JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Calvin Ridley is better when Zay Jones is around. Ridley's top three games of the season came with Jones healthy and playing alongside him.
Coincidence? Circumstantial evidence? The Jaguars consider it proof that Jones is an integral part of what makes Jacksonville’s offense hum. Although Jones might not be as important as Ridley, Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Christian Kirk or Evan Engram, it's clear he makes everything easier for Ridley — and maybe everyone — when he's on the field.
Jones returned from a nagging right knee injury to play Sunday against Tennessee — he missed four consecutive games and five of the previous six — and helped the Jaguars (7-3) deliver their cleanest and most efficient outing of the season.
Jacksonville scored on five consecutive possessions to take a 27-0 lead in the third quarter and coasted to a 34-14 victory that was a much-needed rebound from last week’s 34-3 embarrassment against San Francisco.
Ridley finished with seven catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns, both coming on flawless throws from Lawrence. Jones caught four passes for 20 yards but also drew a 27-yard penalty for pass interference.
“When we’re a complete core, I mean, come on,” Ridley said. “When we have our complete core, we are more comfortable and we communicate better."
The Jaguars insist that Jones’ size, speed and versatility don’t allow defenses to double or bracket Ridley as often. The numbers agree. In the three full games that Jones and Ridley have played together, Ridley has 22 catches for 326 yards and three TDs. He has 20 catches for 248 yards and a score in the other seven.
“Just having his presence out there opened up some other things for us,” coach Doug Pederson said of Jones.
Jones was arrested last week on a misdemeanor domestic battery charge following an argument with the mother of his child. He spent a night in jail before being released on a $2,500 bond. Jones practiced the rest of the week and was back on the field a week earlier than expected as he continues to recover from the knee injury.
“When players come back from injury, you don’t bring them back slowly,” Pederson said. “They’re in for a reason, and you go full steam ahead. Zay was ready to go, and he was a big part of this. He played tough. He played physical. He made some catches.”
And he really helped Ridley.
Jacksonville converted three times on fourth down, none bigger than when Lawrence connected with D’Ernest Johnson for 34 yards on a fourth-and-4 play at the Tennessee 40-yard line early in the third quarter. Lawrence stepped up to avoid a sack, started to scramble and then found Johnson just before he got to the line of scrimmage.
Lawrence scored two plays later, his second rushing touchdown of the day. The two plays were among several that Lawrence, who is still recovering from a sprained left knee, made with his legs.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Jaguars are still searching for better red-zone efficiency. They settled for two short field goals in the second quarter and are now tied for 28th in the league in scoring touchdowns after reaching the 20-yard line.
Long snapper Ross Matiscik really enjoyed the first forced fumble and fumble recovery of his NFL career. Matiscik stripped the ball from punt returner Eric Garror and corralled it. He celebrated by running into the end zone with teammates. Matiscik then whipped the ball toward a cameraman. He missed, but Matiscik later returned to apologize anyway.
Jaguars defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton was a healthy scratch against Tennessee, a surprising decision considering he seemingly had been on the mend from a back infection that sidelined him the first seven games of the season.
“I just want to make sure that he is mentally and physically ready to go,” Pederson said.
Standout CB Tyson Campbell (hamstring) is expected to return this week when the Jaguars face the Texans.
21 — Number of losses in Jacksonville’s last 26 games against AFC South rival Houston, a stunning stretch of one-sidedness for an NFL series.
The Jaguars can take control of the division by beating the Texans on Sunday. Jacksonville is a road favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, against Houston for just the third time since 2007.
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