The Jacksonville Jaguars have been all over the national news for the last few days for all of the wrong reasons.
Lost in all the Jalen Ramsey trade speculation is the fact that the Jaguars have a prime time divisional match up against their nemesis that is really going to make or break their 2019 season.
Here are the match ups I’ll be paying close attention to Thursday at The Bank:
QB Gardner Minshew II vs. S Kevin Byard
Last week, I highlighted Minshew vs. Texans safety Justin Reid. Reid didn’t get any interceptions, but he made the play of the game by stopping Leonard Fournette on the goal line for the game-winning two point conversion. If you look at Minshew’s NextGen passing chart from week two, he largely avoided testing the middle of the field, and John DeFilippo may choose to employ a similar strategy this week with the ball-hawking Kevin Byard roaming the secondary.
WR D.J. Chark vs CB Adoree Jackson
If Minshew largely avoids the middle of the field again, I expect some deep shots downfield on the boundaries off of play action. D.J. Chark has been an absolute revelation through two weeks this season, and hopefully he can carry his momentum on Thursday Night. I am eager to see the track meet between Chark and Adoree Jackson - possibly two of the fastest players in the NFL - on the perimeter throughout this game. While Chark has opened some eyes with his prowess as a receiver, it has been his vigor and enthusiasm as a run blocker that has shown that he may be developing into a complete NFL wide receiver.
OT Jawaan Taylor vs. OLB Cameron Wake
We have perhaps one of the biggest age gaps in the NFL going up against each other this weekend with the 37-year-old Cameron Wake squaring off against the 21-year-old Jawaan Taylor. Taylor has been up and down as a rookie in his first two NFL games, but the ceiling remains high for the former Gator. Taylor needs to keep taking positive steps in his development and put in overtime in the film room on a short week to try and counter the experience and technique of Wake in what will likely be plenty of one on one match ups with little help.
OG Andrew Norwell vs. DT Jurrell Casey
Norwell is going to have his hands full against Casey this week, and that should be enough to give Jaguars fans plenty of concern. Pair this with the possibility (likelihood?) of Norwell having to play with a rusty Cam Robinson to his left side, and this spell terrible news for the Jaguars. The benefit of Robinson perhaps returning to anchor down his left tackle spot is moving Will Richardson to right guard, and his bigger size profile and strength should pay dividends getting push in the run game over A.J. Cann. I expect Linder to help a lot in shifting protection to the left and putting a tight end next to Cam to help with whichever edge rusher they line up across from him.
DE Yannick Ngakoue/DE Josh Allen vs. OT Derrick Kelly
Ngakoue practiced full on Tuesday, and coupled with the fact that he made a strong push to play last week in Houston before the training staff shut him down for the Texans game, I would assume he goes. Ngakoue has some sacks to make up for in a contract year, but luckily for him, he gets to go up against temporary band-aid Dennis Kelly as he fills in for the suspended Taylor Lewan. I would heavily rotate Ngakoue with Josh Allen to mitigate risk of re-injury of his hamstring, and they very well might for some snaps, but I assume they mainly keep deploying Allen in different positions like they did last week against Houston.
LB Myles Jack vs. RB Derrick Henry
If you’re a Jaguars fan (or Leon Jacobs), you are probably still suffering from PTSD from the Derrick Henry 99-yard run. What’s worse is Henry looks like he’s only getting stronger in 2019, currently second in the NFL in yards after contact:
Here are the RBs that have rushed for the most yards after contact through Week 2 of the #NFL season:#Colts #Titans #RaiderNation #RavensFlock #KeepPounding #DallasCowboys #Skol #LARams #WeAreTexans #Browns @gregcosell | @MattBowen41 pic.twitter.com/gPw4Ch3l3Q— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) September 18, 2019
I don’t care if the Jags have to stuff the box on Sunday and leave themselves susceptible in the pass against Delanie Walker, Corey Davis and A.J. Brown - stopping Henry must be priority number one. Expect to see a heavy pairing of Abry Jones and a one-week-healthier Marcell Dareus at the tackle spots to help blow up gaps and allow Myles Jack to (try to) make tackles in volume. With ink dried on Jack’s fresh contract extension and the rest of the 2016 draft defensive “triplets” (Yannick Ngakoue and Jalen Ramsey) in disarray, it’s up to Jack to really take over and become the face of the defense. Maybe Quincy Williams, fresh off nine tackles in week two, will be the differentiator with one of his patented “Mr. Big Hit” wallops. Speaking of Quincy Williams...
LB Quincy Williams vs. TE Delanie Walker
Step for step, this is a match up I love for the Jaguars in the speed department. Walker is still an effective player for his age due to his nuanced route running and ability to reign in contested catches, but Quincy Williams should do a good job on him whenever he gets matched up in man coverage. If Todd Wash and the Jaguars do choose to go heavy-bracket on Walker with Ronnie Harrison, I hope everyone’s communication on their assignments is much better than it was in week one against Travis Kelce.
CB A.J. Bouye vs. WR Corey Davis/WR A.J. Brown
I have had Jalen Ramsey stapled as one of these matchups every week since I started doing these for Big Cat Country last year. Every one. It really hit me when I couldn’t include him in this week’s rendition. If Ramsey does get traded, A.J. Bouye gets to step out of Ramsey’s shadow for the remainder of the year and prove to the rest of the NFL that he can hack it as a CB1. That could start as soon as this week going up against Corey Davis or rookie A.J. Brown... if Ramsey doesn’t play.
Bold City Brigade vs. Thursday Night Football truck
Gates open at noon — make sure you show up earlier than usual to get a parking spot with limited availability due to the NFL Network truck setting up shop!
Which match ups are you most looking forward to watching on Thursday Night Football?