Antonio Johnson vs Zay Flowers
“Normally you don’t see a 6’3’’ nickel… so [I’m] just redefining the position”— Mia O'Brien (@MiaOBrienTV) December 13, 2023
On the heels of a breakout game, Antonio Johnson says he willing to play wherever #Jaguars need him to in secondary — nickel, safety, wherever #Jaguars | #DUUUVAL pic.twitter.com/qWksddmvO0
The Jaguars’ secondary is decimated right now, with starters Tyson Campbell (quad), Andre Cisco (groin) and Tre Herndon (concussion) all non-participants in training on Wednesday. According to head coach Doug Pederson, Herndon is ‘trending in the right direction’. But considering there are other concerns such as Christian Braswell, rookie Antonio Johnson figures to get plenty of snaps on Sunday. The versatile safety/nickel corner has seen his workload increase in recent weeks as injuries on the back end have mounted - and the coaching staff have been quietly impressed with how he’s adapted to life at the next level. A sack and a forced fumble last week against the Cleveland Browns shows Johnson has the ability to impact games, and they’ll be hoping for more of that from him against Baltimore - however he is aligned on defense.
Johnson may be tasked with combating a Ravens rookie of their own. Zay Flowers has been something of an impact player himself, used in various roles in what is a fairly diverse and dynamic passing game. Flowers makes his money in the middle of the field, with Rashod Bateman and Odell Becham operating on the outside. That makes it likely that his and Johnson’s path will cross often. Dangerous with the ball in his hands, Flowers has big play ability - and whilst he isn’t setting eye-popping numbers, he’s a chain mover. Johnson will be hoping his physicality can subdue the diminutive receiver and remove at least one weapon for Lamar Jackson to work with.
Tyler Shatley vs Justin Madubuike
Continuing the injury theme; The Jaguars’ offensive line is looking SPARSE. It has been a rotating quintet all season, with Cam Robinson’s suspension and now injury, Cooper Hodges being on IR, and the ‘day to day’ status of both Walker Little and Ezra Cleveland - the latter of which was brought in to help with depth, and is now a victim of Jacksonville’s bad luck when it comes to health up front. If we assume just one of Walker or Cleveland suit up on Sunday, it means that Tyler Shatley likely plays inside. A ten year Jaguars veteran, Shatley is experienced if not necessarily an elite offensive lineman. He has started five games this year as Trevor Lawrence’s protection has shape-shifted, and will be needed against a sneaky good interior pass rush from the Ravens…
Baltimore’s defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald likes to mix it up, show different fronts, and bring pressure from various spots. And nobody has benefited more from this than Justin Madubuike, who is having a career year in his fourth year in the league. Already surpassing his totals from last season in every category, Madubuike has racked up 11 sacks so far, flitting between a 5-tech defensive end and 3-tech interior lineman. That’s more than he amassed in the three years prior to 2023! Madubuike’s ability to penetrate the pocket from the inside has been key for the Ravens, who lead the league in QB takedowns with 49 - six more than the next team (Los Angeles Chargers). Tyler Shatley will need to be on his game on Sunday - or Lawrence could be in serious trouble.
Calvin Ridley vs Marlon Humphrey
Calvin Ridley has endured some heavy criticism this week following the team’s performance in Cleveland. The whole passing game struggled, but Ridley’s four catches from 13 targets stood out like a sore thumb; it’s fair to say that there’s been some rust for the receiver since being traded to Jacksonville from the Atlanta Falcons. Ridley still has big play ability, and his route running and separation ability is unquestioned. But dropped passes have really stopped him from creating an elite connection with Trevor Lawrence, something that was expected by many Jaguars fans.
He’ll be up against an old Alabama teammate on Sunday. Marlon Humphrey is in his seventh year in Baltimore, and it’s fair to say it’s not one of his finest seasons in the black and purple. After missing the early part of 2023 due to foot surgery, Humphrey has shown some rust of his own, and was clearly targeted by Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams last weekend. Not quite the impact player we’ve seen in the past, Humphrey represents the perfect opportunity for Ridley to quieten the doubters and put in a performance that helps the Jaguars to victory over the in-form team in the AFC.
Which matchups are you looking forward to watching on Sunday?