There was a parade of reasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars' worst-to-first turnaround in 2022.
The hiring of head coach Doug Pederson was paramount, and an influx of high-priced free agents certainly infused some talent. However, the emergence of 2021 NFL Draft No. 1 pick QB Trevor Lawrence was likewise vital.
For the Jags to sustain their success, the emergence of their 2022 No. 1 overall pick could prove pivotal, as well. That's what Pederson hopes to see and believes will happen with edge rusher Travon Walker.
"Just like Trevor, we can only go up, right?" Pederson said this week from the Annual League Meeting, via the team website’s John Oehser. "He can be a really dominant impact player for us, and this will be a good plus: He'll have an offseason to kind of rest, too. This time last year, he was going with [pre-draft] visits and the [NFL Scouting] Combine.
"Now he's had a chance to kind of recover, heal, get back in the weight room and start working on his craft."
Though the Jaguars went from 3-14 in 2021 to 9-8 in 2022 with a march to the AFC Divisional Round, their pass rush lingered all the same. With 35 sacks as a team, the Jags were tied for 26th in the league last season; but a mild uptick from their tally of 32 the year prior that tied for 27th.
It's a clear area of need in Pederson's eyes.
"We have to improve our pass rush," he said. "I think that's vital, particularly on third down."
A Walker rise could lead to that happening. The Georgia product posted a sack in the first game of his NFL career, but finished his rookie campaign with just 3.5 total.
"You want to see Travon take that next step in Year 2," Pederson said.
Lawrence made monumental strides in his second season, becoming a Pro Bowler and shaping into the form of the generational talent so many prognosticated him to be.
There's little reason to think Walker can't follow suit. While his numbers were far from astounding, Walker improved throughout the course of the year, according to Pederson. More of that's likely to follow for the dynamic defender, whose athleticism and strength is there for the shaping.
"One of the things I appreciated with Travon is how he improved," Pederson said. "Some of these young guys don't know how to study the game as well. Being able to show him how to study, what to look for, who to study -- great edge rushers in our game, to try to take some takeaways from that -- and again, there's so much room for improvement with him."