The Jaguars take on the Patriots in the AFC Championship this Sunday at 3:05 PM EST. Most aren't giving the Jaguars much of a chance in this one, but we figured out a few ways the Jaguars can bother the Patriots this weekend.
1. Jalen Ramsey vs Rob Gronkowski
Yes, I'm suggesting the Jaguars should, at times, sick their young dog at CB on Gronk. This season, according to Pro Football Focus, Tom Brady's QB rating plummets to 55 when targeting Rob Gronkowski when covered by a cornerback. Gronk eats up linebackers and is effective against safeties, but cornerbacks tend to do very well against Gronk. So, why not sick the most physical cornerback in the game on Gronkowski? Jalen Ramsey stands 6'1'' and weighs in at 210 lbs. His physicality, aggresiveness and athletic ability will make a fascinating matchup against the 6'6'' Rob Gronkowski. I'm not suggesting the Jaguars have Ramsey shadow Gronkowski the entire game, but I do believe the Jaguars should and will look for this matchup in key situations. When Ramsey isn't covering the game's best tight end that responsibility should go to Myles Jack and Barry Church, both of whom have been excellent in coverage this season. They should be able to have some success bracketing Rob Gronkowski.
2. Stick with the game plan
The Patriots were able to dismantle the Titans in the divisional round. Why? Because the Titans tried to get cute. Instead of sticking with what got them there throughout the contest, the Titans tried to air it out. Derrick Henry only ran the ball 12 times. The Titans finished with a grand total of 16 carries as a team. Abandoning the run when that's what you do best will kill you against the Patriots. The Titans did exactly what the the Pats wanted them to do and it blew up in Mike Mularkey's face. This week the Jaguars need to stick with their game plan. Pound the rock. Attack the Patriots defensive interior with a heavy dose of Leonard Fournette. The Jaguars offensive line has the physicality to take advantage of a Patriots defensive front that has surrendered 4.7 yards per carry on the season. When the Jaguars have continuously run the ball throughout games they've been nearly impossible to beat. It'll help that the Jaguars have the most talented defense in football.
3. Interior Pressure
Team's that have had success against the Patriots in the past have beaten them on the defensive side of the ball with intense pressure up the middle. The most recent example in the playoffs? Malik Jackson and the Denver Broncos bum rushing the Pats in the 2015 AFC title game. Yes, the same Malik Jackson that mans the middle for the Jags today. Defenses that successfully rattle Tom Brady always get pressure up the middle. Getting edge pressure is normally ideal, but against Brady if you only get pressure off the edge he will step up in the pocket and maneuver around the pass rush. But when you get pressure up the middle Brady has nowhere to go. The Jaguars should be able to produce the required pressure needed in order to effect Brady. Malik Jackson is one the best interior pass rushers in the business as is Calais Campbell, who often lines up next to Jackson on the interior in clear passing situations. Marcell Dareus and Abry Jones can also produce pressure from the interior for Jacksonville. This will be the biggest test of the season for the Jaguars defensive line, but the Jaguars should be able to pressure Brady on all fronts.
The Jaguars, despite what people will tell you, have a fantastic chance to get after Brady and dictate the game on the offensive side of the ball with a run heavy attack.
Stay tuned for more.
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