During the summer; Terry and I wrote a pretty detailed 2 part series about the possible matchups for the upcoming game against the Broncos. You can read it here http://blackandteal.com/2010/07/14/the-jags-first-opponent-playing-offense-against-the-denver-broncos/ and here http://blackandteal.com/2010/07/21/defending-against-the-denver-broncos-offense/ in case you missed it. Now after more then a month things have changed in a couple of positions; so we must revisit some of the matchups featured in these articles. Elvis Dumervil is out; and Ryan Clady are in. That alone will represent a huge change! Let’s see some of the updated battles which will be interesting to see on Sunday.
Ryan Clady vs. Aaron Kampman: Folks; this is it. The biggest battle is right there. Ryan Clady is healthy and will play on Sunday. Maybe not the entire game; but a huge portion of it. He is one of the best LTs of the game right now. He is coming back from a serious injury but the fact that he is not even listed on the injury report says he is near 100% ready for this game. But so is Aaron Kampman. The big FA catch of the Jaguars are seems to be ready as well and he was also not on the Jaguars injury report. He will face a very tough battle right away and this will be a really good barometer how healthy his ACL really is. If Kampman can beat Clady; and produce pressure and sacks on Denver’s QB Kyle Orton; Jaguars fan can be exited about him and the pass rush once again- because a very few team have such talent as Denver in the left tackle position. If Kampman can make plays against Clady; he can do against anybody; and the Jaguars pass rush is for real.
Good news; most likely RT Ryan Harris will not play and rookie Zane Beadles (who was the Broncos 2nd round pick this year) is expected to replace him. Well if Derrick Harvey has really improved in this off-season; he must make plays against Beadles. We saw how hard the Monroe and Britton struggled in the early games (especially Eugene) in their rookie seasons. I expected the same from Beadles. If Harvey will be a non factor for this game in rushing the passer; I think his days are numbered in Jacksonville. He received everything this year. A new coach who has the reputation of knowing how to teach getting to the opposite signal caller. A very good DE partner in Aaron Kampman. The time for excuses is over Derrick! It’s time to prove yourself!
The whole Broncos offensive line is looking too young and inexperienced. Other then Beadles, rookie C J.D. Walton will start his very first game on Sunday. And in the Broncos depth chart there is another unknown name penciled as a starter. LG Stanley Daniels has been in the league since 2007; but never played a regular season game! I still expecting veteran Russ Hochstein to play LG on Sunday but if not; other then Clady and Chris Kuper; the Broncos might start 3 players in the offensive line who never saw action in a NFL regular season game! If the Jaguars front 7 is really a force as Jack Del Rio thinks; this is “prove it!” time for them. I want to see stopping the run; and collapsing the pocket all game long! I want to see Kyle Orton getting sacked at least 3 times behind this line!
And the Jaguars front 7 must be the only unit who can stop the Broncos offense; because I have little hope that the secondary will stop the Denver’s receivers. In fact TE Daniel Graham can cause major headaches for the defensive backfield. (Sadly which good TE hasn’t?) Eddie Royal; Brandon Lloyd; Jabar Gaffney and the 2 rookie WRs Demaryius Thomas and Eric Dekker represent too much challenge in my opinion for Rashean Mathis and co. So if the Jaguars want to limit Denver’s offense; the front 7 must force at least a couple of turnovers upfront!
In the defensive side; the biggest news that came out from the Rocky Mountains was Elvis Dumervil is injured and he is done for the season. That is a major game changer. Now the pressure will come from Robert Ayers and Jason Hunter (who beat out “mega bust” Jarvis Moss for the other OLB starting job). Well; Eugene Monroe must prove that he is the up and coming elite LT of this league; by making Ayers a non factor. Meanwhile Eben Britton will face Hunter; a pro in his 5th year; who recorded 5 sacks last year when he played for the Lions. These 2 matchups will be perfect to judge; how much the Jaguars 2nd year tackles progressed. If they allow no sacks this game; David will get the precious time he needed to make the passing game for real. The Jaguar interior offensive line will face Jamal Williams, who looked dominant in the preseason. If Brad Meester and the G duo Smiley plus the fresh extanded Nwaneri can protect David (or Maurice Drew) from him; the Jaguars can establish their running and passing game. The real test I think will be how the elite secondary of the Broncos will match up against the young Jaguars WR corp. If David can throw over 200 yards and score at least 2 TDs; I think Jacksonville will win this game!
The ST unit shined all preseason long; but now both rookie returners are on the injury report. Karim practiced on Wednesday; but McGee did not. If at least 1 of them can play; and is capable to be near 100%; we can get excellent starting field position for the offense. Another X-factor could be the heat. The weather forecast is around 88-91 degree for Sunday. That can empty Denver’s tank in the second half. Jaguars are 24 out 34 games played in 81 degrees or warmer (Thanks to BCC’s Adam Stites for the data); which is the best in the NFL. And keep in mind that the Denver Broncos never won in September in Florida.
If I must predict this very important (More on that later this week) opening week game; I say it will be a shootout. I think the Jaguars must score around 30 or more to keep the pace with the passing game of the Broncos (Kyle Orton played in a level like he is belongs to the Top 5 QBs in the NFL this preseason!). But I think The Jaguars and the well balanced offense will keep the pace; and in the end the Jaguars front 7 will produce key turnovers.
Black & Teal’s prediction: 31-28 Jaguars