Breakout candidates: 4 second-year Jaguars set to make a jump in 2022

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While the 2021 season was a disaster for the Jacksonville Jaguars, one of the positives to come from it was that members of their rookie class ended it on a positive note. The hope is that those same players can take another step in 2022 under new coach Doug Pederson, as the team looks to at least double their win total.

Several players from the Jags’ rookie class got a ton of experience last season, and that should set them up for success in 2022. The class also will be getting a member back in running back Travis Etienne, who didn’t participate in the regular season due to having a season-ending foot injury in the preseason.

As we await what should be an exciting series of training camp practices, here are four players from the Jags’ 2021 rookie class who should make a second-year jump and propel the team to a better season:

(Note: We didn’t include Etienne for the reason mentioned above, or Walker Little because it’s unclear if he will start)

QB Trevor Lawrence

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) jokes with fellow quarterbacks as he participates in an offseason training activity Tuesday, May 31, 2022 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

There was no way we would make this list without the No. 1 overall pick from the 2021 class being listed — and the reason is deeper than his draft status. While Trevor Lawrence did struggle last season, the Jags organization made a huge mistake by pairing him with Urban Meyer, who wasn’t ready for the NFL.

Luckily, they were able to correct the mistake last December and fired Meyer. Then in February, they replaced him with Doug Pederson, who has played quarterback in the NFL, been a long-time NFL coaching assistant, and has won a Super Bowl as a head coach. He’s a better fit for Lawrence, who not only was regarded as the best prospect to enter the draft in a while, but flashed his potential at times despite the dysfunction around him.

It’s been well documented that many young signal-callers take a leap during their second season. That should especially be the case for a quarterback as gifted as Lawrence is, even if he’s learning a new system in the process.

Safety Andre Cisco

Jacksonville Jaguars safety Andre Cisco (38) follows a play during the second half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Andre Cisco was in a similar situation to Tufele last season as the Jags didn’t give him a lot of reps initially. This puzzled many as the Jags weren’t garnering a lot of turnovers, which was a specialty of Cisco.

However, late in the season, an unfortunate ankle injury to veteran safety Rayshawn Jenkins allowed Cisco to start in the last three games. The rookie took advantage of the opportunity by registering a PFF grade of 82.7 (Week 16) and 79.5 (Week 18) in two of those three games.

Heading forward, the arrow seems to be pointing up for Cisco, who will now be coached up by former Tampa Bay Bucs assistant Mike Caldwell. That’s important because Caldwell watched Tampa have success with young safeties Jordan Whitehead and Antoine Winfield last season, and the hope is that he can put Cisco in place to duplicate that.

DT Jay Tufele

Jul 29, 2021; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Jay Tufele (97) participates in training camp at Dream Finders Homes practice field Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Tufele, who the Jags selected in the fourth round last season, didn’t get to see a lot of time on the field as the team frequently ruled him inactive, and a hand injury caused him to miss time on injured reserve. However, in the first game he played in (Week 5 vs. Tennessee) he actually made the most of the small number of snaps he received, registering a 72.4 Pro Football Focus grade that week. More importantly, he registered a 91.9 pass-rush grade, which went under the radar.

That performance could be an indication of the growth Tufele could’ve shown if his reps were a little more consistent. He’s approached this offseason with a strong mindset it appears and has been sticking close to the older players on the defense during their post-camp workouts.

Tufele has done everything to position himself to have a good camp, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s a standout. He will have the luxury of seeing a lot of time on the field in the preseason, too, because the Jags are participating in the Hall-of-Fame game, giving them and Las Vegas one more preseason game than the rest of the league.

CB Tyson Campbell

Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell (32) participates in an offseason training activity Tuesday, May 31, 2022 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

Tyson Campbell, who was the Jags’ top selection in the second round last season, had a clear path to the starting lineup as a perimeter corner once the team traded C.J. Henderson on Sept. 22. With it being so early in the season, Campbell was able to start in 14 games last season. However, one start came before Henderson was sent to Carolina.

Campbell initially struggled, but after the bye week, it started to click for the rookie. He registered five performances with grades higher than 70.9, according to Pro Football Focus, and snagged his first two career picks, too. When adding that with the incompletions he caused (10) he was second among rookie cornerbacks in causing incompletions and interceptions. 

This season, Campbell should have the luxury of just focusing on a role on the outside instead of taking reps as both a nickel and boundary cornerback. That would help him a lot heading into the regular season and it could result in him having a much faster start than last season.

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