Jaguars/San Diego: 4 To Watch 4
by Sam Kouvaris
Posted September 18, 2016
1. Pass Rush
Saying he didn't let them 'pin their ears back' Gus Bradley gave the defensive line credit for their effort against Aaron Bradley last Sunday. Rodgers was able to sidestep the rush and get the ball down field, perhaps more effectively than any other quarterback in the league. This week, Phillip Rivers presents a different challenge. "Yeah. It is a quarterback that has the ability to move in the pocket and stay alive," Defensive Coordinator Todd Wash said this week. "He is obviously very smart. He probably knows what we are doing before we even call it. It is a situation where we hope to pin their ears back and let those guys rush and show exactly how athletic they are." But Rivers will be right there in the pocket, they'll know exactly where he'll be. He's thrown 11 TD's against the Jaguars without an interception. If he was the quarterback last week, the Jaguars might have had a few sacks. If they don't get to him this week, it'll be a long plane flight home.
2. Running Game
Last week's 1.8 yards per carry average won't cut it for any winning team in the NFL. Chris Ivory's absence might have had something to do with it but running the football tends to be an offensive line/blocking/QB calls/running back project. TJ Yeldon will carry the majority of the load again this week but there needs to be some variety in what they're doing. Maybe Corey Grant gives them something different in the backfield; maybe Luke Joeckel and Kelvin Beachum provide more push on the left side. Whatever the difference, they need it to be better. Anything under 2.5 yards per carry means something fluky has to happen for them to get the win.
Last week, the Jaguars turned the ball over once on the opening drive but it proved to be costly. A ball thrown behind Marqis Lee was bobbled and intercepted giving the Packers a short field at the 29. Good teams take advantage of breaks like that and Green Bay did just that. They scored on an Aaron Rodgers run to make it 7-0. Taking care of the football, especially in their own end of the field is of paramount importance on the road against an offense like San Diego's. On the other hand, getting some turnovers is what the Jaguars stressed throughout training camp. It didn't appear they came close last week so somebody playing "above the x's and o's" and making a play on defense would go a long way toward a win.
4. Special Teams
A 100% scoring grade is hard to come by in any game but that's how Gus Bradley assessed his special teams play against the Packers. That's hard to argue given the two downed punts inside the 5-yard line and Jason Myers not missing a kick. Brad Nortman's free agent signing this year might have been a bit under the radar but he showed how significant a smart, veteran punter could be. Grant had a 32-yard kickoff return and the coverage teams did their job efficiently. That kind of performance again will allow the game to be decided by the offensive and defensive units.