So despite all the talk last week – it seems the Jacksonville Jaguars are not an awful team. Right? Well, I think we must wait and see this weekend’s game to have a clear answer. I think the Jaguars are a still a middle of the road team (not bad, yet still not so good either). And this week, they will face a really good or should I say great team, which is widely considered as a powerhouse these days(2 AFC Championship game appearance in the last 2 seasons is quite good to me). Yeah, I remember what happened on Week 10 of 2009 (a. k. a. the only big victory of the ’09 Jaguars..), but this Jets team is much better than it was two years. Yeah, some say, the Jaguars have a better team now, too. Well, on Sunday we can judge, based on the game, how much progress the two team have made in the last two years.
When the Jaguars offense will be on the field, they must prepare for a much bigger challenge compared to what they faced last Sunday. The Jets head coach owns his defense maybe better than anyone in the league. The Jaguars offensive line must be prepared, because they will see a lot of blitz packages. The Jaguars are in luck however, because they have Brad Meester, the savvy veteran, at center. In his long career, Meester’s seen just about every blitz combination that a defensive coordinator can throw at an offensive line. Of course the best way to avoid those blitzes is to get rid of the ball quickly, something that Jaguars QB Luke McCown quite good at… And those blitzes (often from the defensive backs – no wonder former Jet, now Jaguar, Drew Coleman had 5 sacks last season, most by any CB in the NFL) are maybe a bigger threat than the Jets’ actual pass rush from their down linemen. The Jets’ OLBs (Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas) are not premium pass rushers, but still represent some danger. The only player who I think could be a real threat is DE Mike Devito. The Jaguars must limit him as much as possible.
I don’t know what to expect in the running game, but what I do think is that the Jets have a pretty good core in the middle to limit the run. NT Sione Pouha and the very, very good middle linebacker tandem of Bart Scott and David Harris(who will be banged up a bit) will be a really tough test for Maurice Jones-Drew. I think the Jaguars must let him loose this week, because they have a much better chance of making plays on the ground than in the air (more about that in a moment). I think Jones-Drew is frustrated in a positive way. He wants to help this team and I just don’t think that a RB like Deji Karim, with limited experience, can do as well, like he did last week. Give Karim a couple of carries, but I want to see about an 80/20 split between him and Maurice. Uche Nwaneri and Bred Meester opened up holes quite effectively in Week 1 and now I think they can do the same. The Jets have a rookie starting DE in Muhammad Wilkerson (their 1st round pick this year from Temple). He did a good job against the Cowboys, but I think he is the best target for the Jaguars to run at.
In the passing game I saw two things from the Jets-Cowboys game. 1. Darrelle Revis is still the best shutdown corner in the NFL. 2. There are still some weak points in the Jets secondary. The first is a problem because I think the Jaguars must sacrifice one of their wideouts to Revis island. Luke McCown simply can’t throw in his direction. I think – now that Jason Hill out – Jarrett Dillard will be that WR, who must prepare for a bad game statistically. The Jaguars best WR, Mike Thomas, on the other hand could make plays on Antonio Cromartie, who looked quite rusty last Sunday. Also it’s time to introduce the NFL to Cecil Shorts. Nobody had much footage on him and he was the best WR in camp, no matter who was at QB. He is still considered a secret weapon. It’s time to use it and him. Another weak point could be S Eric Smith (if he plays, because he listed as questionable for the game. I don’t know if Smith not starting for the Jets would be good or bad for the Jaguars), who had a really bad day against Cowboys TE Jason Witten. If Marcedes Lewis is 100% healthy and ready to play (which is uncertain at this point because of his calf injury), that is a matchup where I see a big advantage for the Jaguars. Also Smith is sometimes used by the Jets for blitzing and pass rush. If I could advise one thing to Dirk Koetter, it would be to keep his eye on the safety and if Smith is lining up for blitz I would call a pass right to the spot that he left vacant.
Now when the Jets offense has the ball, I see one huge problem for the Jaguars defense in this game. I don’t know how can the secondary stop their passing game and receivers. The Jaguars had some issues covering Kenny Britt last week. This sunday, they must take care of WR Santonio Holmes (if he plays on Sunday, he was limited in the last 2 Jets practice, and he’ll maybe inactive for the game) and Plaxico Burress, TE Dustin Keller, and RB LaDainian Tomlinson, who seems to me is a bigger threat as a pass catcher than a running back (oh, and depsite his awful game vs. the Cowboys, don’t count out WR Derrick Mason…). Holmes and Burress are both X receivers, who will most likely punish this secondary. Last week they together had 10 catches for 144 total yards an a TD. But their best receiver was statistically Tomlinson, who had 6 catches for 73 yards. The Jets don’t use Dustin Keller that often,unlike how they did did last year. But if Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer sees some footage of last year, he might notice how big of a problem the Jaguars had covering TEs. Sidenote: I don’t know if that -huge- problem still exists or not for the Jaguars. I think we will find out about that next week, when they face the Panthers with Greg Olsen & Jeremy Shockey. There is only one way to at least limit this kind of air attack – rush the passer. Jets QB Marc Sanchez has improved a lot since the two teams last faced each other in ’09. Back then Sanchez’s first pass was an interception by Rashean Mathis and Sanchez ended up having an average game. Since ’09, Sanchez has become a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde kind of QB, who is doing great things one second and then goes on to make a dumb mistake in the same game. That was the case last week. Yeah, he had 335 passing yards and 2 TD passes, but he also had two turnovers (an interception by Sean Lee, and a sack, which lead to a fumble), which nearly cost the Jets the game. He sometimes makes bad decisions, which should allow the veteran player on the Jaguars defense to take advantage of that. Paul Posluszny played against him twice in the last 3 years. Dwight Lowery and CB Drew Coleman played with him the last 2 seasons. Rashean Mathis picked him off in ’09. All of these players could help the Jaguars a bit. Also the Jets offensive line had issues last week, and to be exact one of the tackles had a rough game Sunday night. RT Wayne Hunter was abused by DaMarcus Ware. Although, of course, DE Matt Roth is not the same caliber player as Ware, he still might generate rush on his side. According to Jeff Lageman, center Nick Mangold not have too good of a game against Dallas. If he continues to struggle, Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton could take advantage of that. The left side of the Jets offensive line looks good. LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson and LG Matt Slauson played really well on Sunday night but Jaguars RDE Jeremy Mincey was really good as well. However, the Jets’ offensive line just couldn’t get the running game going. Tomlinson and RB Shonn Greene had only 15 carries combine for 42 yards. I think that’s really good news for Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton who just kept Chris Johnson to 24 yards on the ground…
Special teams will be another interesting part to watch. K Nick Folk won the game for the Jets, and they used trick plays during punting situations in the past. Not to mention that the Jets blocked a punt for a TD against Dallas last Sunday night. This will be another good test for the Jaguars unit who made the Titans (good) ST unit a non-factor. Also it would be nice to see at least one long return from either Shorts or Karim. I think that the Jaguars’ offense must get some help from Russ Purnell’s unit in this game.
The X-factor which can hurt the Jaguars this Sunday: bad news for Jacksonville. In Week 2 they didn’t play well for a while. In 2007 they narrowly defeated a pretty awful Falcons team at home (they picked Matt Ryan at round 1, pick 3 the next year). Then they lost at home against Buffalo in the disaster season of ’08. And in the last two years they were blown out by Arizona (at home) and San Diego (away) in an ugly fashion (OK, in ’09 they had a nice comeback in the second half vs the Cardinals). Both teams were considered serious Superbowl contenders (the Cardinals had just lost the Super Bowl to the Steelers a year before and you can’t count out the Chargers, until Rivers is no longer their QB). I think that the Jets might be an even better team than these two were in back in ’09 & ’10 and the game will be played in New York. I think its fair to say, that the chances and match ups are not favorable for the Jaguars at all. I’m not going to lie, I think unless the Jaguars are playing close to their best game or get extremely lucky, I think they will lose on Sunday. They’ll be missing at least 3 starters (Cox, Kampman and Hill) and maybe their second best weapon on offense -Marcedes Lewis- as well. If the Jags lose, I’ll see how they do it. Will this team lay an ugly egg once again, or lose like they did last year when they faced the Giants (a very close game, with a real chance to win it). I think this game will be a much better barometer of what we can expect from this team in ’11. But then again – they defeated the Jets in ’09 and the their final record was 7-9… so maybe not so fast with that statement.
Prediction: Jets 24 – Jaguars 17