Jaguars vs Raiders: 3 Matchups to watch
Prince & Jalen vs Amari & Michael
The Jaguars starting cornerbacks, Prince Amukamara and Jalen Ramsey, are playing at close to an elite level at this point in the season. Amukamara has dealt with some minor injuries, but when healthy has been perhaps the Jaguars most consistent defensive back. Jalen Ramsey has been tested more and more through out the season and risen to the occasion more often than not, including a game sealing pass breakup in the Jaguars 17-16 victory over the Bears in week 6. This dynamic duo of cornerbacks has helped the Jaguars to the transform into a top 10 defense in the NFL. And to this point Jalen and Prince have faced some pretty stiff competition including the likes of Alshon Jeffery, T.Y. Hilton, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb, but no test will be as big as the one they face against the Raiders. Amari Cooper, the second year pro from Alabama has all the tools. He stands 6'1'' tall and weighs in around 210 lbs. He's a physical receiver with high end speed and elite explosiveness in small areas. His combination of work ethic and skill has allowed him to rack up 36 catches for 585 yards through 6 games in 2015 - that's an average of over 16 yards a catch. His partner in crime, Michael Crabtree, plays an extremely physical brand of football and seemingly catches everything thrown his way. While Crabtree doesn't have the flashy yards per catch average of Cooper, he is tied for the NFL lead in TD catches with 5. The two star receivers present the biggest threat that the Jaguars secondary has faced this season. Oh and did we mention they have the best young QB in the game slinging it to them? Will Jalen, Prince and the boys be ready?
Kelvin Beachum vs Khalil Mack
One of the most important matchups week in and week out is the left tackle vs the opposition's best pass rusher. This week for the Jaguars it's Kelvin Beachum vs Khalil Mack. Beachum has been impressive through the first part of the season. Entering the season Beachum was rehabbing from an ACL, but you wouldn't know it based on his play. He hasn't been a great run blocker, but that's not what he was brought to Jacksonville to do. He's been very effective as a pass protector and has done yeoman's work trying to keep Blake Bortles clean. He's faced some pretty good pass rushers so far, but none compare to Khalil Mack. Mack is one of the best young pass rushers in football, but for some reason this season he's only been able to bring down the QB twice in 2016. He'll be licking his chops facing the Jaguars and Blake Bortles who has been sacked 120 times (more than any other QB) since entering the NFL in 2014. Mack is a game changing force and will be a huge test for Beachum. If Mack is able to beat Beachum on a regular basis, then Bortles and the Jaguars offense will be in for a long day.
The Jaguars rushing attack vs the Raiders front seven
The Jaguars rushing attack has been abysmal in 4 of their 5 contest this season. Their lone good performance came against a porous Colts run defense. As a team the Jaguars are averaging only 3.3 yards per carry, and average a ridiculously low 71 rushing yards per game. Now the Jaguars feeble rushing attack faces off against a defense that is perhaps even worse than the Colts. The Raiders are giving up over 448 total yards a game, which is by far the most of any defense in the NFL. On the ground they're giving up 132 yards a game and are allowing 4.8 yards per carry. If the Jaguars rushing attack were ever to find it's way, it would be against this Raiders front seven. If the Jags aren't able to crank up the ground game this week, then this embarrassment could transform into a season long trend. Blake Bortles and the Jaguars receiving weapons need the running game to find life this week or the Raiders will be able to tee off on the young QB.
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