Jaguars vs. Jets: Perfect Storm brewing for Thursday Night Football

Jacksonville Jaguars fans cheer before the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jacksonville Jaguars fans cheer before the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

If the Jacksonville Jaguars wanted some more of the national media’s attention, they certainly have it now. Thursday night football has the Jags pinned against the New York Jets. All things considered, this could be a making of a great game.

The Jets have a very stingy defense and Jacksonville has a hot hand on offense with Trevor Lawrence finding his groove. Which team is going to come out on top of this one?

The Jets’ defense is something the Jaguars should worry about

The Jets are a team that is going to rely heavily on the defensive side of the ball. Statistically, their defense is ranked third overall in yards allowed in the NFL. That’s not going to bode well for a Jaguars’ offense they can be stagnant at times. Rookie star cornerback Sauce Gardner and the secondary are not going to make things easy for Trevor Lawrence.

Gardner has been more than solid for the Jets. He has 58 solo tackles and two interceptions so far. This is a stat that Jaguar fans don’t want to see increased. Lawrence has only thrown one interception in his last six games. He has been lucky on a few of his passes that made it through some defensive backs’ hands. Unfortunately, he has had four fumbles over this same span.

The Jet’s defense does have some weaknesses that play into the Jaguars’ scheme. The Jaguars like their crossing routes and could use some stacked formations to slow down a pass rush that certainly will be deployed by the Jets. The linebackers play well against the run but are susceptible in their coverage. Tight end Evan Engram has proven as a reliable target when the team needs to move the chains to keep the games alive. Engram single-handedly kept the Jags in the Cowboy’s game with his reception and getting out of bounds to save the last timeout.

The defensive front of the Jets typically lines up in a wide 9 technique that leaves them open to runs up the middle. This is an area the Jags should be able to exploit, with the interior offensive line opening holes for running back Travis Etienne.

On the other hand, they’ll have to account for defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who has been limited in practice this week but should play. He will have something to say whenever the coaching staff chooses to try to run Etienne up the middle. Establishing the run will allow for play-action plays.

The Jaguars’ defense must do their part vs. the Jets

The Jaguar’s defense hasn’t been playing well this year but the Jet’s offense offers a favorable matchup that must be taken advantage of. Mike Caldwell’s unit is good at creating turnovers and should feast on an offense that has thrown 11 interceptions this year. The Jaguar’s 12 interceptions on the year have come at some opportune times to keep the team in the games. The turnover ratio for the Jaguars currently sits at +4.

The issues have been with allowing opposing wide receivers to catch a high percentage of their passes. Tyson Campbell has been the one exception in the secondary who has been holding his own every week. The same can’t be said for the other side of the field and the nickel position.

Gregory Junior has been moved up to the active roster. Mike Caldwell said that he’s been spending a lot of time after practice to improve his play. I’d be curious if he will get his chance inside. Tre Herndon has remained a liability in coverage without help, allowing a 72.7 percent completion rate. 

Either way, the fact of the matter is that the Jaguars’ goal is going to have to be played consistently. When the time comes take advantage and create turnovers for short fields. The Offense also wouldn’t be offended if there are points created by the defense. Rayshawn Jenkins’s performance last week against the Cowboys was a perfect example of stepping up when the secondary needed it.

The Jaguars vs. the Jets offer the perfect alignment

This matchup has the making to be an entertaining game. The weather could potentially play a factor in how the game is played out. If the Jaguars are able to mix in some of the short pass plays with the run game they can take advantage of a Jet’s defense.

The Jet’s offense has struggled with Zach Wilson at quarterback and this week’s game should not be any different. I don’t see the Jets letting Wilson air it out much. The Jets need to get creative with their playcalls by getting the difference-makers on sweeps or screenplays to take advantage of their skill sets.

It’s not going to be the first time the Jaguars’ defense has seen teams spread them out and take advantage of spacing. The linebackers and defensive backs have had a hard time consistently making tackles in the open field.

The strengths and weaknesses of each of these teams are perfectly aligned. The Jets’ defense against the red-hot Jaguar’s offense. The struggling Jets’ offense against the Jaguars’ opportunistic defense. This game is going to come down to the play of the surging star Trevor Lawrence. He’s become who he was drafted to be but will he be able to beat the Jets in less-than-optimal weather conditions?

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