This week's quote: "The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer" -John Madden
I felt that an appropriate quotation to remember as we prepare to face-off against last year's Super Bowl loser, the Arizona Cardinals. It is a battle between the two to avoid going winless the first two weeks of the season, and if the Jaguars are going to have any hope of generating excitement for ticket sales (what a sad state of affairs we've reached...-sigh-), they've got to win.
Unfortunately, things don't look promising when you compare the two teams, and I have a feeling we are going to get thrown down the proverbial sewer come Sunday.
The Jaguars' Offense:
The Jaguars struggled last week offensively, to say the least. David Garrard missed open men, the line was out of order, and the WR position still didn't produce. To top it all off, MJD was our leading WR and rusher. Not much good to say, except that now the rookie tackles have a game under their belt, and will hopefully play better.
Thankfully, it is early in the season, and now is the time we can ride MJD's legs into the dirt. He's our premier player; he's more important than even David Garrard is to the offense, now that McCown is in the picture as a back-up. Who would be Maurice's replacement should he go down? Nobody. Nobody can fill that void. The team has got to find a healthy balance of getting Drew roughly 20-30 touches a game and still shielding him from too much contact. No more kick-off returns, and less Wildcat offense please, it isn't fooling anyone.
Against a strong Arizona Cardinal defense, the Jaguars will have to play disiplined football, eliminating any unnecessary penalties. The receivers will be facing much stiffer competition in the secondary than they saw against the banged-up Colts' unit. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Bryant McFadden both man the corners, with Adrian Wilson at the SS position. You want to see a star SS, look no further than Adrian Wilson. This will be a big test, and we need the savvy-veteran, Holt, to show up in a large way, like 6-10 catches. He was signed to be our number one or two receiver, and he's got to get the ball more. Expect to see some plays designed to just get the ball into the receiver's hands, such as a bubble screen (ball thrown immediately to a WR on the side), enabling someone like Mike Thomas to get the ball in space and try to get some yardage. Anything to involve the WR position is fine with me.
If the Cardinals are able to get pressure with their front and blitzing schemes, the way Indy was able to, than the Jaguars will undoubtedly lose. The Cardinals' secondary is better, and Garrard will throw a pick if pressured too often. The Cardinals run a 3-4 defensive front, and D. Dockett and C. Campbell can be impact players on the defensive line, especially Dockett. The Cardinals' defense played extremely well against San Francisco, and don't be surprised when you see a tough hard nosed defense on Sunday, this is a very good unit.
The key to winning will be found in the trenches. The ball has to be run, and the ball has to be run hard. The Jaguars will likely see the Cardinals try to stop the run with only seven men in the box, if they're able to do so, it's going to be a long day. In the Cardinals' 3-4 defense, Karlos Dansby is the star linebacker, and the offensive-line has got to be able to get their blocks on the LB's without getting tied up by true 3-4 defensive linemen. This is going to be another test for our rookie tackles, and likely of a completely different nature. Last week they went against a premier 4-3 defensive line, this week they'll face a premier 3-4 defensive line, and different pressure schemes as well. Regardless, we need to see improvement, especially from Eugene Monroe.
The Jaguars' Defense:
The defensive unit held up well last week, and gave our offense a chance to win the game in the waning moments. That is far more than we expected from them, and our two rookies played lights-out. Knighton finished with over 50 snaps, and held up incredibly well (props to the new strength and conditioning coach, Luke Richesson). The young man is the only true potential nose-tackle on the team, and already looks to be one of the draft's steals. He is going to be a major cog in the development of the Jaguars' defense for years to come, and is key to sustaining the 3-4. Derek Cox also played well, and came up with two turnovers, showing the kind of athleticism Gene drafted him so highly for.
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Luckily for Cox and the rest of our secondary, the Cardinals WR unit is as banged up as the Colts DB's were. A. Boldin and S. Breaston (each 1,000 yard receivers last season), are both hurt, although Boldin will definitely play despite his hammy, and Breaston is day-to-day. Larry Fitzgerald is the freak of the NFL, and R. Mathis will likely see more than he would like to of the super-star this Sunday. It will be interesting to see if the Jaguars experimented with moving Cox to LCB if Fitzgerald is shifted around, allowing Mathis to follow the incredible talent the entire game.
Expect to see the Jaguars focus on stopping the run with just seven in the box, enabling them to commit the extra safety to pass coverage. If we have to leave R. Nelson on an island playing center-field, we'll give up at least one long touchdown, and likely more.
Derrick Harvey is again a key player this game. He's got to show up, and he'll face stiffer competition, (although not by much), in the 5th overall pick of 2007, Levi Brown. Brown has struggled in pass protection in the past, and continued that trend to open the season against the 49ers. Harvey has got to start to show some progression, and now that Reggie Heyward is out, the future has to be now. I am not sure that Harvey can play DE in a 3-4 scheme, because he just isn't fearless against the run, and he's got to be stronger in that area, unquestionably. The Jags defense has always stopped the run first, and Harvey has to improve there. This week, he needs to put Warner on his back, the old man doesn't fare well under pressure, and threw two interceptions last week under duress.
Interesting Caveat: The Cardinals were 0-5 last year when playing in the Eastern Time Zone at 1:00 pm. They play the Jaguars at 1:00 pm, Eastern Standard Time...