It is safe to say that the Jacksonville Jaguars’ secondary is the real deal. Jalen Ramsey has played like the best corner in the league so far. A.J. Bouye is not far behind, with already two interceptions on the year. Tashaun Gipson has been able to thrive in a more versatile role. Barry Church has been a calming veteran influence on the secondary. Even with Aaron Colvin's struggles, he has more been picked on because of the offense’s lack of enthusiasm to throw on the outside.
If we are being honest though, the secondary has only faced one above average offense this season. The Houston Texans, led by Tom Savage in the first half, were abysmal with him in the game. The Baltimore Ravens offense has looked putrid all season, and the while the New York Jets had success against the Jaguars, their passing game is still limited with Josh McCown and an anonymous receiving group.
In reality, the Tennessee Titans were the one offense that really put any fear in my heart, and the defense held them to six points in the first half of that game. They ended up giving 37 in the end, but that was due to the defense finally breaking down after the offense could not stay on the field, as well as excellent field position for the Titans.
Quite frankly, the defense has not seen an offense as potent as the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday. While the Steelers’ passing game hasn't had the success many would have hoped for to begin their season, it will still be one of the toughest groups it faces this season.
Ben Roethlisberger is showing his age a bit this season, but if there is anyone in the NFL you do not want to count out, it is him. Big Ben is a terror for defense, as he will hold onto the ball till the last second, is a nightmare to get down to the ground, and is never afraid to throw down field. Roethlisberger is still in the top echelon of quarterbacks in the NFL, and presents a unique challenge to all the teams he faces.
Antonio Brown in my book is the best receiver in the league. There is no one as complete as him in the league. Brown has blazing speed, is a fantastic route runner, and gets in and out of his breaks as quick as anyone I have ever seen. Brown will get his 100 catches this year and complete a fourth-straight 1,000-yard season. He is targeted just as much as any receiver in the league and the Steelers will line him up wherever the best matchup is.
Let me just say, the potential battle between Brown and Ramsey will be by far the number one thing to watch on Sunday. Suffice to say, neither of these guys lacks any confidence, and they will let everyone know how damn good they are. I'd pay a significant amount of money to have them both mic'd up, and here the trash talking that goes on snap to snap. Ramsey wants to prove he is the best corner in the league? Giving Brown trouble would be a significant mark on Ramsey's already impressive resume.
Ramsey won't be om Brown every play. To my recollection, I think Ramsey has shaded a receiver maybe once in his time here in Jacksonville. The Steelers will also line up Brown in the slot, in which Colvin will be forced to deal with him, which is a matchup I am sure the Steelers would prefer over Ramsey.
Martavis Bryant is someone who gets under looked in the group, and maybe that is because he was suspended for the whole year last year in the drug protocol program. Nevertheless, Bryant is someone who is just as dangerous as Brown in the big play category, and Roethlisberger looks for him deep at least a couple times a game. Bryant averages over 17 yards per catch for his career, and spaces the field simply with the threat of him going deep. It will be interesting to see if Bouye matches up on Bryant, because Bouye tends to struggle with speed a little bit. Taiwan Taylor burned him in Week 2, it will be interesting to see if Bryant is able to do the same.
Add in Darius Heyward-Bey, who despite all of his flaws, still is one of the fastest guys in the NFL. Juju Smith-Schuster is nothing to sneeze at either, as many regarded him as a potential first round pick going into last years draft.
Once you think the nightmare match-ups are over, somehow Le’Veon Bell is still there. Bell is one of, if of the best receiving backs in the NFL. Bell had 75 catches last year, which would have lead many teams in the NFL. With Bryant out last season, Bell worked as Roethlisberger's second target to Brown. Bell is a nifty security blanket in the passing game, and his lateral quickness, and ability to make people miss in the open field make Bell as dangerous as any receiver in the passing game.
This is a prolific offense, and the secondary for the Jaguars will have to play their tails off to keep them in the game. With the offense facing the second-best passing defense in the league, there cannot be an expectation for the offense to put up a ton of points. It will be up to how dominant the secondary can be to give the Jaguars a fighting chance.
Sure, the pass rush will play a huge factor as well because pass rush goes hand in hand with secondary play — no defensive back can cover someone forever.
However, if the matchups in the secondary this week do not get you excited, I am not sure what in football will. This is elite vs. elite. If the Jaguars want to be known as the best secondary in the league, Sunday will give themselves a chance to prove it to the whole league.