Now that we have all had time to process what happened on Thursday night just a little over a week ago, the Jaguars are gearing up to go head to head with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are winless, but not 0-3, after they reminded us last week that ties do indeed still exist in the NFL. Joe Burrow has been promising thus far, but it will be interesting to see how Zac Taylor and the offensive staff chooses to attack a Jaguars' defense that has not been particularly stout to begin the season. Todd Wash's unit has allowed a staggering 84 points over the team's first three games, and this could be (hopefully) Todd Wash's last ride if the defense continues to get sliced up by any and all opposing offenses. In week two, the Jags' offense was surprisingly able to keep up with the Titans, but the Dolphins proved to be too much for Minshew and the offense to keep up in week three. With some key defensive players out today for the Bengals, the Jaguars' offense will need to capitalize, and again, the defensive line will need to finally show some signs of life against a sub par Bengals' offensive line.
Offensively, the Jaguars will need to run the ball efficiently, something undrafted rookie James Robinson has shown he is more than capable of doing. The Bengals will be short star defensive tackle Geno Atkins, as well as highly coveted off-season addition Mike Daniels. Missing those two massive bodies inside should allow the interior offensive line to create big holes. The Jaguars will be without the captain of their offensive line, Brandon Linder, but Tyler Shatley has shown he can be serviceable at the center position. If the offense can get going early, especially in the run game, they will be able to keep the weak Bengals' secondary honest all day. The Jaguars offense will have chances at big plays through play-action today, so keeping Garner Minshew off the turf will be another focal point for the offensive line. Sam Hubbard, Carlos Dunlap, and Carl Lawson wreaked havoc on the Eagles last week, and they will have to do it again if the Bengals want to make up for the men missing inside. Jawaan Taylor and Cam Robinson have a chance to be one of the best young tackle combos in the NFL, and they will need to prove it this week. DJ Chark will play this week, and missing him last week seemed to affect the receiving group more than we expected. Having him back this week is huge. I have no doubt that the offense can get things going. That early-season victory against the Colts is now proving more impressive as Indy now sits atop the NFL's defensive rankings. Undrafted rookie James Robinson has proven that he is a playmaker, and Jay Gruden will want to prove that his offense can bounce back after a poor outing against Miami.
Once again, we find ourselves questioning how this defense will play, knowing that they will truly be the deciding factor in Cincinnati. It all starts up front. It looks like running back Joe Mixon will play, even after showing up late on the Bengals injury report this week. We don't know in what capacity, but he is always a threat when he is on the field. The Jaguars defensive line will have to get penetration early and force the Bengals into obvious passing situations, especially on third downs. Joe Burrow has shown that he can carve up opposing defenses if you give him time. Keeping this offense behind the sticks will give the Jaguars' defensive ends a chance to really get after Burrow against a weak offensive line. Josh Allen is starting to round into form after a strong showing against the Dolphins in week three. He will have to help out this struggling Jaguars' secondary by providing consistent pressure up front. The Bengals are not short on playmakers in the passing game. Tyler Boyd had a great week against the Eagles, and John Ross has proven time and time again he can run away from anybody if you let him. AJ Green doesn't look like the same player he once was, but he still poses a threat. Rookie receiver Tee Higgins has been developing nicely over the first three weeks. After struggling last week against the Dolphins, CJ Henderson and Tre Herndon could be in for another long day. Henderson needs to show the same promise he displayed early on, and bounce back this week. The secondary does make me nervous this week. If the team can't right this ship soon, Todd Wash should be looking for a new job.
The Jaguars' special teams unit will have another big question mark this week, as they will be on to their fourth kicker BEFORE their third kicker even attempted a kick. Stephen Hauschka, whom the Jaguars signed to their active roster on Monday, appeared on the injury report with a knee issue and was limited in practice Thursday and Friday. He is inactive, and the Jaguars will be forced to turn to former Giants' kicker Aldrick Rosas. Rosas has NFL experience, which provides me a little more confidence than last week, but whenever you are missing an All-Pro caliber player (even if it is a kicker) there is room for error. Points will be important this week, and I assume the Jaguars kicking game will again be limited.
I think the Jaguars defense has the potential to fluster a rookie quarterback this week, and the offense has a chance to get back on track against a lackluster defense. I like their chances, and with Gardner Minshew at the helm, anything is possible. If he wants to stick around for the long run, bouncing back from a poor performance will be key; just ask any of the greats.
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