The Jacksonville Jaguars will be visiting the New York Jets on Sunday and THREE AND ONE is on the line. To get us ready for the game we sat down with Michael Nania over at Gang Green Nation.
1. Is Josh McCown good? I'll admit that I haven't watched a single snap of the Jets this year, but everyone is telling me that McCown is actually not bad.
I'll say this about McCown. He's done a good job limiting the mistakes so far, and has run a mostly conservative offense at a decently efficient level. I don't think he's been "good" though, as the team is averaging only 17.3 points a game without going over 20 yet. He simply doesn't add enough to your offense to be considered a good player. Despite being a veteran, he takes some unnecessary sacks and often locks on to his early reads. He also doesn't really have the arm talent or consistent accuracy to throw guys open. He was efficient last week and certainly played a solid game, but his receivers bailed him out with a few great catches and some crisp route running.
So, I'd say McCown is playing about as well as he can right now. He's avoided the back-breaking mistakes and has a completion percentage and interception rate both currently much better than his career averages. However, the fact that the team still hasn't done very well offensively shows you his limitations.
2. How's the Jets offensive line? The defensive line has been successful against some mediocre offensive lines. Are the Jets better than mediocre?
The Jets’ offensive line has been hit or miss. Second year right tackle Brandon Shell had a really promising start to the season, holding up well against Buffalo's strong front and then helping to neutralize Khalil Mack. Then, he was completely owned by Cameron Wake and the Dolphins. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum is inconsistent at best and probably a below-average starter at this point. Between the tackles, left guard James Carpenter is the team's most consistent offensive player, but also had a rough game against Miami.
This is not a tissue paper soft offensive line that is getting wrecked week by week. They're just struggling to consistently make a difference in the run or pass game. The run blocking is strong at times and nonexistent at others. The pass blocking can look crisp, but the Jets do get the ball out pretty quickly. It's a mixed bag, but probably trending towards the bottom more so than the top.
3. If you were an opposing offensive and defensive coordinator, how would you attack the Jets?
Offensively, I'd want to get my running backs and tight ends as involved in the passing game as possible. Inside linebackers Darron Lee and Demario Davis have both had very rough years. Before the Miami game, I'd tell you they were the league's worst pair of inside linebackers. Davis responded with a dominant game in Week 3, but that was likely a blip on the radar. These guys are athletic, but are historically awful in coverage, easily fooled by play action, and are often caught filling the wrong gaps. Getting my running back or tight end one on one with one of these guys would light my eyes up.
I'd also focus my run game inside. The Jets have a talented defensive line, but because of the ILB struggles I mentioned, daylight has been bright up the middle for opponents prior to the Week 3 awakening of Davis. Test the inside run game early to see what version of the Jets linebackers are out there.
Defensively, I'd try to stick with what works best for my team and trust my guys to win their one on one matchups. Across the field, the Jets lack matchup problems on offense. If you have a strong pass rush like the Jaguars do, I wouldn't bother blitzing too much against an offense that gets the ball out quick and short anyway. Keep everything short of the first down marker, since the Jets rarely work beyond it.
In terms of individuals I'd want to take away, Robby Anderson is a legit deep threat that needs to be accounted for. He possesses superior speed and downfield ability, but hasn't yet proved to be a playmaker with the ball or a short to intermediate threat. Keep him in front of you and make him work the inside of the field.
On the offensive line, attack the tackles with power. Brandon Shell and Kelvin Beachum are pretty athletic guys who can usually keep the speed and finesse rushes from hitting home, but are often overpowered head on. If starting right guard Brian Winters doesn't play, target reserve right guard Dakota Dozier.
There's not much to be scared of on this offense. They're not going to create much themselves, so don't give them extra opportunities by getting overzealous.
4. With Allen Robinson out for the season, is there a Jaguars player on the offensive side of the ball that you'd say, "If the Jets don't stop him, we're in trouble"?
I think that guy would be Leonard Fournette. As I mentioned, the Jets have struggled to stop the run when their inside linebackers have played undisciplined football. If their woes from the first two weeks return, Fournette is capable of running that ball down the Jets' throats with force all day.
5. What's gonna happen on Sunday? Will the Jaguars be able to get to 3-1? Will the Jets surprise everyone?
It all depends on what version of the Jets defense shows up. If you get the one from Weeks 1-2, the Jags should have no problem getting enough offense (specifically on the ground) to outpace a team that has yet to prove it can generate points at a high level. However, if they can build on last week's performance, I'd have a hard time imagining Blake Bortles handling this unit. When the linebackers are doing their job, the defensive line and edge defenders will flash, while the interchangeable playmaking safety duo of Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye gives the offense fits.
I have little doubt the Jags defense will hold the Jets to 20 points or less. The other side is the X-Factor to me. I can see anywhere from a complete shutdown of the Jacksonville offense to a highlight-filled field day.
As for my prediction, I'll roll with the team playing far better football right now. I think the Jags defense will finally cause Josh McCown to make those killer mistakes. Jaguars 17, Jets 9. Despite that, with these quarterbacks, this game is really a toss-up.