|Date:||October 18th, 2009
|Time:||1:00 PM EST
||High 60's, slightly windy
|SBN Coverage:||Turf Show Times||Coverage Map
The Jaguars return home from Seattle to play the St.Louis Rams this week. This is a game that should be right what the doctor ordered for a team that was, quite frankly, embarrassed in the Pacific Northwest last week. The Rams are not a good team, actually, not even a mediocre team. They have had the #2 pick two years in a row and look like they'll be making another trip to the Top 5 of the draft this year.
Following a week of negativity, a win heading into the bye week is what this young team needs. At 3-3 heading into the bye, I believe we can say this team has met or exceeded all of the expectations we had of them going into the season. The Jaguars need this win on Sunday to keep up the momentum that was building following back to back divisional wins against Houston and Tennessee.
However, with Marc Bulger returning to the starting lineup this week vs the Jaguars, I can't help but make parallels to Matt Hasselbeck's return to the Seahawks last week. While Bulger isn't an elite QB, he is certainly good enough to have a field day if the Jaguars defense doesn't begin to get it's act together in some way or form.
What to Watch For: Jacksonville Jaguars
1. Maurice Jones-Drew: Seriously, watch for him because if he doesn't show up this week we might have to put out a missing person's report on him. Jones-Drew has been a non-factor the last two weeks, prompting his comments to the Times-Union this week. Against a Rams defense that is giving up 126 ypg on the ground, look for him to become a factor on the ground this week.
2. Mike Sims-Walker and Torry Holt: How will Sims-Walker respond to being benched for misconduct last week in Seattle? It seems he is sincere in his regret and wants to make amends with his team. Making up for his lost production in Seattle would do that. In addition, Torry Holt would love nothing more than have a big game against his former team. I believe the duo should have a big game on Sunday.
3. Pass Defense: If you can watch it, you are a better man than I am. While the Rams aren't the Greatest Show on Turf anymore, Bulger is still a competent quarterback. The Jaguars need to find a way to get to him, or have Cox and Mathis make a case to be starting in the Pro Bowl for the unit to improve.
4.Dirk Koetter: The Jaguars went back into their offensive shell in Seattle, with the bland vanilla offense that was lambasted the first two weeks of the season. With MSW returning to the starting lineup, will the Jaguars play book expand back to how it was in Houston and Tennessee? In addition, can Koetter reintegrate Jones-Drew into the offense after two weeks of virtually nothing from MJD.
5. Offensive line: The offensive line was whipped in Seattle, no ifs, ands, or buts. Both Tra Thomas and Eugene Monroe played at left tackle, and both reminded us of Khalif Barnes at times. The interior got no push what so ever, and it just wasn't pretty all around. I'm sure this had been going through their heads all week and look for the unit to rebound against St.Louis' defensive line.
6. Mental Mistakes: The Jaguars were called for nine penalties and committed several turnovers in Seattle. Those are the kind of mistakes that have to be avoided for a team that had, up until last week, been playing above their talent level.
What to Watch For: St.Louis Rams
1. Offensive Line: The Rams have two good, young offensive tackles in Alex Barron and Jason Smith. However, the rest of their line is suspect and could provide an opening for the Jaguars. An interesting match up will be the St.Louis interior against Terrance Knighton.
2. Marc Bulger: Bulger will most likely make his return to the starting lineup this week against the Jaguars. This will have a two fold effect for the team. First, it will give the Rams a legitimate passing game again, and secondly it will open up the defense for Steven Jackson. While Bulger and the Rams WR corp aren't the leagues best, he is still an upgrade over Kyle Boller.
3. Steven Jackson: Speaking of Jackson, he has been having another good year for the Rams. He has accounted for over 543 total yards, however, he doesn't have any touchdowns to his credit yet this season. Expect Jackson to be the focal point of the Rams offense as usual, and shutting him down will be the key.
4. Energy Level: The Rams are a 10 point underdog to a team that just lost 41-0. Something has to be stirring in them right now and if that can be channeled in the right way, it could be a key to the Rams getting their first win.
Player On The Hot Seat
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville
Jones-Drew called out the team in the media this week and is going up against a bad run defense. He needs to have a big game after being very quiet the last few weeks or else his comments will seem foolish, or at least even more foolish.