Last January; the Cleveland Browns humiliated the Jacksonville Jaguars. There is no other word to describe what happened. Yeah, the final score was close (23-17), but two garbage time TD’s by Zach Miller might have had something to do with that. It was a humiliation not because the Browns threw for 300 yards on the Jags, no they destroyed them in the trenches and ran for 214 yards! That was the reason that Harvey and Knighton were the only returning players from last season’s D-line. That was the reason GM Gene drafted Alualu, D’Anthony Smith, Hart, and Lane. That was the reason Kampman and Kirk Morrison were signed in free agency. The Front Seven looked pathetic and after that game, GM Gene vowed to change that. Now the time has arrived to see if the Jaguars learned their lesson or not in this offseason!
Jaguars Defense versus Browns offense
Here we are in the middle of November and the Jaguars have arrived at a very important test. This week’s exam will reveal the state of the Jaguars’ talent up front. Although Cleveland has some very nice passing threats. they are still a “run first’’ team. Instead of Jerome Harrison, who despite being red hot last January in Cleveland is now with Philadelphia, the Jaguars must stop Peyton Hillis. He has scored 9 TDs this season (8 rushing; 1 receiving) and essentially is the workhorse for Cleveland in the running game. Also, he is a solid pass catcher (2nd most receiving yards on the Browns) and lately, he can’t be stopped. Just to show how good season he has had - Maurice Drew has 745 yards on 186 rushing attempts and Hillis has only slightly less – 726 yards on 152 attempts. Last week, the Jaguars limited Arian Foster (who is the leading rusher of hne NFL) to only 56 yards. If they do the same with Hillis, they will most likely win this game.
But don’t underestimate Cleveland’s passing game. Colt McCoy has been a huge surprise. I thought he was drafted to be a career backup QB for the Browns, but in their dire situation, could possibly get a shot to being the starter this year. After a few promising starts, the rookie QB out of Texas may wind up being the signal caller of the Browns for a long time. He has a pretty good O-line (little chance to establish consistent pressure on this unit – except for their one point of weakness, the right side and specifically RT John St. Clair- This line is really good. Joe Thomas us a worthy opponent, even for Aaron Kampman. Now that he is gone Jeremy Mincey or anybody who will face him; have 0 chances doing to any harm there… Second year C Alex Mack vs. Terrance Knighton- that is a match up I really want to see. Mack is a fantastic center; I’ll be looking forward how ‘pot Roast’ will handle him.
I talked about some weapons. Now we know that Mr. “Do-it-all”; Joshua Cribbs will not play on Sunday. Without him; TE Benjamin Watson will be the secondary’s biggest task to handle. The former Patriot have more TDs(2) and yards(434) now. Then all Browns tight ends were last year combined. And since we know how (can’t) cover the Jaguars secondary basically any TEs; he will be a problem. Also we will see a battle of 2nd year WRs in this game. Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie are both decent pass catchers; who are improving pretty nicely. We will see they or the Jaguars second year WRs (Mike Thomas and -I expect- Tiquan Underwood) will perform better. Don’t count out from the Browns passing game TE Evan Moore and WR Chansi Stuckey too. Oh and one more thing. Prepare for tricky plays; Brows like to surprise their opponents with unexpected play callings. So the Jaguars defense is better being aware all game!
Jaguars offense versus Browns Defense
Now let’s see the Jaguars offense versus the Cleveland defense. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan (who I think will be a head coach next year somewhere…) made a turnaround with this defense. The Browns defense allowed just 2 rushing TDs for example; and although they are at the bottom half at most statistics; they allowed the 10th least points in the whole league. These guys can play. The good news is for the Jaguars; that Scott Fujita; the leader of the defense will not play in this game. There top corner; Sheldon Brown barely practiced all week long too- although he might play this weekend. Still the Browns have playmakers on defense. Like OLBs; Marcus Bernard (who have 5.5 sacks already…) and Matt Roth (2 sacks). I hope Jordan Black (and of course Eugen Monroe) will be ready. Not to mention next week; they will face a Giants D-line which is maybe the best in the NFL. So if they can’t stop this rush; what will they do with Tuck; Umeniyora and co? There D-line is pretty decent too; NT Ahtyba Rubin has a very good year (Hey; he benched Shaun Rodgers; who was dominant 1-2 years ago…). Rubin is so good; that Rob Ryan predicted; he will kick Brad Meesters’ but on Sunday. Well I hope this will be another Ryan prediction which will backfire. But I expect that Maurice Drew and the O-line will have a very tough day on Sunday…
Where the Jaguars have a pretty good shot is the Browns secondary; even if Sheldon Brown plays. In this unit we can found the 1st and 2nd round choice of Cleveland from ’10: CB Joe Haden and FS TJ Ward. Both playing well; Ward is already in the starting lineup; and he is pretty decent against the run but not so decent versus the pass. The other 2 starters; CB Eric Wright and SS Abram Elam are the players the Jaguars might have a good shot to make some plays. Now we don’t know if Mike Sims-Walker will play or not on this game; but even if he plays; he will be so limited as Joshua Cribbs in the other side of the ball…That leaves Mike Thomas to become the the Nr. 1 option at WR. I expect Tiquan Underwood and Kassim Osgoodbeing targeted on this game. And I think we will see a lot of Zach Miller and Marcedes Lewis. Miller had the best game (until last Sunday) against the Browns. They couldn’t stop him. And now they must face Marcedes Lewis as well – who was sidelined with a concussion last January. I hope Dirk Kowetter will us TE heavy formations because that’s how you can beat the Browns.
One more thing- if David can play so efficient in this game like he did against the Cowboys; and the Texans; I think Jaguars fans can start to hope about big things. This defense is really good. If David can repeat the performances of the last 2 games; he is for real!
X-factors; which favors the Jaguars
Rashean Mathis: You might say “seriously Zoltan; Mathis?” Yeah I do and because of 2 reasons. 1. He finally got the message from many places that he is playing really bad now. Jack Del Rio talked with him 1-on-1. Peter King pointed out; that he played very bad against Andre Johnson. Now he got the memo; that he is stinks; and must play much better. Not to mention that he wants a new contract… He must response to these critics starting with this game. And he is lucky; because the Jaguars facing a rookie QB. Which is good news for Rashean; because if there is a certain group he was successful in the past; then it was against young QBs. Remember the Jets game? Remember how he picked of Mark Sanchez in his first play? If Rashean still can play; he can show it against Colt McCoy.
It’s time for revenge: Luckily it seems those Jaguars who were on the filed last January in Cleveland didn’t forget the brutal defeat they got. Maurice Drew said this week ‘we got our butt whipped on that game”. Good. You know; when you lost to the Patriots 35-7; in Boston; okay they have the talent and of course the QB to that. But when you punished the way Cleveland did on Week 17(a team who is I believe is around the same level talent wise) that is frustrate you. I think Cleveland is a better then it was last year (because they have a legit QB; a good TE; and a much better defense) ; so defeating them says to me; that the Jaguars not just learned from their mistakes; but they are getting (much) better –and the arrow is really pointing up.
I expect a really close game. Let’s not forget Cleveland beat the Patriots and the Saints and just lost to the Jets in overtime. But I think this match up is favoring the Jags. Both defenses will be there without their leaders (Kampman & Fujita). The Browns like to run the ball which is for sure better for the Jaguars then passing it (although watch out for Watson and those young WRs). They key of the game will be David Garrard. If he performs the way he played in the last 2 games; the Jaguars will win this; if he plays average or worse; I see no way the Jags will leave the field victorious. This is another must win game when we watch the playoff picture- with away games against the Giants & Titans coming up. Plus not to mention; if the Jaguars win and the Colts lose (which will most likely happen; if we count ho many injured players the Colts have and how much Belichick want to take revenge for that ‘4&2” loss…) the Jags will be tied for 1st place in the AFC South after 11 weeks. So expect everyone a close dogfight in this game; where the difference will be within 7 maybe 3 points. I hope in the end the Jaguars find a way to leave the field with a big W:
Prediction: Jaguars 24; Browns 22