The Jacksonville Jaguars have a challenge right out of the gate in the first week of the NFL season.
And here we go. The Jaguars play “real” football this week against the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that just came up just short in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots last season.
The Jaguars know exactly how Andy Reid’s team feels, being beaten by Tom Brady and company when it seemed like the mighty Patriots were about to fall. Now, it’s the team in black and teal that faces the new star quarterback with the high-powered offense.
Fans hope to see a new offense with a new blueprint for winning. That’s the challenge for this team as 2019 begins. Jacksonville comes into the game as a -3.5 point underdog. The team lost 30-14 to Kansas City last season on the road. The Nick Foles era in Jacksonville begins for real this weekend.
More from Jacksonville Jaguars News
- Jacksonville Jaguars should welcome Derrick Henry into the kingdom
- Jaguars Rumors: Trent Baalke seems to be getting respect now
- Jaguars News: This division rival might be making a big move
- Former Jacksonville Jaguars S Johnathan Cyprien: “New Profession, Same Standards”
- Jacksonville Jaguars TE Evan Engram officially gets the franchise tag: 3 takeaways
If the Jaguars are going to win on Sunday, these three things have to happen.
Establish the Run – When asked about the game on Sunday and what he expects out of his running backs, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said he believes Leonard Fournette is going to be a big part of the offensive game plan.
He didn’t say that exactly, but he did say, “Leonard’s probably going to play a lot of football.” That’s all you need to know about how this team is committed to re-establishing the run this season. And while it is up to Fournette and a young running back room to get it done, the offensive line and quarterback will play a huge role in making that happen.
There is little experience behind Fournette, but as DeFilippo pointed out when he talked to the media on Thursday, this team will be ready.
"“That’s the nature of the deal. As I was getting back to ever-changing in the NFL, you have to go with the guys you have and I’m confident in ‘Rock ‘[Ryquell Armstead] and the guys we have. I thought he ran it hard in the preseason and we expect him to run it hard again Sunday… Obviously, it’s going to be hot on Sunday, so I’m sure all three of those guys will get some time.”"
Get off the field on third down – I cannot stress this enough. The Jaguars defense must force the Kansas City offense off the field when the opportunity arises. I know, it’s easier said than done.
The Jaguars held Patrick Mahomes without a touchdown last season in the 30-14 loss at Arrowhead Stadium. The same kind of effort is needed this weekend. There cannot be the same mental errors on offense the team suffered last season.
It also means the defense cannot give up big plays and allow the Chiefs to convert on third down. Even in the team’s 10-6 season of 2017, 3rd-and-6 was a killer for this unit.
Last season’s performance was something defensive coordinator Todd Wash talked about with the media on Thursday.
"“I think we played hard, I thought we executed. But as you talk to our unit, we met again this morning and it wasn’t good enough. If we don’t win the football game, then it’s not good enough and that’s the mentality in the room,” Wash said.“Last year was last year. They’ve got some different players and obviously some new additions. Obviously, we got some new players and some guys playing in different spots than they did a year ago. So, it’s going to be a heck of a challenge for us defensively.”"
The plan should be simple. Keep Mahomes on the sidelines and the Jaguars better their chances of winning on Sunday.
Cover Travis Kelce – One of the best tight ends in the NFL, Travis Kelce, must be contained on Sunday.
While the Jaguars have not used the tight end regularly in their offense over the years, the Chiefs have done just the opposite and relied on Kelce when they needed a big gain down the field.
Covering the Pro Bowl player will be another tough task on Sunday.
"“With Kelce, obviously he’s got a great catch radius. I think if you put a smaller body on him, you’re probably going to have some issues because he is such a big, physical guy. The things we’ve got to do; we’ve got to put a bigger body on him. Who that might be? I’m not sure yet,” Wash said.“But we’ve still got three days before the first game. But we’ve got to get somebody on our end that is a bigger body. Throughout the years, they try maybe a nickel on him and he bodies them up. If you put a guy who can’t run, he’ll run by him. He’s a tough matchup for us and everybody in the league, really. So, we’re going to do the best we can with different bodies flying at him and we’ve got to mix it up.”"
Last year, Kelce had eight targets, caught five passes for 100 yards. This year, there is no Tashaun Gipson on the field to blanket Kelce. That job falls to Ronnie Harrison or another defender. Hopefully, it does not become a mismatch nightmare for the defense.