It’s another battle of the cats in the urban jungle of Cincinnati this week as the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4) take on the Cincinnati Bengals (0-6) in an effort to keep their 2019 season on life support.
Needless to say, the Jaguars can’t afford to drop this game to keep their postseason hopes alive. If they’re going to come out on the other side with a win, here are some of the matchups they will need to dominate:
QB Gardner Minshew II vs. CB Torry McTyer/CB Tony McRae
For the first time this season, Gardner Minshew looked human against the Saints, who kept him in a phone booth and forced Minshew to throw into tight windows with outstanding man coverage. If Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo were smart, he would try to emulate what Dennis Allen did last week with the blueprint established, but here’s the problem: the Bengals will likely be trotting out Torry McTyer and Tony McRae at cornerback this week with injuries to Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson III.
That’s... not Marshon Lattimore (or Eli Apple, for that matter).
I’m of the opinion that Minshew was victim to the effects of his knee and groin last week because quite frankly, he was feeling phantom pressure that simply hasn’t fazed him so far this year through the first five weeks. Hopefully another week of recovery and a chance for D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, and Chris Conley to go against journeymen corners is just what the doctor ordered.
Film study: ‘Minshew Madness’ finally stubs its toe in Jaguars’ loss to Saints@nickbaumgardner explains how the New Orleans pass defense made things tough on Gardner Minshew by mixing up coverages and taking away his quick reads: https://t.co/kXNKsGJyc5 pic.twitter.com/jimulW5rmg— The Athletic Jacksonville (@TheAthleticJAX) October 16, 2019
RB Leonard Fournette vs. LB Preston Brown
The Bengals are 32nd in the NFL in rush defense, allowing 184.5 rushing yards per game. The next team is the Miami Dolphins, allowing 169.6 rushing yards per game. That’s not even close!
Moreover, the Bengals are allowing an AVERAGE of 262 rushing yards per game at home this season.
With the Jaguars’ offensive line gelling more and more with each passing week, Fournette just may end up as the NFL rushing leader after this week with a strong 25 carry day. Hope you have Lenny in your fantasy lineups, folks. The Bengals are simply getting dominated against the run in their defensive tackle positions and their linebacker corps may be one of the slowest in the NFL with thumper Preston Brown and Nick Vigil manning the second level.
OG Andrew Norwell vs. DT Geno Atkins
This is the only match up that really concerns me when the Jaguars offense takes the field this weekend. Atkins only has one sack this year on the season, but don’t let the box score fool you. He’s still getting great penetration from the inside (72.5 pass rush grade from PFF) and it’s hard to get the stats when the team is awful and playing from behind every week.
Norwell has shown he struggles with twitchier defensive linemen who can convert speed to power, and I would personally feel more comfortable with A.J. Cann on the left side with Will Richardson starting at right guard this week. With Carlos Dunlap and Carl Lawson declared out for this game, the Jaguars need to just double up on Atkins and flourish.
TE Josh Oliver vs. LB Germaine Pratt
Will we finally see the debut of Josh Oliver? It certainly sounds that way, and Oliver may not have a choice with both Geoff Swaim and James O’Shaughnessy sidelined.
I urge Jaguars fans to pump the breaks on Oliver, however. He hasn’t played football since training camp and is way behind with no preseason reps (look how it slowed down Quincy Williams). Nevertheless, Oliver’s physical profile and athletic ability gives the Jaguars something they simply don’t have in the tight end room right now, and if the Jaguars can get off to an early lead in this game, I would love to see Flip try to get the ball in Oliver’s hands to get his feet wet.
The Bengals have been playing rookie Germaine Pratt at weak side linebacker, and the former college safety is their best athlete in the LB corps, so this would be a fun match up if it gets ignited.
DE Calais Campbell vs. OT Bobby Hart
I was so confused when the Bengals chose to give Bobby Hart a sizable contract, and after watching him play through six weeks, I am even more confused. Hart is one of the worst rated tackles in the NFL with 3.0 sacks allowed and five penalties this year, so if there was a time for “Sacksonville” to get revved back up again, it should be this week against a bad offensive line with (hopefully) a big early lead.
If Campbell (and/or Dawuane Smoot/Josh Allen in rotation) can’t get two sacks on Andy Dalton from that left end spot this week, it will be a disappointment.
The other side of the line will be just as delicious, as journeyman John Jerry will be starting at left tackle with both Cordy Glenn suspended for one game and Andre Smith out with injury. If they don’t get 10 sacks this week, launch them to the moon.
kinda random but the bottom 6 PBWRs so far this week features two pairs of teammates that were previously teammates with a different team.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) October 14, 2019
(excludes cowboys/jets which hasn't come in yet)
(espn stats, ngs data) pic.twitter.com/9L6q5uqhep
LB Myles Jack/LB Najee Goode vs. RB Joe Mixon
As inefficient as the Bengals run defense has been this year, their rush offense has been equally ineffective, ranked dead last with 56.5 yards per game on the ground.
The Jaguars seemed to get things rectified last week with their run fits against the Saints, and the veteran presence of Najee Goode next to Myles Jack seems to have helped the team captain immensely. If the Jaguars get off to a quick lead in this game, I don’t see the narrative changing much this week for the Bengals, who will be forced to throw the ball often from behind.
CB D.J. Hayden vs. WR Tyler Boyd
If you look at 2019 in a vacuum, Hayden has been the best cornerback on the roster, even with Ramsey on the field. Hayden has been a revelation at his position and may be a top five nickel cornerback in the NFL right now, which will come in handy this week against one of the most productive slot receivers in Tyler Boyd. Additionally, Hayden has been toughing it out through injuries and I appreciate him pushing through the pain and making himself available for his team. While Auden Tate’s size, length and physicality gives me some pause against A.J. Bouye, I have very little concerns with Hayden locking down the slot.
S Ronnie Harrison vs. QB Andy Dalton
Harrison has the team’s only interception this year. Can he double it this week against a struggling Andy Dalton? Dalton hasn’t been very good this year, but statistically, he has the lowest interception percentage since 2016, so he’s at least somewhat taking care of the football in the passing game.
I keep harping on this every week in these match up articles and nothing changes — this defense simply doesn’t produce splash plays or turnovers. There are much less talented defenses in the NFL who are taking the ball away consistently every week, and this is a topic that seems to be aggravating Doug Marrone as well. In my opinion, it’s not going to change until the team makes a change at defensive coordinator.
So what do you think? Which matchups are you most concerned about? Which ones do you think favor the Jaguars? Let us know in the comments below!