The Jaguars kick off Week 2 of the 2016 regular season against the San Diego Chargers, a team that beat us in a close game 31-25 in Jacksonville in 2015. Eric D. Williams, a writer who covers the Chargers for ESPN, thinks the Chargers have the best matchup they could hope for in order for San Diego to recover from an embarrassing second-half performance in their loss to the Chiefs last week. As conditioned to heartbreaking losses as I’ve become as a die-hard Jaguars and Gators fan, these kind of overconfident, public jabs from mainstream media always seem to still bug me.
The San Diego Chargers played a great first half of football last week against Kansas City. The Bolts were up 21-3 at halftime and had seemingly solved some of the issues they had in 2015. These issues were poor defense against the run, a weak offensive line, and consistency problems on offense due to either their aforementioned poor offensive line play injuries at receiver. Unfortunately for the Chargers, their number one receiver, Keenan Allen, tore his ACL only a couple minutes before the end of the second quarter. Without Keenan Allen, the Chargers have almost no supreme talent in the receiving game outside of Antonio Gates, although Travis Benjamin can be an effective deep threat at times. This is a “minor” detail that Mr. Eric Williams is somehow overlooking.
Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense fell apart, scoring only twice in the second half; both times were field goals. The Chiefs went on to score 24 points after halftime, sending the game into overtime and eventually beating the Chargers. Even after a season-ending injury to the Chargers most productive offensive weapon, a monumental collapse on both sides of the ball, and an impressive showing by the Jaguars against the team predicted by many to make a Super Bowl run, the Jaguars are STILL the underdog in the eyes of the mainstream media.
The problem for him now is he doesn’t have any good options to throw to, especially down the field. Last season there was a major drop-off in points per game when Keenan Allen was injured. Before the injury, the Chargers were putting up around 24 points per game and after the injury to Allen in week eight the points per game fell to just 16 for the rest of the season. Believe me, I didn’t forget that Chargers put up 31 points on the Jaguars without Allen in 2015 but I sincerely doubt they will be able to do the same against this new-look Jaguars defense.
Unfortunately for the Chargers there are numerous match ups that favor the Jaguars that Mr. Eric Williams and his overconfidence are conveniently overlooking.
Let’s start with the most glaring weakness, the Chargers receiving core. It’s easy to say that Antonio Gates will just pick up the slack for their hard-to-comprehend lack of depth in the receiving game. But, even the future Hall-of-Famer Antonio Gates can't provide all that the Chargers will need to win the matchup against our athletic secondary. Prince Amukamara is out, but I don’t suspect that House or Ramsey will have any true problems handling Travis Benjamin or Tyrell Williams and Gates will be draped by safeties and linebackers the entire game. I predict the Chargers will turn to the quick pass game and will have quite a few screens, quick slants and flat routes prepared in their game plan. If the Jaguars secondary unit can capitalize on the Chargers’ lack of playmakers in the receiving game, San Diego will be forced to lean on the run-game for production and our defense has shown so far we can shut down better running backs than Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead.
We already got a brief glimpse into the Chargers offense without Keenan Allen stretching the field. Before the injury in week one, Rivers was 16-20 with 151 yards and a touchdown. After the injury, Rivers was just 9-16 for 92 yards and no scores. There is clearly a disconnect in the Chargers offense when Keenan Allen is not on the field. The running game also significantly ramped down and both Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead struggled to be explosive when the Chiefs defense wasn’t worried about the Chargers passing game. We learned that when the Chargers are forced to be one-dimensional on offense their efficiency drastically drops off.
The Jaguars have proven they can pass the ball effectively, which is a promising trend they will no doubt capitalize on this Sunday against the Chargers. San Diego gave up 363 passing yards to Alex Smith; the Chiefs’ quarterback who isn’t known for his downfield passing abilities. Another positive trend that we can be excited about is the continuing lack of pass-rushers and the Chargers’ struggle to get to opposing quarterbacks. Bortles should have a decent amount of time to find our receivers downfield and convert on some big plays. Contrary to my own expectations, the Jaguars offensive line was not a total disaster against the Packers, minus a couple of holding penalties that were warranted and a few that weren’t.
This is what the Jaguars MUST do better at in order to beat the Chargers:
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