JACKSONVILLE, FL – More Christian Kirk. This is a statement from Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Pederson after the team’s top wide receiver has only caught three balls in the last two games.
Kirk needs to be an important part of every week’s offensive game plan for the Jaguars to have any sort of consistent performance.
And apparently win games.
“We still need to find ways to get Christian to play football,” Pederson said. “He is such a dynamic player for us that we are doing everything we can to get him into football. You never want to be in a situation where he has three or four goals. He should be there – maybe nine, 10, 11 targets.”
Kirk had 27 goals and 18 interceptions for 267 yards and three touchdowns in his first three weeks, including big wins over the Indianapolis Colts (24-0) and the Los Angeles Chargers (38-10). But since then, he’s been targeted 12 times with three catches for 71 yards in the Jaguars’ losses to the Philadelphia Eagles and the Houston Texans.
Kirk had only one catch for 11 yards on three targets against the Texans, despite the Jaguars rushing for 422 yards and Trevor Lawrence throwing 47 times for 286 yards. Receiver Marvin Jones Jr. and tight end Evan Angram had 21 combined goals and 13 catches for 173 yards to make up for Kirk’s missing scoring.
Kirk obviously wants to catch more passes than he has in the last two games, but he realizes that being the top target every week is unrealistic.
“It’s very week after week and I can appreciate it,” he said. “Even on the first day that I came here and talked to [offensive coordinator] Press [Taylor] he’s like, “Hey, look, there’s going to be a few weeks where you have 15 targets. There will be a week when you get three. It’s just the way the game goes.
“And I understand that. That’s what happens when you have three boyfriends. And for me and Evan and Travis [Etienne Jr.] and all the weapons we have will be a guy who won’t get that much [work] there. But that’s the way it is.”
However, Kirk still develops at the same rate as in the first three games. According to NFL NextGen Stats, his average yardage from the nearest defenseman at the time the ball arrived was 2.7 yards in his last two games, down only slightly from 3.1 yards in his first three games. Pederson said there were times when Kirk was open against the Texans, but Lawrence shot elsewhere. The Texans’ Cover Two defense also prevented the Jaguars from doing some of the things they wanted with Kirk, Pederson said.
However, this week the Jaguars will play the Colts again, the team against whom Kirk had his best game of the season in week 2 – six interceptions for 78 yards and two touchdowns.
This performance came against a defense that is designed for pressure with four players and also plays a lot in cover 3 on the rear end. It also occasionally results in linebacker aligning with slot receiver, which happened a few times in week 2 and Kirk used this while going through the middle of the field.
Lawrence hopes to see it again this weekend. If not, he’s not going to force the ball on Kirk, even though he knows they need to give him more ball than they’ve had in the last two weeks.
“That’s why it’s important [to spread the ball around] for a lot of different reasons, but obviously Christian is a great player and we have to pass the ball to him,” Lawrence said.
“You saw how productive he can be and how much he helps us when he gets a lot of touches. Any great player you have has to find a way to pass the ball to him. He’s not a secret. People have seen what he’s capable of, so it’s not sneaking up on anyone, but for us, it’s just how we put him in really good situations to succeed, to be open, [and] get touched.