JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)Evan Engram gambled on himself when he signed a one-year deal with Jacksonville in March.
The Jaguars wanted a longer contract with the former New York Giants tight end. But Engram believed he would flourish with a fresh start outside the Big Apple’s glaring – and often harsh – spotlight, so he took less money in free agency (he got $9 million) in hopes of landing a bigger payday in 2023.
It looks like a safe bet now.
Engram caught 11 passes for a career-high 162 yards and two touchdowns in a 36-22 victory at Tennessee on Sunday, a win that kept alive Jacksonville’s slim playoff chances in the AFC South. It was Engram’s first multi-score game in six NFL seasons, and although it may have been a career outlier, it was a reminder of just how talented the 23rd overall pick in the 2017 draft can be.
”It was a lot of fun,” he said. ”It’s kind of euphoric.”
The performance has Engram closing in on a career year as the Jaguars (5-8) prepare to host Dallas (10-3) on Sunday. He has 53 receptions for 548 yards and four scores while becoming one of Trevor Lawrence’s top options. Maybe more telling: Engram, who dropped 17 passes the past two seasons combined, has just four drops on 74 targets.
”Once you learn some things mentally that you can apply on the field or in a profession or whatever you do, you kind of learn how to become mentally trained and use it to your advantage,” Engram said. ”It’s a good tool to have. And so as opportunities came … that confidence goes up.”
Although the Jaguars would love to keep Engram beyond this season, he’s likely to test the market, and games such as his latest one surely increase his value.
”You just never know who’s going to have the hot hand at times, and he knew he had it there and played tough and made some outstanding catches, made some outstanding plays, and played well,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said.
Jacksonville improved to 5-2 this season when it has the same or fewer turnovers than its opponents. The Jaguars had a season-high four takeaways at Tennessee, including three in the first half. It was a resounding response to last week’s 40-14 debacle at Detroit in which the Jaguars allowed the Lions to score on every possession.
”We were determined to play like this,” linebacker Josh Allen said. ”Every time they made a mistake, we were there to capitalize on it.”
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Jaguars have gone four consecutive games without topping 100 yards rushing. After averaging 176 yards on the ground over a five-game stretch, they’ve averaged 67 over the past four. They finished with just 60 against the Titans.
Trevor Lawrence’s streak of games without an interception is now at five. He completed 30 of 42 passes for 368 yards and three touchdowns against the Titans, plus had a rushing score in which he stiff-armed a linebacker.
Lawrence has finished with a passer rating above 100 seven times this season, including four of his past five outings.
”The one thing that I’m most encouraged about is just how much more we can pour into him as he leads this team,” Pederson said.
Travis Etienne has 134 yards rushing and no touchdowns in Jacksonville’s past four games. He ran 17 times for a measly 32 yards against the Titans, averaging 1.9 yards a carry. He’s clearly not 100% since spraining his left foot against Baltimore.
Two defensive starters – rookie linebacker Chad Muma (ankle) and safety Andre Cisco (shoulder) – missed the game. Muma sat out practice all week, but Cisco was able to work on a limited basis and had been listed as questionable.
19 – number of consecutive losses against NFC teams, an NFL record. Jacksonville’s final chance to end the skid in 2022 comes Sunday.
Making the playoffs for the first time since 2017 isn’t out of the question considering Jacksonville trails reeling Tennessee by two games and plays the Titans again in the regular-season finale.
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