By Dustin Fletcher | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday afternoon, the Jacksonville Jaguars will look to continue their momentum against the winless Denver Broncos and their quarterback Joe Flacco.
The team has outscored its opponents 26-7 over the past five quarters. The Denver Broncos, known for their pass rush led by Von Miller, have yet to record a sack in 2018-2019 so far.
This could change though. Rookie phenom Gardner Minshew II aka “Jockstrap Jesus” has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long. This was evident in a Week Two loss to Houston where Whitney Mercilus ran rampant on fill-in left tackle Will Richardson. He has been replaced by incumbent starter Cam Robinson now that Robinson is healthy. Mercilus sacked Minshew multiple times and forced two fumbles, one of which set up the game-clinching touchdown for Deshaun Watson.
Now, the pressure is on rookie Jawaan Taylor and third year player Cam Robinson to hold all time great Von Miller and rising star Bradley Chubb at bay.
On the flip side, quarterback Joe Flacco is a statue in the pocket. This, coupled with Garrett Bolles’ tendency to either commit a holding penalty or get manhandled should be favorable for Jacksonville’s prolific front seven.
Another key matchup will be not only Chris Harris Jr. matching up on “Chark Kent,” but also young corner Issac Yiadom on Dede Westbrook in the slot.
Westbrook has yet to find last year’s form; however, the targets have come his way early this year. He should be able to get favorable looks underneath on short crossing routes. The ball will have to get out early for Minshew to stay off his back against Denver. Look for Westbrook to have a big day.
One matchup Denver should look to exploit is Noah Fant being covered by strong safety Ronnie Harrison. Harrison leads the team in tackles but can be caught out in pass coverage due to aggression at times. Fant was the fastest tight end at the combine in 2018, so look for Denver to get the ball to him early and often.
Jacksonville will try to get the ball to Leonard Fournette early in the game to get the ground game going. Fournette’s stat line did not look bad last week at first glance. However, he had a total of 66 yards on 15 carries — 69 of those came on a single carry late in the game. If he cannot be a threat on the ground for the team, Denver can tee off on the rookie quarterback and send the house every play.
On the flip side, Denver’s two-headed backfield will look to exploit Jacksonville’s weakness against the run game. Carlos Hyde was able to exploit this weakness in Week Two. The team allows 110 yards per game on the ground on average. The Broncos average 110 yards per game on the ground.
However, they legitimately can wear down a defense faster at home. The stadium is at one mile above sea level. Second year backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman should look to get plenty of touches on Sunday. On the first level, Marcell Dareus and Calais Campbell will look to eat blocks, so linebackers Myles Jack and Quincy Williams can run downhill and stop the run.
Prediction: #DUUUVAL 24 – Denver 13
I believe the Jaguars will come out on top against the Broncos. In the end, I have more faith in the Jacksonville offense under John Defillipo more than the Denver offense. Joe Flacco looks past it, but unfortunately he is no longer the Super Bowl MVP he was earlier in the decade. Look for the Jacksonville defense to hit him early and often and to force a turnover or two.
Dustin Fletcher is the sports editor of the Flagler College Gargoyle and is the official source of Jacksonville Jaguars news for Flagler College.