The Jaguars are set to host the Chargers at TIAA Bank Field in week 14. Neither team has much to play for; the Jaguars are 4-8 and all but eliminated from the playoffs, and with an identical record, the Chargers are in the same position.
The Jaguars won the last matchup between the two clubs back in 2017. But before that, Phillip Rivers and the Chargers owned the Jags. Los Angeles had won six straight games against Jacksonville prior to that and lead the overall series 7-3.
Gardner Minshew is back.
Gardner Minshew is back in the starting lineup and will look to earn his fifth win as a starter for the Jaguars. On Wednesday, Minshew told the media, "I just want to win this game." And later, he gave one of the quotes of the year: "I'm playing to beat the crap out of the guy across from me." Minshew brings fire and moxy to the QB position that is clearly missing with Foles in the lineup. And this week, he'll bring some added knowledge and understanding. Taking a step back allowed Minshew to reflect and refocus.
"A lot of times when you're playing, you have a million different things that you're having to focus in on, and you kind of lose some of the bigger stuff," said Minshew. "I guess I should say some of the smaller stuff sometimes, but when you're out of that role, you can kind of step back and see the little details, and it was a really good experience for me."
And the Jaguars coaching staff did something unconventional to help get Minshew prepared. While Foles was still the starter, the Jaguars got Minshew in to take some reps with the ones during practice.
"You don't get a lot of live reps at your own place when you're the number two," said Minshew. "So it was really cool for them to be able to do that for me and help me continue to get better."
Josh Allen's impressive rookie season
Rookie edge rusher Josh Allen has been superb for the Jaguars in his first year. Allen has nine sacks, seven of which have come in the last eight contests. Allen has a chance to become the first Jaguars' rookie to eclipse the ten sack mark in franchise history.
The Jaguars' young tackles face a huge test.
Speaking of pass rushers, the Chargers have two of the very best. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are devastating. They're both undeniably skilled and play with extremely high motors. Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor have been up and down in 2019, but they'll need to do yeoman's work to help keep Gardner Minshew clean.
Leonard Fournette is likely to break the 1,000 yard mark.
The Jaguars' third-year running back needs just 11 rushing yards to eclipse 1,000 for the second time in his career. He can also break 1,500 scrimmage yards with a 67-yard effort. Despite facing loaded boxes and not having the best blocking up front, Leonard Fournette has been a consistent offensive weapon for the Jaguars in 2019. He's also become a team leader.
DJ Chark could do the same.
DJ Chark has been a huge downfield threat for the Jaguars and has been by far their best receiver this season. With 881 receiving yards, Chark has a shot at surpassing 1,000 receiving yards on the season this week. He'll need to have a big game to do so, and the Chargers don't give up a ton of yards to receivers.
The end result is less important than the eye test.
Whether the Jaguars win or lose this week is not so important. Doug Marrone is on his way out after the season, and there will likely be changes beyond just the coaching staff. Critical is the development of the Jaguars' young players. Does Gardner Minshew look more comfortable in the pocket? Can Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor hold their own without being called for holding penalties? Do the Jaguars' offensive weapons stand a chance against the Chargers' defense?
The linebacker position
It's unclear whether or not Myles Jack will be ready to play in this one. He missed last week with a knee injury and didn't practice on Wednesday. But Donald Payne played very well last week as Jack's replacement. In the first start of his career, Payne racked up 13 tackles and helped slow the Buccaneers' rushing attack. If Payne starts again this week, he needs to keep the same tenacity in the run game, while also improving in coverage.
Gus Bradley Returns
The worst head coach in Jaguars' history returns to the Bank for the second time since getting canned following the 2016 season. As the Chargers' defensive coordinator, Bradley has thrived. The Chargers are currently fourth in total defense and will undoubtedly be a difficult unit to find consistency against. Bradley and the Chargers lost last time they came to Duval, so he'll surely have some extra motivation for this one.
Follow Jordan de Lugo on Twitter for all the latest Jaguars news and analysis.
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