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Jaguars vs Chargers: Players to watch

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars are looking to start 2-1 for the first time in four seasons as they face the Los Angeles Chargers this week.

These are the players I’ll be paying most attention to on either side of the ball.

WR Zay Jones

The Chargers were one of the worst run-defending teams in the league last year due to personnel being unable to carry out scheme. That roster weakness was prioritized in the offseason.

Brandon Staley now fields an average run defense despite playing with a light box (six or fewer defenders near line of scrimmage) at the second-highest rate in the league this season, per Sports Info Solutions.

Staley wants to stop the run with as few bodies up front as possible so he can dedicate more defenders to stopping explosive pass plays.

As we saw against the Colts, James Robinson is undoubtedly the key to Jacksonville’s offense. RB1 logged 23 carries and scored twice in the blowout Week 2 win -- but he was also mostly held in check on first and second down (3.0 yards per carry on such rushes). Jacksonville needs another answer to move the chains when third-and-long situations arise.

Christian Kirk has been incredible to start the season, but his lack of involvement on late downs is noticeable. Trevor Lawrence has eight pass attempts on third or fourth down through two games this year, and none went in Kirk’s direction (per SIS).

Receivers not named Kirk had an up-and-down afternoon against Indianapolis. Trevor Lawrence threw two dropped interceptions, but one was because Marvin Jones was too slow to separate deep and the other was a miscommunication with Evan Engram. Then Jamal Agnew dropped this dime.

While Kirk has lived up to his contract, the same can’t yet be said of fellow free agent receiver acquisition Zay Jones. The former Buffalo and Las Vegas wideout has 88 total yards through two games. Jones also has zero receptions on throws traveling at least 15 yards downfield.

That’ll need to change for the Jaguars to pull out an upset victory against the Chargers this week. Hopefully Robinson will feast against Staley’s light boxes, but if that doesn’t come to fruition, I’ll be looking for Jones to step up as a late down and/or deep target for Lawrence.

OLB Josh Allen

The Good Josh Allen is officially back.

Jacksonville has completely rebuilt its starting front seven over the past two years, save for Allen. The former seventh-overall pick made it clear last week that he remains the alpha in the room.

Allen currently ranks eighth in Pro Football Focus’ defense grade among 99 qualifying edge players. PFF also charted Allen rushing the passer 24 times from the defense’s left side and seven from the right in Week 1; he rushed eight times from the left and 18 from the right in Week 2.

In other words, the Jaguars are putting its best player in the best place to succeed, as Washington has a better left tackle than right and the inverse is true of Indianapolis.

The Chargers feature Rashawn Slater as its blindside protector, who earned a second-team All-Pro selection as a rookie last year. But on the other side of the line, Los Angeles will either start a hobbled Trey Pipkins III or undrafted backup Storm Norton at right tackle.

Either way, it’s clear which side of the line is a clear advantage for Allen. It’ll be fun to see the heavyweight battle when he and Slater face off, but expect to see Allen causing havoc from the left side of the defensive line most of Sunday.