Photo credit: Jeffrey Beall, Flickr
The Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) head to San Diego for the fourth time in franchise history to face the Chargers (0-1). This week two game is more winnable than Green Bay last week. Both teams could easily be 1-0 for this preview, but the Jaguars are not at their best when making the trip out west. Like playing at Seattle, the Jags are 0-3 in San Diego.
When we first thought of the Jaguars and Chargers playing, Philip Rivers came to mind. He has been an out-of-division version of Peyton Manning for the Jaguars. San Diego has provided a number of examples and plays as to why the Jags get hurt by opposing tight ends.
It does not have the feel of a must-win. They could still go into the bye week 2-2, with winnable games upcoming against Baltimore and Indianapolis, even if they fall at San Diego.
Jacksonville and San Diego will meet for the ninth time in the regular season this Sunday. The Jaguars are 2-6 against the AFC West squad, and the Chargers are currently riding a five-game win streak in the series.
Last November, San Diego won at EverBank Field 31-25. Blake Bortles threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns. Long-time Charger Antonio Gates had two of his four catches go for scores.
Humble-brag to Chargers fans:
Thanks for drafting Joey Bosa. The Jaguars got two top-five draft talents from this year’s draft. Bosa, the rookie linebacker out of Ohio State, may see his first NFL action Sunday if his strained hamstring is better.
The Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley is not on the hot seat compared to Chargers head man Mike McCoy. Both coaches were hired as first-time head coaches in 2013. Of the eight coaches hired that year, only Bradley, McCoy and Andy Reid (with Kansas City) remain.
Jacksonville has a solid pass-catching tight end too! Much like Antonio Gates, the Jaguars’ Julius Thomas is a basketball-to-tight end story. Since the start of 2013, Thomas leads NFL tight ends with 30 touchdowns.
Connections to the River City:
Bob Babich was with Jacksonville as the defensive coordinator (2013-15) during Gus Bradley’s first three years. He is now the Chargers linebackers coach.
Safety Dwight Lowery signed with San Diego in March. The former Jaguar (2012 and 2013) was brought in to fill the void of Eric Weddle, who signed with Baltimore. Ironically enough, the Ravens are the Jags’ next opponent.
Jaguars wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan started in the NFL as San Diego’s WRs coach in 1992.
Current Jags receiver Bryan Walters, who is in his second year in Jacksonville, also began his NFL story in San Diego. He spent 2010 and 2011 on the Chargers practice squad.
What to Watch:
After not practicing Wednesday and Thursday, CB Prince Amukamura looks questionable – at best – for Sunday (UPDATE: Amukamura has been ruled OUT). Could Rivers attack this potential weakness in the secondary? Could the Amukamura injury move CB Josh Johnson off the inactive list Sunday?
The long-gain connection between Bortles and Allen Hurns could happen more this season. Hurns had two gains of 30-plus yards against Green Bay – 30 and 38.
Field position could be a significant factor in another close game. Punter Brad Nortman’s two punts against the Packers went inside the 20. He had a long of 67 yards. Additionally, he was the lone free agent we did not mention in last week’s preview.
Trying to Figure Out:
Will Chris Ivory see any action this weekend? (UPDATE: Ivory has been ruled OUT) He returned to the team after a two-day stretch in the hospital. Jacksonville has never had a 100-yard rusher in eight previous games versus San Diego. The run game cannot be just TJ Yeldon.
Does Myles Jack come in for Telvin Smith at weak-side linebacker or is Jack just helping out special teams for the early part of his rookie season?
Can the Jaguars establish themselves as a better road team? The last two seasons the Jags are 1-15 on the road. They have four total away wins under Gus Bradley.
About the Opponent:
San Diego is coming off the most embarrassing Week One loss – wait and see, it could be No. 1 at the end of the year. Blowing a 21-point lead to Kansas City does not make the seat any cooler for coach Mike McCoy. Since a playoff berth his first season, the Chargers have been on the decline. It does not help having Denver (the same team that made McCoy a known name) in your division either.
Much of the talk lately has been rebuilding, staying in San Diego and a new stadium. All topics that Jacksonville fans know all too well. Throw in a torn ACL for Chargers star receiver Keenan Allen and the San Diego-Jacksonville game is like a Stranger Things story arc.
Most of the 2016 predictions had San Diego in the bottom eight of the league, winning 5 to 7 games and having a 10 to 15 percent chance of winning the AFC West.
Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson vs. Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett. Taken less than 40 picks apart from each other in 2014, these third-year players have multiple Pro Bowls written all over them. Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Thursday, “We felt like Verrett played Allen Robinson about as good as any corner in the league.”
High praise for Verrett from his matchups on Robinson last November. But like A-Rob, two young players still on the rise. Olson added that Verrett has great feet, speed and good instincts. A-Rob will have good challenges like this every week. Look for these two in Jaguars red zone plays.
This Equals a Win:
Blake Bortles needs another 300-yard passing game. He is tied for the NFL lead with six completions of 20-plus yards. If there’s no Ivory in the backfield, Bortles might have to throw 39 times again.
Two second-half timeouts were called by the Jaguars way earlier than needed. Let’s hope the team and coaching staff learned from the Green Bay loss.
Thinking the offense can stay on the field as much as possible, the defense needs to be well-rested but show more pass-rush ability than last week. We will see if Chris Smith and Tyson Alualu are active this game. Bradley and Co. will probably pursue Rivers more because Aaron Rodgers is way too elusive and does everything well. It will keep social media’s blood pressure in check too.
How to Listen:
Frank Frangie, Tony Boselli and Jeff Lageman will provide the call on 1010XL and 92.5 FM with Rick Ballou working the sidelines. The Publix Tailgate show begins three hours before kickoff. The simulcast will be on WGNE 99.9 FM.
Where to Watch:
CBS will have the Week Two matchup. WJAX 47 will air it locally. Tom McCarthy will handle the play-by-play duties with Adam Archuleta providing in-booth analysis. The sideline reporter will be Scott Kaplan. Kickoff is at 4:25 p.m. Eastern.