Match-up preview against the Philadelphia Eagles
By Zoltan Paksa
It seems -once again- the opposing team brings a QB to Jacksonville who steals the spotlight from the Jaguars. On Week 1 it was Tim Tebow, now on Week 3 it will be Michael Vick. The difference is that this time he will be a major issue for the Jaguars, looking red-hot now. This is not good news if you saw the Jaguars defense these days. And to make the thing worse, he’s got weapons (McCoy; Maclin; D. Jackson; Celek; Avant) who can create the same abuse the San Diego Chargers did last Sunday. So how can the Jaguars deal with them and how can they win this important game? I have good news- because I think there is a way for the Jaguars to beat them.
The answer is simple… Keep Vick and the Eagles offense out of the field for most of the game. That means the Jaguars offense must produce long; I mean (6-8 minutes) LONG drives in this game, and one will not be enough (and of course score). I have more good news too. How can we establish a long drive? Running the football. And so far this season the Eagles have issues stopping the run. Their DT duo; Mike Patterson and Brodsrick Bunkley are decent run stoppers but not unmanageable obstacles. The Eagles LB unit is everything but good these days. Other than Ernie Sims; they are just guys at best. For example Omar Gaither played terrible against the Lions. If the Jaguars are really a “running first” team; they must produce a minimum 100-150 rushing yards. Now the problem is; I have not seen Maurice Jones-Drew play so far to his usual level. And in usual I mean Top 5 back in the NFL. Is he injured? Based on this week’s injury report; he might be. But that injury happened on the Chargers game? I don’t think so…Anyway; the bottom line is; if MJD can’t run this week then he is seriously not the same (right now)! Although Rashad Jennings has been progressing quite well in his second season; he alone will be not enough in this (and any other) game. Just in case I would like to see Brock Bolen activated for this game, because I think running the ball is a priority Nr. 1 for the Jaguars victory and everybody who can do it – like Brock- will be needed.
What about throwing the ball? Sure David had a bad game with four interceptions. But other then that; I think he played quite well, and he was great in Week 1. Now the Eagles defense has 2 areas where they are more then decent. Pass rush and the secondary. This week will be the perfect warm up for the offensive line for the Indy game; especially for Eugene Monroe (who I think played lights out so far in ’10) and Eben Britton (who looking quite solid so far too). Trent Cole is a major threat and I can’t wait for the battle between him and Eugene. In the other end position Juqua Parker and Brandon Graham will represent enough challenge for Britton too. If he can limit whoever will play there; I think those two will be ready for the big battle against Freeney and Mathis on Week 4. The Eagle secondary has good players. Asante Samuel has not recorded an interception this season; but has also made no mistakes, he is the best player in the Eagles defensive backfield. And all of sudden he has partners too. Rookie FS Nate Allen already has 2 picks. The other 2 players there is Ellis Hobs (who played so far decent this year) and Quintin Mikell is a decent player too. I think if David is not careful, they can grab a couple of turnovers. However the Eagles passing defense is ranked only 23rdright now; and Lions backup QB Shaun Hill throw 335 yards and 2 TDs against them (and Calvin Johnson had received only 50 yards from this)! I think if Shaun Hill did it, then David Garrard can do it too. And one more thing: The Eagles are dead last in allowed points (29.5) right now. Even the Lions with their backup QB (and to be fair- a fantastic performance by rookie RB Jahvid Best) scored 32 points. Plus we consider the Jaguars calling card is the offense right now. They must prove it. They must have make long drives; with which they can kill 2 birds with 1 stone: Control the clock and keep the Eagle offense off the field; and the chance to score!
But for sure Michael Vick and his offense will hit the field for a (I hope) few times; so let’s see where the Jaguars can disturb them. The bad news is; I see very few areas. The Eagles offensive line lost its starting center Jamaal Jackson on Week 1. So the Jaguars DTs will face Mike McGlynn there. Then they lost on the same game against the Packers the starting FB Leonard Weaver as well. Plus the Eagles have the most overrated LT in the league; Jason Peters. I expect that he will be beaten often by Aaron Kampman…The said thing is; Vick is mobile like a RB. Like a starting caliber RB. If the Jaguars could keep him in the pocket Aaron Kampman might be effective against him with his pressure, but lately Terrance Knighton is playing like garbage (when GM Gene Smith said he had his worst game as a pro vs. the Chargers; and Jeff Lageman suggested Wednesday on ‘Jaguars This Week’ he might give Landon Cohen a shot as a starter at DT; you know something is terribly wrong with him now…). Either he or Tyson Alualu must produce a great game to limit Vick as much as they could. And just as I said; they have so many weapons throwing to; that makes me extremely nervous. How good they are? They cut Hank Baskett this week! He would be this team’s 3rd best WR –at least (no wonder Baskett was immediately picked up by the Vikings…)!
LeSean McCoy may be better than Brian Westbrook was in his prime- and he can catch the ball too. DeSean Jackson was called just “Flash” last February by Maurice Jones Drew at the Pro Bowl. That alone stands for itself… Brent Celek represents another big TE threat; and based on the performance against Gates the Jaguars still not find any answers covering good/great tight ends…Jeremy Maclin is a decent, dangerous receiver, and let’s not forget about Jason Avant. He is just the 5th option after these guys. He would be the Nr. 2 receiver here in my opinion…I have no clue how the Jaguars secondary can stop these guys if the Eagles offense will have many opportunities. Another blow is that the Jaguars most likely will miss Justin Durant; the maybe fastest LB of the whole unit; for the game you want a linebacker with speed against Vick and McCoy. I don’t like these matchups at all. Unless Vick will have a terrible game (and let’s not forget Kolb is there for that situation…) this will be a bigger challenge than the Chargers presented; and we know what the result was last week. Also; I hope Jack Del Rio is focusing on tackling right now and hard, because if we see so many mistackles again; this game will be a loss.
On special team the Eagles have DeSean Jackson; so that will be a challenge for the thus far outstanding special unit team. Scobee and co must remain playing at that high level; because while the defense is struggling; somewhere the team must help. And this unit is capable to doing it. The Jaguars must play the way they did against the Broncos. They must force some turnovers without losing the ball when the offense is on the field. Because of Vick and the QB controversy of the Eagles this game will in the national spotlight. The Jaguars can earn respect (for some- I’m sure even if they win; half of the sportswriters will focus anyway on just the Eagles only…) this Sunday. This is an opportunity to present a case for themselves. If they shine the whole country will watch it! Let’s use it wisely.
Prediction: Jaguars 31; Eagles 27