The Jacksonville Jaguars try to get to .500 on the year this Sunday against a wounded New York Jets who got trounced by a division rival on prime time television.
A lot has been made about Sam Darnold saying that he was “seeing ghosts” while mic’ed up on Monday Night Football, but are we absolutely sure that he wasn’t paying homage to his head coach?
Adam Gase has his eyes on the prize. Literally.— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) January 14, 2019
This is some press conference. pic.twitter.com/vZxBs0gWeG
Anyway, here are the key matchups I’ll be dialed into this week:
QB Gardner Minshew II vs. S Jamal Adams
Gardner Minshew only has two interceptions so far on the year, but if you’ve been paying attention, he could easily have six with two drops by the Carolina Panthers and two drops by B.W. Webb last week against the Bengals, both of which could easily have been pick sixes. The luck is bound to run out on the interception front for Minshew, and if it does this week, it could be thanks to Jamal Adams. Adams is one of the best safeties in the NFL and people forget how close he came to being a Jaguar should Leonard Fournette have not been available in the 2017 draft.
With that being said, it’s going to be very difficult for Adams to get his hands on the football as he will likely be asked to cram the box this week with C.J. Mosley out to injury and Leonard Fournette currently second in the NFL in rushing yards and leading in yards after contact. Speaking of Fournette...
RB Leonard Fournette vs. LB Blake Cashman
With C.J. Mosley out on Sunday with a groin injury and Albert McClellan a DNP all week in concussion protocol, it looks like the Jets will be down to #RowTheBoat rookie Blake Cashman and (I guess?) Neville Hewitt, who was limited all week with neck/knee issues.
To me, Mosley’s absence isn’t a huge difference because he hasn’t played for the Jets since week one and he looked severely hampered by the groin trying to give it a go against the Patriots anyway. Even without Mosley all year, the Jets still boast the 11th best rush defense in the NFL, and most of that is powered by the meat up front between Steve McLendon, Leonard Williams, and now a healthy Quinnen Williams manning the front line. Make no mistake about it, though — if Fournette gets a slight crease and can make it into the second level, I like his chances a lot against Cashman and whoever starts next to him on Sunday.
WR D.J. Chark vs. CB Darryl Roberts
Eat, young man. The Jets may have the most deplorable starting CB corps in the NFL right now, which is good news for a passing offense who will likely have to do their job through the air this week. Darryl Roberts has been a consistent starter at one cornerback spot, and the Jets have been going back and forth between Nate Hairston and free agent bust Trumaine Johnson on the opposite side. I expect Chark to go over 100 this week and hopefully this is the game that they can start getting All-Pro WR Chris Conley more involved before Foles inevitably gets re-installed as the starter in a few weeks and starts targeting him on every play.
OG Andrew Norwell vs. Future Jaguars DT Leonard Williams
Williams is #madoffline about Doug Marrone and the Jaguars running up the score on them last year, so it’s going to be really awkward when Williams becomes a Jaguar here in the future. I’m kidding, but seriously Jaguars - go get the guy you should’ve taken over Dante Fowler. Despite getting destroyed by New England on Monday Night Football, Williams was playing with his hair on fire well into the fourth quarter, and with the recent injury to Marcell Dareus, I would be open to acquiring Williams before the deadline and giving him an extension in the realm of what Grady Jarrett got with Atlanta. The key obstacles here — compensation. I’d be fine with offering a third round pick and Marqise Lee to the Jets with a pre-worked deal and message. (Side note: how would it be received if Williams got a deal before Yannick?)
Either way, I’m going to be paying extra close attention to Williams go up against Andrew Norwell, and I hope the front office is, too.
DE Yannick Ngakoue vs. OT Chuma Edoga
Ngakoue is waking up with each week he gets further removed from his hamstring issues, and it seems like a seal is broken after his game-clinching pick six last week. In a contract year in a league that pays on stats, Ngakoue needs to make up for some lost production through the first half of the season to bolster his market value, and rookie left tackle Chuma Edoga (Kelvin Beachum is unlikely to play with an ankle injury) is exactly what the doctor ordered.
DT Taven Bryan vs. OG Alex Lewis
Just like Beachum out, the Jets will be without highly paid left guard Kelechi Osemele, who recently underwent shoulder surgery against the team’s wishes. His replacement is no slouch, though, as Lewis has solid starting experience with the Baltimore Ravens. However, when you consider Lewis is a rotational player starting next to a rookie, the weakness on the left side of the Jets offensive line becomes compounded. I would attack Sam Darnold’s blind side with a heavy dose of stunts and maybe some nickel blitzes by D.J. Hayden to get Darnold unsettled early and force him to spiral into some more bad decisions and lollipop back foot throws.
With Marcell Dareus on injured reserve, this is Taven Bryan’s opportunity to prove to people that he was worthy of his first round selection and hopefully he can get some interior disruption.
LB Myles Jack vs. RB Le’Veon Bell
Le’Veon Bell has been perhaps the lone bright spot on the Jets offense this year, and while he may not have the same type of production that he had at Pittsburgh, he’s still a very dangerous weapon that needs to be prioritized in game planning this week. With the weak side linebacker spot up in the air for this week with injuries to Quincy Williams and Najee Goode, it’s really going to be up to Myles Jack to make sure Bell doesn’t get loose for a big gain in the run or burn them in the passing game.
S Ronnie Harrison vs. QB Sam Darnold
I’m very curious to see how much zone vs. how much man the Jaguars defense chooses to implement this week. Last week, a couple of the Jaguars’ turnovers were the result of extremely well-executed zone coverages against Andy Dalton, and with Sam Darnold’s recent careless disregard for taking care of the football, this could be another one of those games like last week where the turnovers come in bunches.
Harrison has been touted by Doug Marrone this week as an ascending playmaker who could become of the premier safeties in the league, and hopefully that momentum can continue this week after building on a couple of solid outings. Add in the fact that Sam Darnold had to get his toenail removed this week (ouch!) and this game is either going to be a massacre for the defense or they are going to get stunned by looking ahead to Houston in London next week and lay an egg.