With the team firmly back on home soil after a successful two week jaunt in London, the Jacksonville Jaguars ready themselves for the visit of the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday. With confidence high and performances improving, Doug Pederson and his staff will be keen to maintain the momentum they built on the other side of the Atlantic in what is a key divisional matchup. Here are three matchups to look out for:
Darious Williams vs Michael Pittman
Can’t get this Darious Williams INT out of my head. What a special effort. pic.twitter.com/hYMiQmksP0— Jordan de Lugo (@jordandelugo) October 11, 2023
Nobody enjoyed their trip to the United Kingdom more than Darious Williams. The Jaguars cornerback was a nightmare matchup in London, recording 7 tackles, 4 pass breakups, a forced fumble and two interceptions across the two games - returning one of those picks 61 yards for a touchdown. Whilst generally considered to be CB2 on this defense opposite Tyson Campbell, teams have not enjoyed throwing the ball his way in recent weeks. Perhaps playing his best ball since 2020 when he was with the Los Angeles Rams, Williams has not only locked down his half of the field - he’s also found his ballhawking skills once more.
If Colts receiver Alec Pierce locks horns with Campbell, Williams will likely be facing 4th year veteran Michael Pittman. Pittman proved to be a thorn in the side of the Jags’ defense in Week 1, helping rookie QB Anthony Richardson in his NFL debut by recording eight catches, 97 yards and a touchdown. Pittman might not necessarily be a vertical threat, but he has both size and short-area quickness - finding space is his forte, and he will be relied upon to help move the chains for an offense that looks set to be working with a backup quarterback.
Williams is undoubtedly benefitting from playing on a unit that is on fire right now. The secondary looks particularly mean, with Williams and Campbell joined by Rayshawn Jenkins, Andre Cisco and Tre Herndon - an opportunistic group that relishes preying on rushed passes from quarterbacks under more consistent pressure from the Jaguars’ front seven. With the Colts having a fairly diverse set of passing weapons, it poses an intriguing matchup on Sunday.
Josh Allen vs Bernhard Raimann
After sliding to 3rd round of 2022 NFL Draft, Colts OT Bernhard Raimann has only gotten better.— Luke Schultheis (@LuckAtLuke) October 6, 2023
Per @PFF, Raimann currently ranks as NFL's 9th best LT (+78.3 ovrl grade). His pass block efficiency of 98.5 is 4th highest among OTs.
Quite the catch for Colts GM Chris Ballard. pic.twitter.com/F6423IqRMH
As alluded to, the Jaguars’ pass rush seems to be sharpening it’s teeth right now - and nobody more so than Josh Allen, who leads the team in sacks so far this season. Allen has six quarterback takedowns in 2023, but his pocket pressure is much greater than that; he’s also recorded 17 tackles, five tackles for a loss, nine total QB hits and a forced fumble. Kept relatively quiet by the Buffalo Bills last weekend, Allen will be looking to get back to his menacing ways upon his return to EverBank Stadium this weekend.
After coming through the concussion protocol following two games on the sidelines, it looks like Allen will be going up against Bernhard Raimann on Sunday. This is a huge boost for the Colts’ whose offensive line has struggled to protect their quarterback through this season so far. Anthony Richardson might be elusive, but his escapability has its limits - and the rookie QB will be out of this game with a grade 3 AC-joint sprain suffered against the Titans last weekend. Richardson already saw himself leave the game against the Jaguars in Week 1 after hurting his knee, and missed the Week 3 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens due to a concussion.
The Colts’ inability to keep their QB clean means that they will be starting Gardner Minshew against his former team on Sunday. Minshew has some elusiveness of his own, but Raimann’s ability to keep Josh Allen in check will be huge if Indy expects to be able to move the ball consistently.
Travis Etienne vs Shaquille Leonard
Travis Etienne's second touchdown run to close out Sunday. 13 personnel + Blake Hance at LT after Cam's elbow injury https://t.co/Lcz6NeTQj3— John Shipley (@_John_Shipley) October 12, 2023
Another Colts player who was listed as a full participant in practice on Wednesday was Shaquille Leonard. Leonard missed last week’s win over the Titans with a nagging groin injury, but looks set to start against the Jaguars. The undoubted heartbeat of the defense, Leonard is a factor against both the run and the pass - but it’s the ground game where his impact could be felt the greatest on Sunday.
Travis Etienne finally broke out for the first time this season against the Bills, racking up an incredible 136 yards on the ground - with two touchdowns to boot. It’s the game we’ve been waiting for from Etienne, who showed last season that he’s far more than the third-down back he was once christened by Urban Meyer. Etienne’s ability to slash defenses and move the chains changes this offense from dangerous to deadly, forcing teams to respect the run and not just suffocate passing lanes and frustrate Trevor Lawrence. In this regard, Leonard will be a worthy opponent - one of the few linebackers out there that have the range, quickness and physicality to match up with Etienne when he’s on top form.
One final point of note - Etienne also had an impact through the air last weekend, something that his skillset allows him to do. Leonard is adept at dropping into coverage, or mirroring running backs out of the backfield; the Jaguars have the edge in almost every department when it comes to facing the Colts, but this particular contest will be a fascinating battle.
Which matchups are you looking forward to most in Week 6?