One game, one win. The Jacksonville Jaguars head into Week 2 looking to build some momentum in the early part of the season. Welcoming the reigning Super Bowl champions to EverBank Stadium, adding another victory to the one earned in Indianapolis is no easy task. With that in mind, here are three matchups to watch out for against the Kansas City Chiefs:
Chris Jones vs Tyler Shatley?
#Jaguars and #Chiefs injury report.— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) September 14, 2023
Good news for Jacksonville, Luke Fortner and Brandon Scherff practiced on a limited basis.
Junior and Johnson did not participate.
For Chiefs, Kelce and Jones practiced on a limited basis. pic.twitter.com/TJuXAjgZ5F
Is this the perfect storm? After a protracted holdout throughout training camp, Chris Jones and the Chiefs finally came to a resolution earlier this week, adjusting the star defensive tackle’s contract to allow him to return to the team. Despite questions about whether Jones is in football shape, Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo seems optimistic he will return against Jacksonville. After racking up 15.5 sacks in 2022, this seems an ominous development for the Jaguars…
Adding further concern to the presence of Jones is some significant injury issues on the Jaguars’ offensive line. Both Luke Fortner and Brandon Scherff have been absent from practice most of the week, only returning in limited fashion on Thursday. Early reports suggest Fortner has a better chance to suit up on Sunday, but the jury is still firmly out on Scherff. If the Pro Bowl right guard can’t go, he’ll likely be replaced by Tyler Shatley, who will have his hands full combating the dangerous interior pass rush that Jones brings.
This is truly an intriguing matchup, made uncertain by fitness in both trenches. Considering the potency of the Jaguars offense, how this battle turns out could determine the result on Sunday.
Foye Oluokun vs Isaiah Pacheco
The Jaguars lost to the Cheifs twice last season. Foye Oluokun said they have to factor that in as they prepare for Sunday.— Jamal St. Cyr (@JStCyrTV) September 13, 2023
"You want to beat them because they beat you last time 2 times." pic.twitter.com/boLGwlqQaB
One thing that kind of flew under the radar when the Jaguars beat the Colts last weekend was just how dominant the defense was against the run. If you take away Anthony Richardson’s scrambles, the most productive running back for Indianapolis was Deon Jackson, who had 14 yards on 13 carries. Indy had just 65 yards on the ground all game - and 40 of them came from their quarterback.
Sure, the absence of Jonathan Taylor played its part in this stat line. But so did Foye Oluokun, who was a one-man disruptor against the Colts’ ground attack. Oluokun had 13 tackles on the day, often meeting Jackson as he tried to burst through the line of scrimmage. One of the best free agency signings last offseason, Oluokun has become a key part of Jacksonville’s defense, registering almost 200 tackles since his arrival in Duval County.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, will be hell-bent on establishing a run game on Sunday. Their loss to the Detroit Lions in the season opener was a surprise, and most of the blame was apportioned to the lack of balance on offense. After outplaying his draft status as a 7th-round pick last season, Isaiah Pacheco was almost incognito against the Lions. A paltry 23 yards on the ground did not help Patrick Mahomes overcome the absence of Travis Kelce, or the butterfingers of Kadarius Toney. With their star tight end still a doubt for the game this weekend, Andy Reid will no doubt want more from his running backs to try and keep the Jaguars’ defense honest. With Oluokun already in midseason form, establishing a run game is easier said than done.
Press Taylor vs Steve Spagnuolo
Asked #Jaguars OC Press Taylor if this is really anything different for him now that he’s the “primary play caller.”— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) September 14, 2023
He says no, not really, he called plays last year too. The only difference? The sheet might be a bit more appealing to his eyes. pic.twitter.com/12Rc0qWdal
Is Press Taylor still finding his feet as a playcaller? Head coach Doug Pederson has expressed total confidence in his offensive coordinators’ ability with this added responsibility. And despite letting some opportunities slip against the Colts last weekend, the Jaguars did score 31 points. As Taylor gets more comfortable scheming drives, the production on offense should only grow - and with improved talent levels in both the run and passing games, he is well set to be a success.
In Steve Spagnuolo, Taylor comes up against a defensive coordinator with vast experience. ‘Spags’ has been a coach for more than forty years, has been a DC in the NFL for ten of them, and has three Super Bowl rings on his fingers - all earned as a coordinator. His defenses with the Giants and Chiefs have been the envy of the league, and despite his advanced years he shows no reluctance to keep innovating and being creative with his gameplan. Everywhere you look on this KC defense has speed, and Spagnuolo knows how and when to use it to its full potential. Expect exotic blitzes from anywhere and everywhere as he tries to disrupt Trevor Lawrence and this Jaguars passing game.
How will Press Taylor adjust to Spagnuolo’s gameplan? Will we see more quick passes out into the flats in an attempt to get the ball in space? And what coverages will the Chiefs roll in and out of to keep Lawrence guessing? I’m excited to see how this chess match plays out.