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Jaguars hope Doug Pederson can bring normalcy to Trevor Lawrence
Let's call the 2021 rookie season of Trevor Lawrence what it was: A flop, but an understandable one. Lawrence was tasked with running an offense that was barely NFL-caliber under the uncaring eyes of Urban Meyer, and because of D.J. Chark's injury, he barely threw to anybody who was NFL-caliber either. We're talking about an offense that tried desperately to make Jamal Agnew and Laquon Treadwell fantasy football options on volume.
On paper, it was kind of weird that more teams weren't interested in Doug Pederson as head coach this offseason. The Eagles finished with a top-16 offense by DVOA in every season but Carson Wentz's first and last in Philadelphia. Time has borne out, I think, that it's not like Pederson was the part of the offense that suddenly stopped functioning correctly in 2020. The Saints and Bears also wanted to interview Pederson, but he wasn't a finalist with the Bears and the Saints' search -- for obvious reasons -- began rather suddenly. But even beyond the Super Bowl ring and the dedication to pushing the frequency of how often teams go for it on fourth down, Pederson's offensive system certainly delivered solidly for the Eagles.
The unsettled bit of business here is the rest of the roster. The Jaguars, as per usual, have a treasure trove of cap space. Last year they did almost nothing with it. Last year's GM, Trent Baalke, reportedly is the reason that Byron Leftwich isn't Jaguars head coach and is also reportedly someone that Pederson was wary of heading into the search. Both the offensive line and receiver room need major upgrades. Cam Robinson, Andrew Nowell, and A.J. Cann are free agents on the line, while Chark is also at the end of his rookie deal. Jacksonville currently stands with Marvin Jones as one outside wideout and Laviska Shenault in the slot, but they can't count on either between Jones' age and Shenault's disastrous 2021.
With James Robinson a very late IR add with a Week 16 torn Achilles, we're either going to need to see a Cam Akers-esque recovery for him or watch the backfield turn into more of a committee in 2022 with Travis Etienne. It's easy to overrate draft value's role in a conversation about player value, but as long as Etienne is healthy I can't imagine him coming back and not getting at least a 25-35% portion of the snaps. There's a lot of space to grow here, and Pederson's top two backs combined for 88 targets in 2020 and 89 in 2019. I think he's the big winner of this for 2022 fantasy purposes at this point, particularly as long as the Jaguars continue to be sort of moribund and have to throw a lot.
I'm more wait-and-see with the offense as a whole. I think it has the potential to take a big step forward if they go out and sign the right players, but Pederson's opening presser was full of the sort of "I don't think this is an overnight fix" talk that might keep Lawrence shackled a bit. Of course, they should till take a step forward anyway between better scheme and some growth for Lawrence. But this probably forecasts to be more of a fits-and-starts scenario where you want to use them in good matchups than a wild breakout season for Lawrence as things stand today. Lawrence absolutely has the talent to pull that kind of move, but there's a reason the Jaguars have had back-to-back No. 1 overall picks and lost two games to the Texans last year. They'd need a more legitimate haul of talent in free agency to get me excited about rostering Lawrence as a non-streamer.
And they have every bit of money, draft capital, and what not to go do that. But the Jaguars don't sound like they're ready to be that kind of organization just yet.
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McDaniel tries to bring Garoppoloism to Tua Tagovailoa
There hasn't been a better system for a limited quarterback to run than what the 49ers have done with Jimmy Garoppolo over the last two years. It's run-focused, uses play-action well, and does a great job of creating open receivers via leak. The Dolphins last year created an RPO-heavy offense with Tagovailoa that had essentially zero run threat. They finished 29th in rush offense DVOA. And a lot of that was inconsistent production in a few weeks against the Jets and in a meaningless (for them) finale against the Patriots.
This is going to be a pretty drastic change for the Dolphins, but the good news is that we already have a pretty easy comparison point: The Jets hired 49ers underling Mike LaFleur to run their offense last year under Robert Saleh. The 2020 Jets finished 27th in run offense DVOA, and the 2021 Jets bumped all the way up to 15th. And that's 15th while using Tevin Coleman, with several disastrous games from Zach Wilson under center, and without much in the way of a heralded offensive line. That's good, because a lot of what the Dolphins have right now is in a similar situation. They also have a much-maligned offensive line. They also don't have a star running back. They do have Tagovailoa, who is better than Wilson as things stand right now, and they have Jaylen Waddle. Waddle was one of the NCAA's best deep threats at Alabama, but was stuck running two routes all last season while becoming Jarvis Landry's spiritual successor. I think McDaniel will probably steer Waddle more towards Deebo Samuel's role. (This is not to say that he is the next Deebo Samuel, nobody is the next Deebo Samuel.)
The pass offense is the linchpin of all this and the part that we honestly just don't know enough about right now. I suspect that Tua will be able to function in a Garoppolo-esque role, but it was not all that encouraging that the Dolphins created the RPO offense that they did for him. Then again, Garoppolo missed plenty of open targets and the run game was still able to sustain production. There are plenty of games where QB1 upside is on the table for Garoppolo in a season, as we saw this year, but Tagovailoa may become tied to the game script a bit more. He simply won't have as many passing attempts. If you can look past that, and spot him in a matchup where the Dolphins will lean towards throwing, you'll probably do okay.
The Dolphins currently have the most cap space in the NFL per Over The Cap. Ownership reportedly made a big stink about keeping their defensive staff, and then all of the sudden rumors popped up about Vic Fangio taking the job.
While Fangio would be a long-term boon for the Dolphins, the money it would take to adjust schematically may be better used on offense. The Dolphins had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last year, and if they want to run as badly as the McDaniel hire says they do, that should be priority No. 1. They'd be an easy fit for Commanders guard Brandon Scherff. And I bet Raheem Mostert is probably on the radar as McDaniel tries to bring his kind of back to South Beach.
Overall, the Dolphins offense is probably trending up from a broad perspective in fantasy. But outside of Waddle, it's hard to tell exactly who will be taking advantage of it at this moment with no settled back and Mike Gesicki a free agent.