These are the players I’ll be paying most attention to on either side of the ball.
WR Christian Kirk
After resetting the wide receiver market this offseason, Kirk held up his side of the bargain in Week 1 with six catches for 117 yards. It was the first time a Jaguars receiver had over 100 yards in a single game since November 2020.
The former Aggies YAC machine was let loose from the slot last Sunday:
#Jaguars WR Christian Kirk played 51 out of 64 of his snaps in the slot. As expected, that's where he will primarily line up in Jacksonville. He played 12 snaps out wide.— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) September 13, 2022
Had a fantastic day, hauled in 6 passes for 117 yards (long of 49). pic.twitter.com/O1OrMuEJZ9
Christian Kirk had Washington's slot defenders in hell pic.twitter.com/BWGo9r3k1A— John Shipley (@_John_Shipley) September 13, 2022
The Colts hired former Jags HC Gus (ayo) Bradley to run their defense after former DC Matt Eberflus left to coach da Bears. Most of Jacksonville can probably remember Bradley’s Cover 3-heavy scheme that sends four rushers just about every snap. All 117 of Kirk’s receiving yards last week came against man coverage (per PFF) but he should see more looks versus zone in his first home game at the Bank.
Colts linebacker Dariu- I mean, Shaquille Leonard was ruled out for the game with a back injury, and slot corner Kenny Moore II has been getting exposed in coverage since last season. Look for Kirk to take advantage across the middle of the field, as well as up the seams vertically against the single-high safety looks that Bradley favors.
LB Devin Lloyd
These three things make me excited for rookie linebacker Devin Lloyd:
- Lloyd was a team captain and First-Team All Pac-12 selection in 2020 for the Utah Utes. He returned for his senior season to repeat those honors and add First-Team All-American, Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, and Pac-12 Championship MVP to his resume.
- Jacksonville recently hired Mike Caldwell to coordinate its defense. A former 11-year NFL linebacker himself, Caldwell played his rookie season in Cleveland under Bill Belichick and Nick Saban. He most recently coached inside linebackers for Todd Bowles in Tampa Bay, where Lavonte David and Devin White each earned recent All-Pro selections.
- The Jaguars traded up for Lloyd in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
The former Ute suffered an unfortunate hamstring injury this summer and missed valuable reps throughout training camp and the preseason. That led to a couple brutal missed tackles in Week 1, but it’s also worth noting that Lloyd drew the start, played 90% of snaps, led both teams in tackles, and did this on his sole blitz of the game.
Lloyd played better as the game progressed, and hopefully his rust is completely gone with a divisional matchup on deck. Indianapolis will be without starting receivers Michael Pittman (quad) and Alec Pierce (concussion), so running backs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines as well as tight ends Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson, and Jelani Woods could see more targets. Taylor, who has more rushing yards than any other player since he was drafted in 2020, will obviously need to be contained on the ground as well.
All this is to say the Jaguars have to defend the middle of the field well on Sunday with the Colts playing backup receivers on the perimeter. Jacksonville needs a good game out of Lloyd if they want to continue their home win streak against Indianapolis.