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Jaguars vs Panthers: Three matchups to watch

The Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Carolina Panthers at EverBank Stadium on Sunday. Here are a trio of crucial matchups

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Jacksonville Jaguars face the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon, looking to put an end to a four game losing streak. Here are three matchups to look out for:

CJ Beathard vs Bryce Young

With Doug Pederson confirming that Trevor Lawrence suffered and AC joint sprain against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, and the QB not practicing at all on Thursday, it is almost certain that backup CJ Beathard will start against the Panthers this weekend. Well respected in the locker room and by the Jaguars coaching staff, Beathard is a competent backup in the league, albeit with a ceiling that means he’s not a guy who will put the team on his back. Against the Panthers he might not need to - simply game managing should be enough to overcome one of the worst defenses in the NFL. In that regard, Beathard has the tools to get the Jags through this game; In relief of Lawrence’s many ailments this year, CJ has thrown for 171 yards and a TD, but crucially not turned the ball over. An average 5.9 yards per attempt suggests he likes to throw short of the sticks, but a steady presence under center gives you confidence this team can get back on track with Beathard at the helm.

It’s a different scenario for the Panthers. Bryce Young, the first overall pick in the draft back in April, had struggled to find his ‘welcome to the NFL’ moment so far in Carolina. That all changed on Sunday, where the young gunslinger tore into the Green Bay Packers, putting up 312 yards and two touchdowns as their passing game finally seemed to click. With CJ Stroud looking so good with the Houston Texans, the pressure is on Young to show he is worthy of his draft status. And up against a reeling Jaguars defense, he has the opportunity to build on the best game of his young career so far. A repeat performance on Sunday could see him put Beathard in the shade - and spell trouble for a Jags team desperately looking to punch their ticket to the postseason.

Tyson Campbell vs DJ Chark

Speaking of a reeling defense; After an explosive start to 2023, the Jaguars D has struggled across this losing streak to impact games - particularly in the secondary. Across the last four games, the team has ranked 32nd in turnovers, 29th in turnover differential, 31st in forced fumbles, and 28th in interceptions. And Tyson Campbell has been a particular disappointment across that stretch - suffering multiple injuries this season, Campbell was all but benched on Sunday against the Bucs, with Pederson alluding to him being eased back into action (quad). That was likely to spare his corner any further embarrassment - being in and out of the treatment room has undoubtedly affected Campbell’s consistency. Limited in practice on Thursday with a broken finger, Tyson is still expected to suit up this weekend - and Duval Nation will want to see him get close to his best form, particularly with the playoffs on the horizon.

Campbell could find himself up against a former Jaguar on Sunday. DJ Chark has been somewhat absent since his move to Carolina in the offseason, a victim of an offense struggling under the now-departed Frank Reich. Things seem to have finally clicked between him and Bryce Young though, with Chark posting 6 catches, 98 yards and two scores against the Packers last weekend. If he brings that form back to EverBank stadium, he could be a serious problem for this secondary. Another warning sign for Campbell and this defense to get back to their early season standards and shut down a growing passing game that is perhaps building upon delicate foundations right now.

Foye Oluokun vs Chuba Hubbard

With the Panthers targeting the Packers through the air last weekend, Chuba Hubbard might have taken a back seat. But this is definitely a breakout season for the third-year running back, who began life in Carolina backing up Christian McCaffrey before then seeing himself below Miles Sanders on the depth chart. Well, his form in 2023 has seen him wrestle the starting job away from Sanders, and rightly so; prior to the game against Green Bay, Hubbard had put up 278 rushing yards over three games, and his 774 yards this season has already surpassed his previous best. Two strong games to end the year could see him double his career production in just one campaign - not to mention giving Carolina a balanced offense to attack the Jaguars with on Sunday.

Hubbard’s physical run style will be matched by Jacksonville’s tackling machine at the second level. Foye Oluokun might be the most consistent player on this Jaguars defense in 2023, doubling down on his impressive 2022 campaign after coming over from the Atlanta Falcons in free agency. Whilst the rest of the Jags’ defense has been floundering, Oluokun has been thriving, averaging more than ten tackles a game through the current losing streak. With 160 tackles on the season, he’s on pace to match his impressive totals from last year, and he won’t be intimidated by the power running style Hubbard brings. A tough running back versus a hard hitting linebacker? Whoever comes out on top in that particular battle will likely give their team a significant edge this weekend.

Which matchups are you looking forward to watching on Sunday?