Jacksonville Jaguars fans will be filling TIAA Bank Field this Sunday at 1:00pm EST to see 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and the electric Kansas City Chiefs offense take on a Sacksonville defense that has the potential to be special.
Before I hone in on some of the individual battles within the war — could there be a more delicious match up for football fans than these two teams squaring off?
The storylines are rife with Nick Foles and Chris Conley taking on their former employer and two new coordinators who will be engaging in a chess match wrapped in a jack-in-the-box between Jaguars’ John DeFilippo and Chiefs’ Steve Spagnuolo. On the other side of the football, the Jaguars have their incendiary wunderkind Quincy Williams making his debut against none other than Travis Kelce in coverage and Josh Allen allowing Todd Wash to show off more of what looks to be a more hybrid defense in 2019.
Here are some matchups I’ll be paying attention to on Sunday:
CB Jalen Ramsey vs. WR Tyreek Hill
Defensive coordinator Todd Wash made somewhat of a stir earlier this week by disclosing that Jalen Ramsey will be following Tyreek Hill around the field this Sunday. Ramsey is one of the rare athletes in the NFL at his position who possesses the speed and physicality off the line to keep up with Hill deep and also mitigate his release on the line of scrimmage.
Ramsey has followed around receivers in the past, but lines up mostly as the left cornerback in Todd Wash’s defense similar to Richard Sherman in Seattle. Limiting Hill’s production will be of paramount importance for the Jaguars if they’re going to pull off an upset win at home on Sunday.
SS Ronnie Harrison/LB Quincy Williams vs. TE Travis Kelce
The Jaguars have long been lambasted by fans for the team’s inability to identify a playmaker to adequately cover athletic tight ends in coverage. Well,,, now they have two athletes who could do the job, and it’s fairly possible that both youngsters Ronnie Harrison and Quincy Williams could share this responsibility with heavy zone concepts. While this makes the most sense strategically, this approach will also require loads of good communication to make sure everyone is on their assignments.
With Williams yet to play a snap in the NFL, this would be the game plan if my name was Andy Reid. I hope “Mr. Big Hit” has been taking his mental reps while rehabbing from his meniscus procedure.
LB Myles Jack vs. RB Damien Williams/RB Darwin Thompson/RB LeSean McCoy
Myles Jack just secured the bag and the middle linebacker position in Duval has been cemented for the foreseeable future. With great bank roll comes great responsibility, however, and now Myles will be under the microscope to make sure that he not only makes surefire tackles in the open field (he looked a little rusty in the very limited action he saw in preseason, but no big deal) but also gets everyone aligned pre-snap and controls his run fits. If there is a guy who can shake a linebacker out of his shoes in a phone booth, it’s LeSean McCoy and Darwin Thompson, and Damien Williams is a player who takes the yards presented to him. It’s no Kareem, no problem in Kansas.
DE Calais Campbell/DE Josh Allen vs. RT Mitchell Schwartz
Josh Allen looked like a cheat code against the Dolphins in Week 3 of the preseason, but 2018 First-Team All-Pro right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is a huge upgrade over the likes of Jesse Davis and Jaryd Jones-Smith.
As a result, I would expect a heavy dose of Allen on the edge and moving Calais Campbell inside to three-technique a ton on passing downs to take advantage of a weaker Chiefs interior offensive line most likely including Cam Erving, Austin Reiter, and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. If Allen can continue to get production and affect the run of play against Schwartz, then we got a stew cooking for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
On the flip side, Yannick Ngakoue will have his hands full against former No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher, so that interior penetration will be critical to not let Mahomes set his feet and dissect the field.
WR Dede Westbrook vs. CB Kendall Fuller
Westbrook is unquestionably the most talented receiver on the Jaguars’ roster and early indications are that he will be a favorite force-fed target for new QB Nick Foles. Unfortunately for the Jaguars this week, Westbrook will be squaring off against one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL in Kendall Fuller. If Westbrook can’t get the separation that the Jaguars and John DeFilippo are hoping for, the Jaguars will have to rely heavily on the running game behind Leonard Fournette and try to take some deep shots off play action to Chris Conley, who should easily win his matchups over who looks to be Charvarius Ward while Morris Claiborne is suspended.
LG Andrew Norwell/C Brandon Linder vs. DT Chris Jones
The lack of playing time for the full starting offensive line unit will be a huge topic as we ramp up towards Week 1, and the Chiefs aren’t exactly the easiest defensive line to go up against. Chris Jones is in the final year of his deal and will be extra motivated to put up production in a contract year. One of the most purely athletic three-techniques in the NFL, Jones likely lining up across from, in my opinion, one of the least athletic guards in the NFL in Andrew Norwell, will not be an ideal situation for Jacksonville.
As a result, I expect the Jaguars to help slide protections over to Jones’ side in their pass drops and have Linder help out his teammate on the left against Jones, leaving either A.J. Cann or Will Richardson with plenty of one on one matchups with Derrick Nnadi.
LT Cam Robinson vs. DE Frank Clark
Six snaps. That’s a lot of rust to knock off for Cam Robinson, and he’ll be drinking from a firehose going up against one of the elite defensive ends in the NFL in newly-acquired Frank Clark. Clark and Alex Okafor can also do plenty of flipping to try and take advantage of rookie Jawaan Taylor’s inexperience on the right side of the offensive line, but I would imagine they go straight at Robinson early and often, potentially also overwhelming the left side of the offensive line with plenty of blitzes.
Robinson may not be totally there physically as he gets his feet back underneath him from his ACL reconstruction, so he will need to atone for some of his physical deficiencies on Sunday with his mean streak and attitude.
RB Leonard Fournette vs. LB Darron Lee/LB Anthony Hitchens
Fresh Fournette needs to be in the great shape that he’s being advertised of being in because he’s going to be getting an enormous workload in Week 1. The Chiefs can be susceptible between the A and B gaps on inside runs and the linebacking unit of Darron Lee (or Reggie Ragland) and Anthony Hitchens is fairly below average.
More importantly, if Fournette can get into the third level and see some open field, the Chiefs likely starting safety duo of Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill, while exceptional in coverage, lack the length and brute physicality to take down a power back like Fournette once he gets a full head of steam at his 22+ mph pace. If the Chiefs blitz to stop the run early, DeFilippo will need to get creative with screens and swings to get the ball into Fournette’s hands in the open field. But no matter what, having a capable quarterback behind center in Nick Foles really throws a wrench in the Chiefs’ defensive play calling as they now have to be very aware of a quarterback who can take advantage of loaded boxes with deep shots on play action.
What matchups are you most looking forward to in the Week 1 season opener between the Jaguars and Chiefs? Let us know in the comments below!