The Jaguars will travel north to take on the Colts this Sunday. Their long time division rival sits at the bottom of the division with a record of 2-4, but the Colts are only one game behind the division leaders. The Titans, Jaguars, and Texans are all 3-3 heading into week seven. For the Jaguars winning this divisional matchup has major post season implications. Let's take a look at how the Jaguars can earn a victory against the Colts.
1. Load the box on defense
The Jaguars defense has struggled with the run in their three losses so far. Against the Rams last week the Jaguars never gave up a run longer than 14 yards, but they gave up chunks of five, six, and seven yards seemingly every time the Rams ran the ball. Against the Jets the Jaguars gave up big chunks of yardage and gave up two TDs of over 50 yards on the ground. Against the Titans the Jaguars defense didn't have an answer for First Coast native Derrick Henry in the second half as he ran over, around, and through the defense. The Colts don't do any one thing particularly well on offense. Their rushing attack ranks in the bottom half of the league and their passing attack is even less intimidating. They don't have a particularly impressive offensive line. The Jaguars need to load the box early and often against the Colts and QB Jacoby Brissett. The former Florida and NC State QB has been forced into action after being traded to the Colts just prior to the start of the regular season. He's been better than most would have expected, but still has a long way to go in his development. The Jaguars need to dare Brissett to throw the ball. Don't allow the Colts to get anything going on the ground and let the best secondary in the league take care of business. Against the Rams the defensive line could not control their gaps, so instead of just allowing chunks of yardage to be picked up on the ground, fill those gaps with linebackers and safeties. Let Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye do what they are paid to do and commit to stopping the run.
2. Figure special teams out
The Jaguars week six loss to the Rams must've felt like a real life nightmare for special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis. The Jaguars gave up a kick return TD on the opening kickoff. They allowed a punt to be blocked and recovered for a TD. In the first quarter Brad Nortman punted a ball that traveled just 16 yards. Jason Myers missed two field goals. The Jaguars entered 2017 expecting special teams to be a major improvement. With an offseason emphasis on signing and re-signing crucial special teamers and the return of Joe DeCamillis things were expected to be greatly improved in the special teams department. But that hasn't been the case. Jason Myers was released by the Jaguars and replaced by Josh Lambo. Lambo is more accurate than Myers on PATs and seems to have a bit more consistency to his game when kicking field goals. The Jaguars can't allow a punt to be blocked this week - Perhaps TJ Yeldon could return to the field to help in punt protection? Brad Nortman needs to respond - he's been one of the best punters in the league over the last several years, but he must quickly put to bed his blunders from last week and move forward. In terms of kick coverage, Lambo could help with that too. Myers often kicked the ball far on kickoffs but his hang time left a bit to be desired - on the kickoff returned for a TD last week Myers out kicked his coverage by not putting enough air under the ball. Lambo will need to make sure he avoids the same mistake.
3. Loosen up the Colts defense early on
The Jaguars offensive game plan every week is to feed Leonard Fournette and let the young man do this thing. That didn't work for much of the game against the Rams as defensive coordinator Wade Phillips decided to load the box against the run and force Blake Bortles to complete passes downfield. Rams defenders knew Fournette was getting the ball and shut him down after his 75 yard scamper in the first quarter. The Jaguars need to force the Colts defense to think. There were several opportunities for Blake Bortles to keep the ball on what may have been read options last week. Perhaps, even if nothing is there, Bortles should keep the ball a few times early on this week just to make the defense respect his ability to run. Bortles is an excellent athlete at QB and should be allowed to use that athleticism. Beyond that the Jaguars may look to come up with some gimmick plays or plays that will set up other plays later in the game. Essentially, the Jaguars need to not be so obvious early in the game. Run some read options, let Bortles sling it in the intermediate part of the field, and maybe run something you haven't put on tape before. The first drive or two of the first half will be scripted, so come out and test the Colts instead of just running the ball. If the Colts defense is forced to start thinking about what the Jaguars might do then as the game goes on pounding the rock with Leonard Fournette should become easier.
The Jaguars desperately need this win in order to stay even with the Titans, who travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns. Tennessee will almost certainly get to 4-3 this week, so the Jaguars must do the same.
Fun Fact: The Jaguars are undefeated in odd weeks of the season so far. In week one the Jaguars defeated the Texans 27-9, in week three they beat the Ravens 44-7, and in week five they trounced the Steelers 30-9. This week is an odd week - will the trend continue?
What do you think the Jaguars need to do in order to beat the Colts this weekend? Let us know in the comments below.
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