|Date:||September 12th, 2010
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||Broncos vs Jaguars coverage|
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After the long offseason, the NFL finally returns to the First Coast. Both the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars come into 2010 looking to put behind lackluster finishes to 2009. The Broncos went 2-8 in their final ten games, while the Jaguars dropped their final four games to drop them from playoff contention.
For Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio, this begins his make or break season. While not explicitly stated, it seems clear that nothing less than a playoff appearance will allow him to still be the Jaguars head coach in 2011. The same kind of pressure has been put on David Garrard. The rumblings of the Jaguars drafting his eventual replacement in April have been off the Richter Scale and he'll need a strong year as well to return as the Jags starting QB.Jaguars Offense vs Broncos Defense
While this is the first time offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will be free to run "his" offense in Jacksonville, I expect it only to be a slight departure from the traditional Jaguar formula. The Jaguars are still very much built to run the ball and then use that to open up the pass.
Maurice Jones-Drew will be more than ready to go vs the Broncos. One interesting point to watch will be how much MJD is utilized in this game. Last year MJD started the year like he was shot out of a cannon, and was on pace to smash several franchise records through 8 games. However, his pace quickly deteriorated. Will the Jaguars try to limit his touches early on to make sure he has fresh legs in November and December?
The main beneficiaries of Koetter's increased role in the offense should be the tight ends. Marcedes Lewis has been having the camp of his life and is seemingly ready to become one the AFC's Elite Tight Ends. In addition, if Zach Miller can stay off the injury report for long enough he should start to make a name for himself.
The Broncos run a 3-4 defense, but they aren't a very impressive unit. The loss of Elvis Dumervil for the year will be a major one for the unit. Dumervil made up the majority of the unit's pass rush potential. Coupled with the Broncos weak run defense, and it should allow the Jaguars to pound the ball with ease.
Where Denver does have talent is the secondary. Although Champ Bailey is no longer an elite cover corner, he is still one of the better guys in the league. However, the guy who doesn't get nearly as much credit is the opposite corner, Andre Goodman. Only Charles Woodson, Darrelle Revis, and Asante Samuel have more interceptions than Goodman over the last 2 years.
It's a real simple idea here for the Jaguars. They'll need to establish the run early to Denver's secondary honest. Even without easily their best pass rusher, Denver's secondary is more than talented enough to turn a mistake into an interception.
Jaguars Defense vs Broncos Offense
The two biggest question marks square off as the Jaguars defensive line goes up against the Broncos offensive line. In the most interesting one on one match up of the day, Jaguars RE Aaron Kampman will go against Broncos LT Ryan Clady. Both players are coming off knee injuries quicker than expected and are some of the top players at their positions when healthy. Considering Clady barely practiced since injuring his knee, I believe Kampman will have the advantage here.
Denver's offensive line as a whole can potentially be a huge liability here. The Broncos will be starting rookies at C and RT, while starting another player at LG who's never played a down in the regular season. If the front four can't get any kind of pass rush going against that, then this is going to be a long season.
Kyle Orton returns for another year as the Broncos QB. Gone is deep threat Brandon Marshall and in his place will be a WR by committee. Jaguar fans will remember how well that approach worked when Jimmy Smith ultimately retired.
For the first time in eons, the Broncos are no longer throwing a random guy off the street at RB and just getting 1,000 yards from them. Knowshon Moreno has the tools to become a top tier back in the NFL. However, he comes into the game still favoring a hamstring injury he suffered back in early August.
For the Jaguars, it will be time to see if the special teams magic that was seen in the preseason was the real deal. If Deji Karim can come back from his thumb injury, than it would tip the balance of field position distinctly in the Jaguar's favor.
Blah blah, Tebow Homecoming, Blah blah.
Player On The Hot Seat
Tyson Alualu, DT, Jacksonville
The surprise 10th pick in the draft will have to come out of the gates strong. If he struggles than the headlines will already start that he's a bust. Not to mention it'll give that much more venom to the Legion.
This game will be close for around two and a half quarters, but a steady dose of Maurice Jones-Drew and Florida humidity does Denver in.