The Bengals come to town to take on the Jaguars in this week’s NFL action. Cincinnati, unlike the Jags, were able to make a seamless transition from Carson Palmer and company to Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. The baton has been handed off and the Bengals are again a playoff contender and probably will be for a few more years to come. The Jaguars, in contrast, look bewildered when it comes to rebuilding and, despite small progress, are not yet on the same level as the Bengals. Is there a difference maker for the Jaguars in this game? Is it possible that the Bengals don’t have a player step up enough to win a game that many pick them to win? Let’s take a peek at five players to watch for this Sunday’s game:
- BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Cincinnati - The Law Firm is averaging 3.6 yards per carry. For a guy the Bengals wanted to carry the load he really needs to get a few more yards per touch. The sad thing is that it isn’t that much of a departure from his 3.7 yards per attempt last year with New England. Green-Ellis could always return to pre-2011 form and could explode against the Jaguars defense, especially if he makes it to the second level past the front four. Look to see how he does, if he has running room then this offense will have become much more balanced and potent.
- Michael Johnson, DE, Cincinnati - Coming in with four sacks, Johnson could prove to be a problem for the Jags offensive line. With Cameron Bradfield probable for the Jaguars at right tackle and Eugene Monroe still managing the left, it could be difficult for Johnson to find some pressure on Gabbert. That said, if anyone on the Bengals squad is going to be threatening Gabbert into his rooke-esque poor play it will be Johnson. His play could dictate how well the Cincy defense plays.
- Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville - I’m not predicting an explosion like last week, but the Bengals run defense should be a cakewalk compared to what MJD has faced thus far this season. The jaguars offense still runs through Jones-Drew and his carries haven’t seemed to decrease. While his pounding the ball may not be the way to wins for a young Jaguars team, it will certainly make for a big day for MJD. Who knows, it could even open up the passing game (finally).
- Austen Lane, DE, Jacksonville - If Lane takes the field for the Jaguars on Sunday (listed as probable) the team could have a much better rotation at defensive end. George Selvie is still out so it will be up to Aaron Morgan and Lane to be the fresh legs on the outside. For a team that was contemplating moving DT Tyson Alualu to the outside on some downs, this is really big. Lane has yet to have much success at the NFL level, but last year’s coaching staff, this year’s coaching staff, and GM Gene Smith have been high on him for a while now. He’ll be looking to make an impact when he takes the field.
- Derek Cox, CB, Jacksonville - Can Cox cover A.J. Green? That could be the question for the day. With Green-Ellis not being as impactful as anticipated for the Bengals, they may have to turn to the air. Green is a top flight receiver and could dominate weaker secondaries. Cox is the Jags’ best corner and has demonstrated that he can shut down number one wideouts in the past, but can he do it against Green. I expect some help over the top from Cox, but on the plays he’s alone with the receiver on the outside look to see who is getting the upper hand.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims