The Jacksonville Jaguars continue to build on the momentum off of their huge week three prime time victory over division rivals Tennessee Titans, and if they want to finish the first quarter of the season with a .500 record, they’re going to have a tough task against the 0-3 Denver Broncos at 4:25pm EST.
Here are the matchups that I will be keying in on throughout the game:
QB Gardner Minshew II vs. S Justin Simmons
It’s a mandatory rule that these start with GFM2 (Gardner Flint Minshew II). Normally, the ballhawk to watch in the Broncos secondary would be former Texan Kareem Jackson, who has moved to safety in Denver. However, Jackson hasn’t practiced on Wednesday or Thursday with a hamstring, so I don’t feel great about Jackson suiting up for the Broncos on Sunday.
The Broncos defense have zero sacks and zero turnovers so far through three weeks, and Minshew has been one of the most careful QBs in the NFL this year with only one interception off the facemask of his running back, so hopefully Minshew continues to get the ball out of his hands quickly and tests the middle of the field more this week. Maybe this is the game Flip tries to utilize the tight end a little bit?
WR Dede Westbrook vs. CB Duke Dawson?
Just like Kareem Jackson is hurt at safety, another high-priced free agent in the secondary is banged up in nickel cornerback Bryce Callahan. Broncos head coach Vic Fangio brought Callahan over with him from Chicago and is a big part of their new defensive philosophy. From the sounds of it, Callahan will not only be out for this game, but for several weeks thereafter.
What does that mean? BET YOUR MORTGAGE ON DEDE WESTBROOK IN FANTASY.
The next slot cornerback on the depth chart is either Duke Dawson (who many Gators fans will be familiar with) or De’Vaunte Bausby. Look for Dede to have a big bounce back game after a few uncharacteristic bad drops last week.
OT Cam Robinson vs. LB Von Miller
This is the match up on offense that gives me the most pause. Miller (and Bradley Chubb) have zero sacks on the season, so he will be hungry for havoc this week against an offensive tackle that is still getting into football shape from his ACL rehabilitation. Cedric Ogbuehi will likely continue rotating in to give Robinson some snaps off, but that’s even scarier against an extra-motivated Miller! My hope is the Jaguars employ a heavy amount of draw plays in the running game to pull Miller in and Minshew continues to get the ball out of his hands quickly when dropping back. As the offensive line continues to gel and the extra few days of preparation from their “mini bye-week,” hopefully this pays dividends for Leonard Fournette.
OT Jawaan Taylor vs. LB Bradley Chubb
The rookie is playing well! Taylor is already probably a top twelve right tackle in the NFL right now due mainly to the deficiency of prowess at the position around the league, but through three games, I believe he has the ceiling to continue to develop into a top five player at the position. He’ll have another huge test on his powerful hands this week against Miller’s partner in crime, Bradley Chubb.
Chubb is a little banged up himself and landed on the Broncos’ injury report with a knee this week, but he is expected to play and produce. Hopefully, the Broncos defense continues their goose egg for sacks and turnovers into week five and Taylor is a huge factor as to why.
DE Yannick Ngakoue/DE Josh Allen vs. OT Garett Bolles
I’m not exaggerating when I say this — Bolles has been perhaps the worst offensive tackle in football this year. Not only has he struggled with actually doing his job, but he is holding so much that John Elway actually publicly questioned that he’s not sure if Bolles knows what constitutes holding or not. Yikes! I expect this to be the week where Yannick Ngakoue, no longer listed on the injury report with a hamstring, erupts onto the stat sheet and Josh Allen continues his defensive rookie of the year campaign when filling in.
Speaking of offensive tackles...
DE Calais Campbell vs. OT Elijah Wilkinson
Seriously? Can Sacksonville get to ten sacks this week? Colorado man Calais is coming home to Denver this week and I’m sure he will be extra turnt for this match up. The Broncos spent big money in free agency on right tackle Ja’Wuan James, who has been a DNP all week after a nasty knee injury last week that looked initially like it might end his season. Are you seeing a trend with the Broncos re: injuries? This is a premier match up for the Jaguars to pressure Joe Flacco, who has been holding onto the ball a little too long so far for Denver.
LB Myles Jack vs. RB Phillip Lindsay
This is the match up that scares me the most for Jacksonville on defense, to be honest. Yes, even more so than Tre Herndon vs. Courtland Sutton. Jack is coming off a concussion, but the extra few days of being in the protocol from the Thursday Night game should help him immensely.
Nevertheless, Lindsay is one of the most elusive and slippery runners in the NFL, and Jack hasn’t exactly been automatic when tackling in space this season. Hopefully, “Mr. Big Hit” Quincy Williams can help clean up some shots in the open field and garner another high-volume tackle game. With Royce Freeman limited all week with a shoulder injury, I’d expect Lindsay to harbor the load this week.
CB A.J. Bouye vs. WR Emmanuel Sanders
I guess this is our new CB1 now? Well, go on, let’s see it then.
Bouye has always been the Robin to Jalen’s Bat Man. I know they are close personal friends, but being the overlooked competitor and junkyard dog that he is as an undrafted free agent - make no mistake about it. He wants to prove he can be the guy in the spotlight, and I’m looking forward to seeing him earn that healthy contract in that role after perhaps his best game since 2017 last week against Tennessee. Bouye’s body type is actually a solid match up for the twitchy route-runner Emmanuel Sanders, and I feel strangely comfortable about the match up, especially with Sanders limited in practice with a quad injury all week, perhaps mitigating the explosiveness of his releases in his routes where he normally wins.
With all the injuries trending in the Jaguars favor this week (I didn’t even mention the injuries to DE Derek Wolfe and LB Josey Jewell), everything is looking like it should go our way from both an availability and strategy perspective.
So please, let’s not #BecauseJaguars this up and come home with a win this week!
Duval vs. All Y’all
With this being the first official away supporter’s trips organized by our fantastic supporter’s groups out here in Duval, make sure we are LOUD and PROUD before doing it all over again in Charlotte next week. I want to hear those DUUUUVAL chants on the broadcast Sunday, folks! Good luck, be safe, and have fun!