The Chargers are back from their bye this week to host the Jaguars at Sofi Stadium. It’s the Bolts’ first home game since Week 3 and it’s shaping up to be exactly what this team needs to begin turning this season around after a 1-4 start.
A big thanks to Ryan O‘Bleness from Big Cat Country, our Jaguars site here at SB Nation, for answering this week’s questions.
Hope you guys enjoy! Let’s get to it.
1. The Jaguars decided to roll with former sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew at quarterback after his surprising rookie season. How has that decision paid off through the first six weeks and do you believe the Jags made the right choice sticking with the ‘stache?
Well, he’s had his ups and downs. He got off to a really hot start in the first two weeks of the season, but ever since, and even against seemingly soft competition, the results haven’t really been there. He is sixth in the NFL in passing yards and tied for ninth in the league in touchdown passes, but some of that may have to do more with constantly playing from behind.
I do believe that rolling with Gardner Minshew this season was the right call because in doing so, the Jaguars get a chance to see what Minshew offers. Either the franchise likes what it sees enough to keep him long-term, or by the end of the season it now knows that quarterback is a priority in the 2021 NFL Draft. I am a Minshew fan and will always root for him, but the more he plays, and the more film he puts out there, it’s starting to seem more and more like maybe he isn’t the long-term solution after all. He still struggles with some of the decision-making and holding onto the ball with fumbles and some interceptions. He’s missed on some easy throws, but he’s also made some impressive ones.
I think with Minshew, people forget that he was a sixth-round pick and are holding him to first-round pick standards after his breakout rookie year. Maybe that’s fair now that he is starting full-time, but I think what you see is what you get in Minshew. He’ll make great plays here and there, and he’ll also make you scratch your head on some plays. I always say he’s not a guy who will necessarily single-handedly win you games, but most of the time he won’t lose them for you either — Jacksonville’s defense is a lot more responsible for most of the losses this season. The way things are currently trending, Minshew seems to be on the path of like a Ryan Fitzparick — possibly a journeyman quarterback who will be a strong backup and can start in a pinch, but as of right now it doesn’t seem like he is going to be answer in Jacksonville — especially if Doug Marrone and the current staff are fired and a new regime takes over. That said, Minshew still has plenty of time to prove he can be the guy. Like I said, I’m rooting for him.
2. The Jacksonville defense looks a bit different compared to years past. From last year, the Jaguars lost Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye, and Yannick Ngakoue. Despite moving that talent, they now have budding youngsters Josh Allen and CJ Henderson. How have the two performed in 2020 thus far compared to the fan base’s expectations?
The defense — and team as a whole — is very young. The defensive unit has shown some flashes, but has been pretty awful so far in 2020. The Jaguars rank 29th overall, allowing 414.5 yards per game, 25th against the pass (270.7 yards per game), 28th against the run (143.8) and 24th in points per game allowed (30.2). The Jaguars also rank last in defensive DVOA, according to Football Outsiders.
C.J. Henderson had a strong opening game against the Indianapolis Colts and actually won Rookie of the Week honors after recording five tackles, three passes defended and an interception. However, he’s struggled since then. Henderson sustained a shoulder injury against the Cincinnati Bengals and missed the Houston Texans game. So far, according to Pro Football Reference, Henderson has allowed 18 catches on 28 targets (64.3 percent) while giving up 11 yards per completion and two touchdowns and a passer rating allowed of 94 — not great. He also has 21 total tackles, four passes defended and the aforementioned interception. Pro Football Focus grades him out at an overall grade of 66.1. Ups and downs are expected for rookies, especially at the cornerback position, but Jaguars fans would much rather see the Week One version of Henderson.
As for Allen, he had a great rookie year and is off to a bit of a slower start in 2020. He too sustained an injury against the Bengals (knee injury) and missed each of the last two games. The Jaguars are hoping he can come back against the Chargers and give the struggling pass rush some juice. I also think defenses may be paying more attention to him now, but through four games, he has recorded just seven tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks, seven quarterback hits and 10 pressures, per Pro Football Reference. He’ll need to pump up those numbers and make a bigger impact for this inexperienced defense if he is able to return this week.
3. If you were the Chargers offensive/defensive coordinator, how would you personally game plan against the Jaguars?
Offensively, use the running game to set up the pass. The Detroit Lions gashed the Jaguars for 180 yards on the ground, and as mentioned, Jacksonville gives up nearly 144 yards per game to opposing rush defenses. If the Chargers can also do this, it will then open up the play-action passing game and also allow for deep shots down the field, which could allow Justin Herbert to have a strong performance. Los Angeles can also control the clock this way and keep the Jaguars’ offense off the field. It’s really quite a simple game plan against such a struggling defense.
Defensively, shut down James Robinson and the run game, and force Minshew to beat you. The Lions had success with this last week, often stacking the box with eight players and completely taking away Robinson and the ground attack. Get pressure on Minshew, but don’t let him escape the pocket where he is most dangerous and can make plays on the move. Make him play in a “phone booth” so to speak. Watch out for D.J. Chark on the outside and make sure he is always covered. The Jaguars also want to find creative ways to get rookie Laviska Shenault the ball — he’ll play wide receiver, slot, running back, wildcat quarterback, etc., so definitely make him a focus as well.
4. As the Jaguars, which part of the Chargers roster worries you the most?
I think the rookie quarterback, Justin Herbert, along with Keenan Allen (assuming he plays), Mike Williams and the rest of L.A.’s wide receivers could have a field day against this struggling defense, which can’t generate a pass rush and can’t cover well. If the Jaguars can’t get pressure on Herbert, and can’t force the Chargers to be one-dimensional, it will be a long day. The Jaguars also allow almost three sacks per game, so I could see a certain guy named Joey Bosa being a problem.
5. Give us a quick summary of how you think the game will play out and a final score prediction.
Historically, the Jaguars have struggled mightily on the West Coast. I don’t see this young and inexperienced team changing those fortunes. Expect a big day from Justin Herbert, although I do think Minshew and the offense will be able to keep up for a bit before eventually faltering.
Chargers, 31, Jaguars 21