being the favorite is understandable. They’ve now won the division in each of the last two seasons and are in the best roster situation moving forward, though quarterback Ryan Tannehill remains a bit of a liability. The Colts have talent, including NFL leading rusher Jonathan Taylor, but they also have a murky situation at quarterback with Carson Wentz.

Though Tennessee had the best record in the AFC this season, this is still a division of teams that all seem incomplete to varying degrees. It could be anyone’s division in 2022, and the Jaguars will hope that could include them, as well.

Indianapolis Colts hire former Jags coach Gus Bradley as DC

Bradley, who led the charge in Jacksonville from 2013-16, makes his return to the division after one year as the defensive coordinator for the Raiders.

Gus Bradley is back in the AFC South.

The Indianapolis Colts are hiring the former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach as their next defensive coordinator to replace Matt Eberflus, who was recently hired as the next head coach for the Chicago Bears. Bradley spent the 2021 season as the defensive coordinator for the Las Vegas Raiders before being dismissed along with the rest of the staff with the head coaching change this offseason.

Before his stint with the Raiders, Bradley spent four years as the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers. He also held the same role in Seattle earlier in his career from 2009-12, which landed him the job in Jacksonville.

Bradley’s time as a head coach was forgettable. He never won more than five games in a season with the Jaguars, and he was dismissed following a 2-12 start in 2016. He finished his career in Jacksonville with a horrendous 14-48 record.

Despite his failed attempt as a head coach, Bradley is regarded as one of the better defensive minds in football and is well-liked around the league. This is a solid hire for Indianapolis, who also interviewed outgoing Jaguars defensive coordinator Joe Cullen for the job.

4 AFC South stories from the last week for Jaguars fans to know

Here’s what’s been going on with Jacksonville’s rivals this week.

After the Tennessee Titans were eliminated from the playoffs by the now Super Bowl-bound Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round last week, all the teams in the AFC South are set to begin the offseason.

There’s certainly a lot going on in the division, though. Both the Jaguars and Houston Texans have head coaching vacancies that are still yet to be filled, and the Indianapolis Colts have to replace their defensive coordinator after Matt Eberflus left to take the Chicago Bears head coaching job.

With the offseason in full swing, here are the stories from around the division this week that Jags fans need to know about.

Do the Jaguars have the AFC South’s most promising QB situation?

With Ryan Tannehill’s struggles on Saturday, which AFC South team is in the best position at quarterback moving forward?

Even with superstar running back Derrick Henry back just 11 weeks removed from foot surgery for the AFC Divisional Round against the Cincinnati Bengals, the top-seeded Tennessee Titans are heading home after a one-and-done performance.

Cincinnati pulled off the upset with a game-winning field goal as time expired, and that drive was set up by an interception from quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the final minute. That was one of several costly mistakes Tannehill made in the game, as he completed just 62.5% of his passes and tossed three total interceptions while throwing just one touchdown.

It was the latest big-game let-down from Tannehill, who threw just 21 touchdowns to 14 interceptions this season. He’s under contract for two more seasons on a deal that will pay him north of $25 million in each of the next two seasons.

With the best team in the division struggling with the most important position, it begs a question: Do the Jags have the best quarterback situation in the AFC South heading into 2022?

It may seem like a wild assertion given Trevor Lawrence’s struggles as a rookie. He completed less than 60% of his passes and despite throwing for 3,641 yards, he had just 12 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. But he also showed many promising signs, and though the team needs to build around him, there may not be another team in the division that feels better about the quarterback spot in the long- term.

Indianapolis acquired Carson Wentz last offseason, and though the former second overall pick had a solid season statistically, he struggled down the stretch, especially in a season finale loss to Jacksonville that cost his team a spot in the playoffs. It seems like the Colts may be looking for a way to move on from Wentz, and unless the team strikes gold in either the Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson sweepstakes, it may be in a bad spot at quarterback next season.

Houston, meanwhile, has an absolute mess on its hands with Deshaun Watson. Even if the star quarterback can revive his career after 22 women came forward with allegations of sexual assault against him, he has almost certainly played his last game for a Texans team that he had already demanded a trade from before the allegations came to light.

Houston is, however, the only team in the division other than Jacksonville that may have the long-term solution at quarterback on the roster. Davis Mills, a third-round pick from Stanford and Houston’s first pick in the draft, wasn’t expected to start as a rookie. But an injury to Tyrod Taylor forced him into action, and he had the most productive season of any rookie with 16 touchdowns to 10 interceptions and an 88.8 passer rating on the season.

However, it’s fair to question how high the ceiling is with Mills and exactly how much upside he has as a prospect. He certainly wasn’t regarded as a talent on par with Lawrence (or the four other first-round quarterbacks, for that matter) but Houston just may have found its answer for the post-Watson era.

The Jaguars need to see a lot more from Lawrence in 2022 to be certain that he’s the franchise quarterback fans hope he will be, but with the rest of the division facing just as many questions at the position, they could be well-positioned to compete in the coming years if they can build around Lawrence.

AFC South news: Texans fire David Culley

The Jags aren’t the only team in the AFC South looking for a new coach.

The Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t the only team conducting a head coaching search in the AFC South at the moment, as the Houston Texans are doing the same, too. After just one season, the team decided to fire coach David Culley, giving the Texans the seventh NFL opening.

Culley, who has almost 30 years of NFL experience, was hired by the Texans on Jan. 29 of last year to replace Bill O’Brien, who was fired before the 2020 season could end. With Deshaun Watson demanding a trade and limited draft selections, the Texans’ job was one many felt should’ve come with low expectations in Year 1, but Culley still managed to go 4-13.

Of course, two of Culley’s wins were against the Jags, including his first regular season game as an NFL head coach as the Texans defeated the Jags easily by a score of 30-16. He was also able to defeat another AFC South team in the Tennessee Titans as well as the Los Angeles Chargers.

In addition to Culley, the team also fired its offensive coordinator in Tim Kelly who had been with the team since 2014.

Culley joins former Jags coach Urban Meyer, Matt Nagy, Joe Judge, Brian Flores, Vic Fangio, and Mike Zimmer on the list of coaches who were let go this offseason. However, many of the names may not be available for long when considering their experience and connections.

Colts legend Jeff Saturday says Colts lost to Jags ‘broke’ him

Former Colts center Jeff Saturday isn’t taking Indy’s loss to the Jags all that well and vented about it on the “Pat McAfee Show.”

The Jacksonville Jaguars came into Sunday’s game +14.5 point underdogs to the Indianapolis Colts, but just as they did against the heavily favored Buffalo Bills Week 9, the Cardiac Cats pulled off a miracle. Not only were they victorious, though, they won by over two touchdowns and helped eliminate the Colts out of postseason contention.

The Jags’ upset left many Colts fans, players, and coaches distraught, and as a result, it’s going to take a while to get over. That appears to especially be the case for Colts legend Jeff Saturday, who is now an analyst at ESPN.

On an appearance on the “Pat McAfee Show,” Saturday called the loss to the Jags an “epic failure” that “broke” him.

“Epic failure. It broke me,” the former Colts center said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a game that hurt that much that I wasn’t in. My stomach hurt for everyone who was a Colts fan or part of the organization. We can talk about (Carson) Wentz and him not getting it done, but we got beat up. It wasn’t even close. They beat the brakes off us and we had no answer. I never saw that coming.”

Saturday is right, the Jags beat the Colts in every aspect of the game even when taken out the fact that quarterback Carson Wentz was sacked six times. They converted almost half of their third-downs (7-of-15), they won the turnover margin at a 2-to-0 rate, held the Colts to under 100 rushing yards, and won the time of possession battle, too (33:19 to 26:41).

However, there was just a positive vibe surrounding the Jags from the jump as they scored a touchdown on the first drive, and quarterback Trevor Lawrence hit receiver Laquon Treadwell on a 2-yard touchdown reception to end it. It was then that Saturday started to realize that the Colts were in for a long day.

“The first drive, you’re seeing (Jacksonville) convert and growing in confidence,” he added. “You see Lawrence starting to feel good. We had zero pass rush. He’s back there smoking a cigarette, taking his time. No issues. No worries. That got us off our game. We never got into a rhythm with (running back Jonathan) Taylor. We kind of allowed them to dictate when we were going to try to run, and our offensive line didn’t play well. […] Everyone had issues that showed up in big moments.”

While some were stunned, the Jags did prove they were capable of hanging with the Colts earlier this season as Lawrence had a chance to march the Jags down the field for a walk-off score Week 10. However, the Colts’ defense made a huge play as defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo stripped Lawrence and the ball was recovered by Indy.

Lawrence didn’t take that loss well and got his revenge on the Colts after going 23-of-32 (71.9%) for 223 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. Unfortunately for Saturday and the Colts, his revenge came when they needed a win the most, and now the team will have to wait until next season to chase a Super Bowl title.

Behind Enemy Lines: Week 15 Q&A with Texans Wire

Earlier this week, we sat down with Texans Wire to get some intel on Davis Mills and Co., who have the same record as the Jags.

The Jacksonville Jaguars were among the most popular NFL topics after the firing of Urban Meyer, who they cut ties with on Thursday and replaced with interim Darrell Bevell. However, that made it easy to forget that the team has a game to play this Sunday against their divisional rivals in the Houston Texans.

Much like the Jags, the Texans have struggled and have the same record, so this game could decide who will end up being the worst team in the AFC South. However, one of their two wins was against the Jags Week 1, so they are capable of sweeping the Jags, especially with the Jags’ offense being as anemic as it is.

To discuss how much has changed since their last meeting with the Jags, we sat down with Mark Lane of Texans Wire for a quick Q&A. Here is what he had to say about Houston as they will come into Jacksonville looking to expand their 26-13 record against the Jags:

Twitter reacts to the Jaguars firing Urban Meyer as coach

The Jacksonville Jaguars fired Urban Meyer after a 2-11 record. Here is how Twitter reacted to the news.

The Jacksonville Jaguars got a fresh start Thursday morning with the firing of coach Urban Meyer.

The move happened in the middle of the night, and comes after a string of embarrassments that range from his 2-11 record to getting shutout 20-0 at the hands of the Tennessee Titans in Week 14 to a story about how he allegedly kicked kicker Josh Lambo.

Like Jaguars owner Shad Khan when firing a coach, Twitter never sleeps, and the coaching change by Jacksonville was just what football fans needed as one jolt of excitement before bedtime. Here are some of the best reactions from Twitter.

Behind Enemy Lines: Week 14 Q&A with Titans Wire

We caught up with @TheTitansWire’s @MichaelMoraitis yet again this week and he had a few things to say about Tennessee’s struggles, Julio Jones, and more.

The Jacksonville Jaguars will look to get right this Sunday by winning their first away game (London was considered a home game) since 2019 when they beat the Oakland Raiders. They also will be looking to earn their first win in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans for the first time since 2013.

However, despite the team coming into Week 14 desperate for a win, they will be facing a Titans team that leads the AFC South, but has loss there last two. To discuss exactly what shape the team is in heading into Sunday, we sat down with Titans Wire editor Michael Moraitis and here is what he had to say about Mike Vrabel’s group: