The Jaguars, down AJ Bouye (calf) and Tyler Patmon (neck), will have their cornerback depth put to the test at Wembley Stadium on Sunday when they take on the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles.
The Eagles have had their wings clipped to start the season, at just 3-4 their 2018 outlook isn't much brighter than the Jaguars, who also sit at 3-4, losers of three straight.
But when the Jaguars announced that neither AJ Bouye or Tyler Patmon would make the trip to London with the team, things got a bit trickier for the Big Cats. They'll still have their top dog at the CB position, Jalen Ramsey, but beyond that things get suspect. He'll look to lock down one side of the field. But what about the other two CB positions? Let's take a look at where the Jaguars stand at nickel and their other outside CB spot.
Nickel - Tre Herndon, an undrafted rookie from Vanderbilt, is a guy the Jaguars really liked coming out of training camp. He'll likely start at nickel as DJ Hayden (toe) continues to miss practice. Hayden's regular backup at the position, Tyler Patmon, as I stated earlier, won't be playing. It seems possible that Hayden could return (he did some running and stretching in practice Friday, but more likely than not it'll be Herndon at nickel for the Jaguars. He's appeared in just one game so far in his rookie season and has two total snaps.
Outside Corner - The Jaguars outside cornerback spot opposite Jalen Ramsey is where things really get sketchy. Both Quenton Meeks and Dee Delaney are rookie undrafted free agents, but both had impressive collegiate careers and were standouts in training camp. Still, asking players with no real game experience to step in and play well in an unfamiliar setting and against a QB like Carson Wentz could spell disaster for the Jaguars.
So how can the Jaguars hope to slow down Carson Wentz, who has completed 70% of his passes and has 10 TDs to just 1 INT since his return from ACL surgery?
I'm glad you asked.
The Jaguars will likely use a lot of their "big nickel" package which features rookie safety Ronnie Harrison. Harrison has regularly shown the ability to not only blow running plays up early, but to cover down field. The Eagles run a lot of 12 personnel (two tight ends) and getting Harrison on the field could certainly help in such situations.
The pass rush will also need to get home early and often. The Eagles once stout offensive line has allowed 93 pressures and 22 sacks in 2018. The Jaguars pass rush, featuring Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, Dante Fowler Jr. and Co. will need to take advantage of Lane Johnson and Jason Peters on the edge, both of whom have struggled in pass pro this year. On the interior Malik Jackson and Marcell Dareus will have favorable matchups.
It'll be no easy task, but if the Jaguars can try to disguise their obvious deficiencies at CB with their big nickel package and a heavy pass rush early, they might just be able to slow Carson Wentz and his armory of offensive weapons.
Who knows . . . maybe these unproven rookies will provide a spark . . . they certainly did throughout training camp and the preseason.
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