The annual Thursday Night Game for the Jaguars is here. This year they drew the Miami Dolphins for their lone primetime matchup, and there aren't really any major headlines drawing national interest to this game. Tua is still sitting behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the Dolphins still are not very good. Regardless, the Jaguars will be on national television for all to see. The casual observer will most likely not tune in given the Jaguars inability to produce entertaining football on Thursday Night in recent years. But the hardcore football fans will be tuning in; the national media will be tuning in, and the Jaguars will have a stage to prove that they can be a team to worry about in the NFL. This franchise has time and time again fallen into trap games, and succumbing to teams they should be more than capable of beating. That has to stop. To be a good team in the NFL, you need to win the games you are supposed to win. The Jaguars have a chance to do just that on Thursday night.
My key to victory on offense is somewhat of an obvious and over-beaten drum, but Gardner Minshew and Jay Gruden must do everything they can to play efficient, turn over free football. The Jaguars once again face a team with their star cornerback on the mend — this week, it's Byron Jones sitting out for Miami. This is an immediate weakness the Jaguars need to exploit with play calling. Using pre-snap motion and different formations, Minshew needs to identify mismatches in coverage early, and take advantage. Getting guys like Laviska Shenault and even Keelan Cole in situations where they can use their speed and explosiveness off the ball against linebackers and young corners will be key. Minshew also needs to display some increased pocket awareness. At times he has been known to hold the ball too long, taking unnecessary sacks. When the pocket begins to collapse, or coverage begins to stick, the second-year quarterback needs to rely on that clock in his head and limit the times the offense falls behind the sticks. Manageable third-down situations will be key to keeping offensive drives moving. Effectively running the ball on first and second down will improve their chances of keeping down and distance short as well. The offensive line should be more than capable against this front seven to give James Robinson a chance at back to back 100+ yard games. They need to replicate the offensive performance we saw week one against the Colts.
Defensively, pressure from the defensive line will be key in making sure Ryan Fitzmagic turns into Ryan Fitztragic. We have not seen the relentless pass rush we have expected from this team early in the season. They need to hit him early and often. Force him to get the ball out quick, and hope your guys in coverage can snag a few from Fitzpatrick in close coverage. This defense can not afford to give up any big plays this week. They are the better team and should be able to keep the Dolphins offensive players in check. Finally, play disciplined. Don't give the Dolphins any second chances on third downs with penalties. It truly is just as simple as it seems for the defense this week.
The Jaguars do have a special teams situation to watch this week as veteran kicker Josh Lambo has been sent to IR. Their replacement, Brandon Wright, is a man with no NFL kicking experience whatsoever, so that alone could change the way the Jaguars might attack from special teams. I don't expect to see any kicks outside of 35 yards. The Jags will probably elect to go for shorter fourth-down conversions or let Logan Cooke do execute some precise punts. Either way, the Jaguars will need to make sure that whatever alternatives they have lined up to make amends for missing Lambo's leg are executed to perfection this week. They will not be able to make up for free points they give to the Dolphins if they do not execute well in the special teams phase.
As I finish this it is key to note that DJ Chark WILL NOT play this evening. Expect to see a heavy dosage of Laviska Shenault and James Robinson.
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