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Jaguars vs Broncos: Players to watch

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 2-5 Jacksonville Jaguars have lost four consecutive close games under new head coach Doug Pederson. Meanwhile, the 2-5 Denver Broncos have been early disappointments after trading for Russell Wilson and hiring former Jags OC Nathaniel Hackett as head coach. This Week 8 Wembley Stadium matchup ain’t pretty.

Nevertheless -- here are the players I’ll be paying the most attention on either side of the ball.

RB Travis Etienne Jr.

This is at least the third time I’ve written about Etienne, but so what?

He’s important now more than ever after Jacksonville shipped James Robinson to New York before the trade deadline. Only Saquon Barkley had a higher offensive snap rate than Etienne last week, as Robinson recorded a career-low zero touches on the day.

TJ, as he’s known by Jaguars players and coaches, ranks second in both yards per carry and Rush Yards over Expectation per attempt among qualifying backs this season.

He’ll need to continue to be a big contributor against the Broncos defense, which forced a career-low 42.4% completion percentage from Trevor Lawrence last year. Denver ranks third in pass defense DVOA this season but just 18th in run defense.

CB Tre Herndon

Fifth-year cornerback Tre Herndon is set to start his 31st career game after Shaquill Griffin was placed on injured reserve.

Herndon played admirably in his sole start of 2022, when he allowed just two catches for 28 yards and registered a pass breakup and five tackles (per PFF) in a 38-10 Week 3 win over the Chargers. Last week, though, Herndon played 66% of snaps in Griffin’s place and allowed a 32-yard touchdown on New York’s opening drive.

A mistake-free game from Herndon would go a long way against Denver’s Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy. If Herndon and the rest of Jacksonville’s secondary can hold up, the Jaguars pass rush could have a bounce-back game against Wilson, who’s tied for sixth in sacks taken and tied for third in Own Sacks Allowed (per PFF) this season.

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