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Chargers vs. Jaguars Preview: Can the Bolts Slow Down the Jags Pass Rush?

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NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

On defense, these are not yesteryear’s Jaguars. They’re big. They’re fast. They flat out harass you. Jacksonville hasn’t been good at all when it comes to stopping the run but that really hasn’t mattered at all. Why? Because their pass defense has been historically good. Even better than the Broncos units the last couple years. Let’s go through the matchups starting with the trenches.

Containing Calais

Halfway through the year, the Jags have the defensive MVP. He hasn’t been a 1-man wrecking crew because the Jags have a couple other talented players, but Calais Campbell has been a monster up front.

Tied for the league lead in sacks but also has the most “stops”, or tackles+ for any lineman in the league. He can go through or around you.

The “Other” guys

As you can see above, Campbell isn’t the only edge rusher that can get after the quarterback. 2nd-year speedster Yannick Ngakoue has 6.5 sacks on the year. As a whole, Jacksonville is far and away the best team at sacking the quarterback this year. Dante Fowler has 5.5 sacks and Malik Jackson has 4 himself. Each player is a threat to Rivers every time he drops back. Only 3 teams blitz less than Jacksonville.

Them getting home is a testament to those front 4.

Last week you saw what kind of impact newcomer Marcell Dareus had against the run. He had a couple stops. He was plugging up holes and keeping linebackers free behind him. The Bengals averaged 1.7 yards per carry. I’m telling you, this defense can play.

Earlier this week I wrote about the midseason grades for the offensive line. This will be the most athletic unit the Chargers have seen all season. Sunday will come down to if Russell Okung can contain Campbell. Also, if the Chargers guards can pick up stunts. Not surprisingly, you’ll see a lot of looks you see from the Chargers. Whether it’s 1 rusher isolated and 3 on the other side. Or a stunt up the middle with Campbell and Ngakoue on the same side.

Feeney missed 1 stunt against the Pats, but he & Wiggins have been solid in this area. They’ll have to be on Sunday.

Superior Secondary

There’s not much to say after that but I will anyway. Gipson has been more active in coverage this year. His usage is a little different and that’s helped the Jaguars out tremendously. Last year he was in the “Tre Boston” role just manning the field deep. This year he’s guarding slot receivers, lurking over the middle, doing a bit of everything. He & Barry Church have been mostly interchangeable and have played at a high level.

The combination of Ramsey & Bouye has been everything the Jaguars could’ve possibly imagined. Both have combined for 21 passes broken up and 4 interceptions. Bouye is feisty and will beat you to the spot on your routes. Ramsey likes to get physical and reroute you.

If you check out some of the passing charts for the Jaguars, they’re a stingy bunch. Noboody throws deep against them. Or the left. Or in the middle. Offensively, I think we all could agree that Tyrell Williams has been a big-time disappointment. The running out of bounds on his own on a deep ball, dropping a key 50/50 ball on a corner route, and then another pass at the end of the game sums up his season. I don’t think he’ll be much of a factor. Benjamin might have some success because he’s better along the sideline on routes like comebacks than Tyrell. It would be nice if the team got any sort of contributions from Mike Williams but I’m not holding my breath this week.

This is a Keenan Allen-Hunter Henry-Antonio Gates game. Allen will have a favorable matchup in the slot against whomever the Jags decide to throw in there. Expect a lot, even more than usual, quick throws this week. Allen should be the beneficiary of most of these. Myles Jack has been much improved this year. Telvin Smith just got a nice contract. Both of those players are great in space. They fly around on screens and swing passes to running backs. Where they can be neutralized is in coverage. Henry and Gates have the advantage here. I’d expect a lot of 12 personnel with both tight ends on the field at the same time. Dink and dunk down the field. Explosive plays are another area the Jags have been stingy at.

Take what they give you. 4 yard passes are fine. 6 yard passes are great. If the Chargers stay out of 3rd & long consistently, they’ll have a chance to put points on the board routinely. If they do see a lot of 3rd & 7’s, well:

I feel good about Henry going off this game. Out of a bye week. A team with strong corners. The recipe for success is there. Run off the edges, throw it quick. Convert red zone opportunities to touchdowns. Force the Jaguars offense to score. That’s how the Chargers will win. It’ll be tough, especially on this side of the ball. Melvin Gordon might have to break another long one. He’ll have chances to make something happen in space.

Goals

  • Less than 3 sacks
  • Less than 5 3rd & 7’s
  • Over 100 yards rushing
  • Over 70% TD conversion in red area
  • No turnovers

Good teams are going to get sacks. It’s important for the Chargers to keep that number as low as possible to win this one. If they can stay out of 3rd and long, that tells me they’re executing on 1st & 2nd down. Same with rushing yards. Even if it’s total and not an average, they’re likely controlling the clock & moving the ball. I imagine the team will have opportunities to punch it in. They’re going to have to take full advantage of each of them. Use the size of Henry & Gates down there. Trust that your run game will eventually get going. Don’t turn it over and the 4 point underdogs might sneak one out.

Quasi-related: I said this in regards to what team has a better unit and ruffled some feathers.

For the defensive line, think depth, not just at the top.