Three Jaguars to Watch on Sunday at Indianapolis
By David Levin
The Jacksonville Jaguars return this week on the road against the Indianapolis Colts. If they want to win this Sunday, here are three players to watch.
Coming off a bye week and playing on the road, the Jacksonville Jaguars have a tough task ahead of them facing the Indianapolis Colts. Per the team’s game release, The Jaguars have won four of their last five games against the Colts, including both matchups in 2017.
Jacksonville has played 34 games against Indianapolis, which is the second-most games it has played against any team (Tennessee, 37). Of the 34 games against the Colts, 18 have been decided by seven or fewer points.
This is another one of those games where the Jaguars defense will be charged with stopping Andrew Luck and the Colts passing game. This is also the first game back for Leonard Fournette, who has been plagued by a hamstring injury all season. A win for the Jaguars ends a four-game losing streak and gives the team momentum heading into the game next Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
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The Jaguars coaching staff also changed their daily schedule hoping to that this will reinvigorate the roster and help the team focus more on winning. Head coach Doug Marrone told the media on Wednesday the players came back from the bye week ready to get back to work.
"“I’m expecting them to go out there, I’m expecting them to work hard and give ourselves an opportunity to win a game on Sunday. We all know we have to put the work in. That’s what we expect,” he said."
While Marrone won’t call this game a “must win” for the franchise, a loss would seriously hamper any chance this team has to grab a wild-card berth in the playoffs. The Jaguars must focus on this game and move onto the next. Baby steps may be the best option for a team that appeared to have had the rails come off prior to their bye week.
Here are three players to watch on Sunday.
DJ Chark – The rookie from LSU has shown improvement over the course of the past couple of weeks, but there is still more DJ Chark can do to show he is a go-to target in this offense.
“I feel like I’m light years ahead of where I was,” Chark said when interviewed by Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser.
Chark is getting more playing time, which could mean this game, on a fast track, will allow him to take another step forward. His size, 6-foot-4, and 199 pounds making him a big target in the red zone. If the Jaguars can move the ball down the field and get an opportunity to score within the 20s, Chark could become the X-factor in this game.
Chark has 10 receptions for 140 yards in the last four games.
Telvin Smith – This is actually directed at the linebackers on the field.
Telvin Smith leads the team with 65 tackles and has one interception, but there are times when he looks lost in space and isn’t playing on the same level as he was last season. The same thing goes for Myles Jack.
When Jack had the interception and ran it back for a touchdown in the season opener against the New York Giants, it looked like this would be an All-Pro season for the UCLA star. Both Smith and Jack are fast linebackers who have been out of position at times in the previous four games.
The Colts have used the passing game more than the run, but Marlon Mack is still a threat to get tough yards. Can Smith and Jack help with the passing game underneath and come up to aid the run game?
Blake Bortles – On Wednesday, Blake Bortles told the media he thought the bye week was good for the team, giving players a chance to rest and refocus on the season. If there is a player on this roster who needs to recharge his batteries, it’s the fifth-year starter.
There is no doubt the former UCF star is tough, as he has started 69 straight games, the NFL’s fifth-longest active streak. But this team needs more from him. Bortles must play more consistent and needs the running game to take some of the pressure off him to “win” the game.
We could write every week how Bortles is a player who fans need to watch and how he needs to play better if Jacksonville is to win, but no other player has that kind of effect on this franchise. When he plays well, Jacksonville has a better chance to win.
I am interested to see how he comes out of the bye week and takes control of this offense. How will the game plan be used to his strengths? How many times will Fournette carry the football? And will there be more plays where Bortles uses the run-pass option?