The stakes are high today. Many are chalking it up as a loss for the Jaguars hours, even days, before kickoff. But as we’ve seen in the last few weeks, there’s a reason they play the game (and all four quarters, Mr. Saban). Sure, the Jaguars are overachieving this year and it will be an even greater miracle than the Hail Mary against Houston if Jacksonville ends the regular season in the same position as they are today – on top of the AFC South. Some may even be willing to relinquish a loss at this point to repay the gods for consecutive skin-of-the-teeth wins in the final minutes against the Texans and the Browns. But Jacksonville is hot right now and momentum in this point of the season is extremely precious. With the announcement that Eugene Monroe will not be playing against the Giants’ punishing pass-rush, the Jaguars have a huge problem on their hands. I doubt Dirk Koetter has slept much this week, because he will have to mastermind a gameplan that uses every last resource the Jaguars have if they are to have any chance of pulling off a victory. Sorry Vic, this week it’s “plays not players”, because the Jaguars sure as hell don’t have the players to pull this one off.
The Jaguars will be starting Jordan Black at the right tackle position and likely starting Guy Whimper at the left tackle position. They will be facing Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora – who so far this season have combined for 15 sacks, 11 forced fumbles, and have sent four quarterbacks to the training room and onto the team’s inactive list the following week. Need I say more? Mike Sims-Walker is likely out. Marcedes Lewis will be helping the underwhelming personnel in the tackle positions. The chips are down and Dirk Koetter must show us what he can do when his resources are extremely limited and his quarterback will be under constant, suffocating duress.
Here are three things to look for:
- 1. Take the fight to their own backyard. The long passing game will not be featured today, because frankly, David Garrard would end up in a body bag if we even tried. The answer is to bring out the battering ram. Expect to see some heavy running sets tomorrow – and when I say heavy, I mean HEAVY. When these packages come out, the Jaguars will be challenging the Giants with, “Yes, we’re running the damn ball. Try to stop us.” The core tenant of the Gene Smith era is to “win the battle of the trenches” – well Gene, today is our chance. It will be ugly, old-fashioned football, but this may be our only shot at moving the chains.
- 2. Control the tempo. If the last point didn’t tip you off, here it is – the only way to win today is with a boring, clock-control offense. The Jaguars cannot afford to turn the ball over or give the Giants any chance to get far ahead, because being forced to pass means that Osi and Tuck can TEE OFF and that is a battle that will not end well. Four yards and a cloud of dust should be an accomplishment well worthy of applause. We need the defense to be rested and ferocious when they get back on the field to take advantage of anything Eli and the fumble-prone New York running game will give us and the best way to do that and neutralize the attacking Giants’ defense is to wear them down little by little.
- 3. Exploit the mismatches where we get them. Today will be the day of Zach Miller, because his colleague Marcedes Lewis will have his hands full pulling the extra weight as a sixth offensive lineman tomorrow (makes you pretty happy that our tight end putting up Antonio Gates-like numbers is also a monster blocker). Miller is the perfect player to exploit a linebacking corp, who, though solid, has surrendered big days to players like Dallas Clark, Jason Witten, and Brandon Pettigrew. The Giants’ defense has thrived off the disruption caused by their pass rush. The best way to neutralize this is to quickly get the ball in the hands of guys like Miller, Mike Thomas, and Maurice Jones-Drew, who can make their man miss and pick up big yards after the catch.
“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.” – John F. Kennedy
- Andrew Hofheimer