The Jaguars travel to Cincinnatti this Sunday to take on Joe Burrow and the winless Bengals. But coming off an uninspired home defeat to the previously winless Dolphins, the Jaguars will need to scratch and claw their way to a victory against their former AFC Central division rivals.
As is always the case, several individual matchups will significantly impact the outcome of this contest. Let's take a look!
DJ Hayden vs Tyler Boyd
Tyler Boyd, the Bengals' top receiver lines up primarily in the slot, where he'll be matched up with the Jaguars' nickel corner DJ Hayden. The 6'2", 203-pound receiver has been targeted 26 times through Cincy's first three contests. For the Jaguars, Hayden got off to a slow start in 2020, but he's rebounded nicely and is coming off his best game of the season. The former first-round pick has been a defensive stalwart for the Jaguars since arriving in Duval in 2018. He made two impressive stops against the Dolphins and was sticky in coverage, allowing just one catch. This battle in the middle of the field will be a key to victory for both teams.
Bengals' Edge Rushers vs Jaguars' Offensive Tackles
The Bengals' edge rushers have been creating a ton of pressure this season. Between Sam Hubbard, Carl Lawson, and Carlos Dunlap, they've generated 24 pressures in three games. The Jaguars' offensive tackles are coming off their worst performance of the season. Right tackle Jawaan Taylor consistently lost his one-on-one battles on the edge, leading to six pressures and two sacks on Gardner Minshew. On the other side, Cam Robinson played a fairly clean game, but after his questionable (at best) ejection from the game, Will Richardson allowed four pressures in just over a quarter of play. The Jaguars' young offensive tackles face a tough task this week, and they'll need to be at the top of their game.
Jaguars' Edge Rushers vs Bengals' Offensive Tackles
The Bengals have given up the most sacks in the league through the first three weeks and are coming off a performance in which they allowed Joe Burrow to be taken down behind the line of scrimmage eight times. The Bengals have been particularly weak on the edge, where their starting offensive tackles have given up a combined 24 pressures. On the flip side, the Jaguars have only produced three sacks on the season, the second worst mark in football. But the Jaguars have edge-rushing talent in Josh Allen, K'Lavon Chaisson, and Dawuane Smoot. The Jags are coming off their best pass-rushing performance of the season, in which they got pressure on nearly half of Ryan Fitzpatrick's dropbacks, but their efforts did little to slow down the Dolphins' aerial attack. They'll need to do that and then some to slow down the uber-talented rookie QB Joe Burrow.
Bonus: Jaguars' OC Jay Gruden must call a better game in week four. He struggled against Miami when the Dolphins ran some looks that surprised him. On Wednesday, Gruden said, "I didn't call a good enough game for Gardner to have success, so that's on me. I have to give him a better opportunity to make some plays, get the ball out of his hands, timing more quicker-type drops, get the ball out of his hands where he's not holding the ball waiting for deeper-type routes to develop against known passing situations. [It was] not a great game plan by us. Miami kind of fooled us a little bit, played a little bit more zone than they had played the last couple of weeks." If Gruden can't do a better job in his play calling matchup with Bengals' defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, the Jags will be in trouble.
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