The Toughest Challenge of the Season?: Game Preview against the NY Giants

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The Jaguars travel to the Big Apple on Sunday to face the New York Giants – a tremendous game, that I believe is the biggest challenge Jacksonville has left to face this year. Tom Coughlin’s team is very talented, tough and physical, especially along both the offensive and defensive lines. This is the best defense the Jaguars will face all season and their offense is loaded with playmakers, even without theire two best wide receivers (Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith), who will be out for this game. I’m not going to lie – I don’t like the way things match up for the Jaguars in this game. Though I have found some chinks in the Giants’ armor which the Jaguars must exploint to the fullest…

Let’s start with the 800 pound gorilla in the room – the Giants defense. Perry Fewell’s unit scares me. The Jaguars’ have not and will not face a more ferocious group this year. The Titans don’t have these kind of pass rushers. The Colts don’t have this caliber of run defense. The Chargers don’t have a front seven this dominant. The Chiefs don’t have this kind of secondary.

Let’s start with the Giants’ pass rush. The Jaguars built their offensive line to block Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. I think Justin Tuck and Osi Umeniyora are even better then the Colts’ fantastic DE tandem. The two starting DEs have already combined for 15 sacks. Before the Browns game, the entire Jaguars defense had fewer sacks than that number. This would be a game that RT Eben Britton and LT Eugene Monroe were drafted to excel in – against a physical front that will whip you if you don’t stop them. The problem is Britton is on IR and Eugene Monroe is just ruled out from teh game because of a mild concussion. So now UDFA rookie Kevin Haslam or former Giant Guy Whimper must protect David Garrard which is a very tall order against Osi Umeniyora. This match up is scares me pretty much and in the other tackle position the situation not looks good either.  That will be Justin Tuck vs. RT Jordan Black (Jeff Lageman said on Jaguars This Week that this is not a match up he’s looking forward to seeing). Black has struggled since replacing Eben Britton. He’s been whipped by pass-rushers far less talented than Tuck and the battle between the two could seriously threaten David Garrard’s health (just ask Jay Cutler!). Black will need help; and since the Jaguars will need every viable receiver (especially Marcedes Lewis) in the passing game with Mike Sims-Walker unlikely to play, Dirk Koetter must use a sixth offensive lineman (ironically, Jordan Black’s role before Britton was injured). Adam Terry or Kevin Haslam will likely see some action in that position, with Terry being my preference, because I don’t want to see a rookie trying to handle Tuck. And let’s not forget the DT tandem of Barry Coefield and Chris Canty. They are the reason teams have rushed for just 89.5 yards/game against the Giants. Coefield is a very active, penetrating tackle (like Tyson Alualu), while Canty is an immovable rock along the line (like Terrance Knighton).

The LBs could be considered the weakness of the defense, but with a d-line that good, the unit’s flaws are minimized. Don’t get me wrong, though – Michael Boley, Jonathan Goff and, a familiar face for the Jaguars, Keith Bulluck are a solid group, but vulnerable to big plays if Maurice Jones-Drew can get through the D-line (Coefield and Canty in particular)! The Giants secondary is loaded with experienced veterans, who have benefitted immensely from the Giants pass rush. Former Jaguar S Deon Grant has 3 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries, and 1 sack and he is not even a starter! The two starting safeties – Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle – are both good in coverage and defend well against the run. Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross are also very solid CBs and if Mike Sims-Walker can’t play, Mike Thomas and whoever plays next to him at WR will have a tough day getting open.

For the Jaguars to win this game, David Garrard must play as good or better than he did against Dallas and Houston – whose defenses were awful. The problem is David tends to start making bad decisions (bad throws, holding on to the ball too long) if he is sacked more than three times in a game, a virtual certainy against this defense. Protecting David will be the key for this game and honestly, I don’t see that happening with Black’s struggles and Monroe’s concussion.

See the next page for how the Jaguars’ defense will matchup against the New York offense…