The Chargers look to stay undefeated as they face the winless Jaguars Sunday at home. There will be some pretty big changes for both teams that should affect the outcome of the game. I'll go over some things I noticed on both sides of the ball from Jacksonville and lay out some goals that the Chargers should look to achieve. On Monday, we'll re-visit these goals as part of the recap of the game.
Vs. Jaguars Defense
Earlier this week I touched on how impressive Philip Rivers has been considering how poor the offensive line has played. He's done a very good job of protecting the football, as has the offense as a whole. This game should be a big sigh of relief for a rushing attack that is dead last by a good margin in the NFL in yards per attempt. The Jaguars have struggled to stop the run, ranking 24th in DVOA. This will be a good chance for the offensive line to gain some momentum, especially establishing the run to the right side over D.J. Fluker.
Jacksonville does have a very good run defender in defensive end Red Bryant. If San Diego can control him, the running game will be fine. With starting center Rich Ohrnberger out with a back injury, new comer Doug Legurasky gets the nod. The 1st 3 games, this would have likely caused serious issues. Against the Jaguars, that might not be such a bad thing. Head coach Gus Bradley brought the same system from Seattle, where they can be multiple up front but don't really blitz very much. This should make for a smoother transition if we see Chris Watt, the rookie offensive lineman.
San Diego can't expect to be one dimensional when they run the ball. By that I mean they can't just run left with success. The Chargers are averaging 4.3 yards per carry when they run in between the tackles to the left side. When they run right? A putrid 1.15.
Much like Seattle, Jacksonville runs a heavy Cover 3 zone scheme and will mix in some man coverage. Because they are so vanilla and devoid of talent on the back end, teams have been able to expose this pass defense. Specifically, the tight ends have been able to run free. Here's a look at how the position has fared statistically through 3 games:
Colts tight ends: 8 catches, 92 yards, 1 touchdown
Washington tight ends: 8 catches, 99 yards, 1 touchdown
Eagles tight ends: 6 catches, 92 yards, 1 touchdown
Two plays stood out in the Colts game that could have gone for an easy first down where the tight end simply wasn't guarded.
On this throw, Andrew Luck misses a wide open tight end for an easy touchdown.
Simply put, the Chargers will be able to take advantage and stretch the field with their tight ends both vertically and horizontally. I would expect them to put middle linebacker Paul Posluszny in a space and force him to make a play.
In the secondary the corners haven't been awful in the sense of giving up long passes but the San Diego receivers should have no problem winning their 1-on-1 matchups. Philip Rivers should be able to attack the perimeter and we could see more Malcom Floyd shots down the field. Looking at the "big play" statistics, the Jaguars have given up 23 big plays this year. That's good for the 2nd most in the NFL.
More than 5.7 yards per play before garbage time(400 total yards on 70 plays)
4 "big" plays(rushing play over 10 yards/passing play over 25 yards)
66% or greater TDs in the red zone
Vs. Jaguars Offense
Jacksonville has had enough of Chad Henne's incompetence where he holds on to the ball and takes unnecessary sacks and doesn't make the needed throws to thrive in the NFL. Henne had led this offense to 1 touchdown in the last 30 drives. That's a real stat. Wow. In comes rookie QB Blake Bortles. Because there's only 1 half of him, it's tough to get a read on exactly what Jacksonville is going to want to do on offense.
Judging by the Colts game, and some of his preseason action, there will be a lot of 3 step drops and quick passes. Bortles threw 2 interceptions but he also had a couple "wow" throws as well as "wow" plays. He pulled the trigger on some tight windows and he was able to move the chains because of this. Hopefully Jason Verrett is a go, questionable with a hamstring injury, for this game because Jacksonville has talent on the perimeter. This offense should improve greatly with Bortles and the Chargers will need to honor all parts of the field in the passing game. Knowing that Bortles likes to take chances, this could finally be the game where the Chargers get an interception. They're due.
Along the offensive line, like San Diego, Jacksonville has struggled to run the ball. They're not getting much of a push, and when there are holes, running back Toby Gerhart isn't consistently hitting the holes. I'd be more worried about the Jags backup running back, Denard Robinson. He has a little more juice, and could do some damage in space. Donald Butler has struggled in coverage so you wonder if Jacksonville will look to isolate him this game. The Chargers a whole have struggled to tackle in space as well.
Though Bortles was able to move the ball much better in a drive that Henne has all season, the Chargers have favorable matchups up front. Teams have been able to collapse the pocket against this offensive line consistently. If Dwight Freeney and Corey Liuget continue to play at the level they are, it could be a long day for Bortles.
It'll be interesting to see how aggressive John Pagano is this game. Will he chose to put the pressure on Bortles by blitzing him a lot and trust his secondary can hold up? Or will he sit back and try and confuse the quarterback in his 1st start with different coverage looks?
Force 2 turnovers or more
Less than 5 missed tackles as a team
Less than 5.1 yards per play(300 total yards on 59 plays)
Less than 3 red zone trips(before garbage time)
San Diego is 14.5 point favorites. You just don't see that kind of number in the NFL. After watching, you can see why. In the last 10 quarters, the Jags are allowing an average of 11.2 points per quarter. I think Rivers exploits Jacksonville's zones, the offensive line looks as we expect, and Brandon Flowers gets his first interception as a Charger. Chargers cover, 31-13.
Jeff Siniard: Chargers 34-17. The Jaguars' OLine is bad and the Chargers' DLine has been improving each week. The Jaguars don't have the defenders to slow down the Chargers' passing game. I don't see any way the Jaguars hang in this game for more than 1 half without either a ton of Chargers mistakes, or (crossing fingers) Rivers getting hurt.
Kirk Willison: Chargers romp, 31-7. Jacksonville, playing with a rookie QB, stumbles and fumbles its way to a fourth consecutive loss. Philip Rivers is again successful with an air attack. The Bolts' ground game, however, continues its below-average production. Brown finishes with 60 yards. The Chargers' banged-up defense holds the Jaguars to one score but thank goodness it is Jacksonville and not an average-or-better NFL team.
John Gennaro: I think it looks a lot like the Buffalo game. 24-14 Chargers.
Kevin Grauel: Chargers 31-16. The Jaguars defensive line is a major step down from the Bills, and that is the only area in which the Bolts weren't successful last week. Plenty of work for Branden Oliver in this one.
Richard Wade: There is absolutely no reason the Chargers should lose this game. They are better at nearly every position. Jacksonville cannot cover tight ends. The Chargers just so happen to have a Hall of Famer there. That said, I'm going to the game, so they'll find a way to blow it. Jaguars 24 - Chargers 23.
Ruben J. Gonzalez: The Chargers will jump to a big early lead and keep the 2nd half very vanilla in the second half., I'm sure McCoy and Co. still have some tricks up their sleeves. With that being said, Keenan Allen's presence will be back and he will have a monster game and Branden Oliver will get extended opportunities so Donald Brown is kept from any possible injury. Chargers 34- Jaguars 14.
SDNativeinTX: I think this looks like the Buffalo game also, but I think Bortles makes of couple of positive plays that EJ Manuel could/would not make and a negative play or two that Manuel did not make. The defense scores once, but the Jaguars score a little more than Buffalo did. Bolts 27-Jaguars 17