They’re the fashionable sleeper pick to make the playoffs, but the Jaguars can’t afford to be sleepy this Sunday against the Chargers. Despite putting up a fight against the heralded Packers, the Jags lost a disappointing season opener. Dropping the first two games would not only put them in a huge hole, but the calls for Gus Bradley’s head will grow stronger. Since 2007 only five of 66 teams, which began the season 0-2, have battled back to make the playoffs.
Here are keys for the Jaguars heading in to their showdown with the Chargers:
Forget the past
Phillip Rivers has had his way against the Jaguars over the years. The San Diego quarterback is 5-1 all time against Jacksonville, with his highest QB rating (116.3) against an AFC opponent.
Bradley’s defense will need to get pressure on the 34-year old, more than they did on Rodgers last week. Rivers isn’t as fleet of foot as Rodgers. Add in the Chargers’ loss of WR Keenan Allen for the season, San Diego doesn’t have has many weapons.
Jared Odrick and Dante Fowler Jr. have the potential for a big day. Odrick wrapped up Rodgers for a sack in Week 1, and the edge speed Fowler can bring could make for a long afternoon for RT Joe Barksdale.
Run for the Hills
T.J. Yeldon will get a lot of carries this week since Chris Ivory (Hospitalized this week) isn’t expected to go. Yeldon left a lot to be desired after his first showing of the season yielded just 39-yards.
The Jags rushing attack as a whole was putrid, rushing 26-times for 48-yards. You’d have to expect Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson went back to the drawing board to figure out how to get ground yardage. San Diego proved to be porous on the line last week against the Chiefs, surrendering 4.4- yards per carry.
Don’t be surprised if Yeldon flirts with a 100-yard day on the ground.
Pressure, Push down on me
Last week the Packers set up shop in the Jaguars backfield and pushed Blake Bortles off the spot. Against the Chargers, the only person they need to concentrate on letting back there is Mantei Teo’s girlfriend (Too Soon? Nah). Teo last week led San Diego in tackles (8), and tied for a team-high with two tackles for loss. Collectively the Chargers racked up three sacks on the mobile Alex Smith, the same number of sacks the Packers had on Bortles.
If Jacksonville can keep pressure off Bortles and allow him time to find his weapons (And not make the dumb interception) “the Allens” can have a big game.
The Jaguars are three point underdogs only because the Chargers are at home. This is a winnable road game, and probably a “must” win at that. If they fall to 0-2, this sleepy team may only see the post season in their dreams.
Jaguars searching for RB depth after second preseason game
With preseason game number two in the books, it’s apparent the Jaguars have real issues with running back depth due to injury. This after veteran Alfred Blue left the first half of the 24 – 10 Thursday night loss to the Eagles with an ankle injury and did not return.
Blue carried the ball four times for just five yards has Jacksonville offense once again sputtered behind a makeshift offensive line. Coach Doug Marrone was so concerned about that line situation and their ability to protect/block that starting quarterback Nick Foles and running back Leonard Fournette never saw the field for a single play during Thursday night.
That means that veteran at Thomas Rawls (above Thursday) was called upon to carry the ball a little more, and he did so, seven times for 19 yards including a long run of 11 playing in the first half.
Rawls is a 5th year veteran who had some modest success with the Seahawks, including rushing for 830 yards his rookie year in 2015 with a 5.6 yard per carry average. His numbers tapered off in 2016 – 17 with ankle and foot injuries, as he only played in 21 games in those two years. Rawls was later released and picked up by the Bengals, but injured again last season, and never carried the ball in Cincinnati.
Obviously, the Jaguars are wanting to implement Fournette, as the primary ball carrier, but they will need someone else to spell him on a series or two. Also, Fournette has had durability questions, as he missed parts or all of eight games last year with a hamstring injury.
The Jags were also hoping to bring along Temple rookie running back Ryquell Armstead, but after he carried eight times for 22 yards last week, he suffered a concussion in the preseason opening loss to the Ravens. Armstead hasn’t practiced since, and is still being evaluated with no further update Thursday.
Speaking of updates, we await how serious Blue’s ankle injury is coming off this second preseason game. Meanwhile, the likelihood is that Fournette, backed up by Rawls, will be the two running backs when the Jaguars play at the Dolphins next Thursday night.
Jaguars dilemma with injuries vs preseason playing time
The Jacksonville Jaguars will play their second preseason game tonight against the Philadelphia Eagles at TIAA Bank Field. At least, some of them will play against the Eagles.
And therein lies “The Dilemma” facing coach Doug Marrone, his staff and a team trying to shake off an awful 2018 season.
How much are his guys going to play, if at all, in this second exhibition contest? This is a week after 20 of his 22 starters did not play a down in the preseason opening loss in Baltimore.
And while everybody has been looking at the possibility of former Eagles Super Bowl MVP, and now Jaguars free agent star QB, Nick Foles going against his old team, it quite possibly won’t materialize.
As Mike Dirocco, ESPN beat writer for the Jaguars, wrote about earlier this week, Foles all the conceded he may not be out there very much due to injuries on the Jaguars offensive line and concerns over being able to protect him.
However, you cannot replicate the “live fire of a game,” like in the preseason, where Foles can work on timing at full speed with his reads and throws to young receivers like D.J. Chark, DeDe Westbrook and Chris Conley.
Further, it’s not as if the Jags have a season, much less several seasons, of experience with Foles with his personnel to lean on. No, he’s trying to get used to them, and they’re trying to get used to him.
And, let’s not forget that star running back Leonard Fournette wants to have a bounce-back 2019 and he didn’t play a down last week. Yes, there were injury issues with his hamstring all last year.
So what will Marrone and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo do with Fournette tonight? This is especially with a banged up O-Line.
And, maybe it will be, a series or maybe, none at all that we see the former LSU number one pick, who wowed everyone in his rookie season of 2017.
It’s fully understood that weeks from now, this Thursday night’s second preseason game isn’t going to matter. But for right now?
The first unit Jaguars need to be able to work together under a game tested circumstance, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to do much of that in North Florida Thursday night.