Fresh off an ugly loss to Houston last week, the Jacksonville Jaguars will be looking to right the ship this afternoon against Atlanta at Wembley Stadium in London. The team hasn’t had much luck at Wembley over the years, as they’ve amassed just a 2-5 record at the venue since 2013. With the way they’ve been playing of late, the team could really use a shift in fortune.
Here are three X-factors that could help the Jaguars get back in the win column today.
Third Down Offense
The Falcons quietly have one of the best passing defenses in the entire NFL in 2023, led by the likes of A.J. Terrell and Jessie Bates. Through three games, Atlanta ranks fourth in both yards allowed through the air per game (170.0), as well as opponent completion percentage (58.33%). Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars’ passing attack will need to be much sharper than they’ve been up to this point if they’re going to get back in the win column in London, particularly on third down.
On late downs (3rd and 4th) the Jaguars are:— John Shipley (@_John_Shipley) September 26, 2023
- No. 31 in EPA/Play
- No. 28 in success rate
- No. 30 in dropback EPA/Play
- No. 28 in dropback success rate
- No. 30 in rush EPA/Play
- No. 27 in rush success rate
The difference in their early and late down offense is striking. pic.twitter.com/e35scK3AbS
The Jacksonville offense has yet to find its rhythm in 2023 and a big reason for that is because they haven’t been unable to convert on third down. They currently rank 29th in the NFL in that category, converting an abysmal 29.73% on the year. The worst part is that their struggles are largely self-inflicted, with a number of conversion failures coming off of drops from the wide receivers, as well as several drive-killing penalties from the O-line.
That said, it’s hard to imagine these types of issues will continue for a Jaguars offense that many expected to be one of the best in the league this season. If Jacksonville can convert a couple of early ones against Atlanta, it could go a long way to fixing the teams’ third down yips. If not, it could spell another long day across the pond.
Jacksonville linebacker Devin Lloyd has been announced out for the next couple of weeks and will not make the trip to London due to a thumb injury he sustained last week against the Texans. That makes fellow 2022 draft alum Chad Muma the next man up for Jacksonville, as he is set to make his first start of the season on Sunday.
Devin Lloyd fractured his thumb and had surgery today. He will not make the trip to London.— Jamal St. Cyr (@JStCyrTV) September 27, 2023
Chad Muma will be starting at linebacker. Muma says he feels much more comfortable this season than last year.
"I feel like there's so much growth." pic.twitter.com/ts8esFSs8K
The Wyoming product will have a lot asked of him against this Falcons offense, as he will be responsible for helping in coverage on two of their biggest playmakers in Bijan Robinson and Kyle Pitts. These two have been the top targets for Atlanta quarterback Desmond Ridder this season, which means Muma could be in line for a busy afternoon at Wembley Stadium. Expect the Falcons to test the matchup early and often on Sunday, which is why Muma is set up to be a huge X-factor for the Jacksonville defense.
Calvin Ridley had a rough outing last week against Houston where he experienced some critical concentration drops in key moments that hurt the Jaguars' ability to find their flow offensively. That makes two weeks in a row where Ridley has struggled to make an impact, which is not exactly a recipe for success for Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville passing attack.
A get-right week is just what the star wide receiver, and this team, needs in Week 4; and who better to do it against than Ridley’s former squad?
It would be a great time for that to happen too, as the Jaguars’ depth behind Ridley at receiver is pretty banged up at the moment. With Zay Jones set to miss another week with a knee and Jamal Agnew battling a quad (they have both been ruled out), the team will look to lean heavily on feeding Ridley early and often. If he’s able to put his struggles behind him and play like the star fans know him to be, Calvin Ridley could be set up for a big-time performance. He could be just the spark this offense needs to get back to looking like the group we all expected to see in 2023.
Bonus: Pass Rush
Please. Do. Something.