Jacksonville at Cincinnati: 5 Things to Know
The Jacksonville Jaguars will not be back in EverBank Field for the next month of football. That is a long time away from home, given this young team cannot seem to buy a win on the road.
This week, it is the Cincinnati Bengals, followed by a trip to London to face Dallas, and then a bye week before a trip to Indianapolis. It’s a stretch which will define this team as a bottom feeder (which right now it has become) or a tram making more improvements.
Jacksonville was 0-8 at this time last season, but has shown life from time to time on offense and a certain determination on defense of late. How the team plays in Cincinnati, against one of the most complete teams in the league (although their record does not show it) will tell everyone how this season plays out.
Here are five things to know about this game.
FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE
The Jaguars' defensive line, notably tackles Sen'Derrick Marks and Roy Miller, has played well all season, but especially in the red zone. Teams are averaging just 2.08 yards per rush against the Jaguars in the red zone. In addition, the Jaguars have allowed teams to convert just 27.3 percent of third-down plays in the red zone, which is fifth in the league.
They've also intercepted two passes in the end zone. What's funny is the Jaguars have given up six touchdown passes of 20 or more yards, which shows the secondary has been more susceptible to getting beat deep than having trouble in the red zone. The pass rush has helped in the red zone, too. The Jaguars' 25 sacks are tied with Minnesota for second in the NFL behind Buffalo (28).
TROUBLE WITH THE BLITZ
According to Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com, Blake Bortles has had issues with the blitz and that might be a reason for many of his struggles lately.
Though he is completing nearly 60 percent of his throws against five or more rushers, he has thrown five interceptions, has thrown no touchdown passes and has been sacked nine times. His Total QBR is a paltry 2.8 against five or more rushers. This isn't confined to just Bortles, though, because nearly every rookie QB will struggle against pressure. However, the Jaguars need to see improvement over the final eight games. His decision-making has to be better, and the one thing offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch wants to see is Bortles not continue to make the same mistakes.
A.J. Green has missed parts of four games this season because of a nagging big-toe injury, and in his place the Bengals have just rolled out a strong group of receivers, running backs and tight ends. Mohamed Sanu has been the most direct replacement for Green, catching 21 passes for 383 yards and a touchdown in Green's absence. Since Sanu has served as a runner on reverses, and passed balls in addition to catching them, he has racked up 460 yards of total offense in relief of Green.
That's good enough for 31.3 percent of the Bengals' entire offensive production in the games Green has missed. Even if Green returns, expect Sanu to factor in similar ways this week and on down the line. Still, it can't be disputed that Green's potential addition this weekend will help any offensive success Cincinnati has.
THIRD TIME’S A CHARM?
It is a lot to ask of a second year player who spent his entire college career as a quarterback to become the starting running back of the Jaguars and run for three straight 100-yards games. That is exactly what Jacksonville is asking Denard Robinson to do. Since entering the starting lineup, the team has been a better running team, and the offensive line has looked much better in the process.
The Bengals defense is one of the best in football, so this is a true test for the younger Jaguars line. I suspect Robinson gets about 70 yards on the ground. If he gets more, it means the Jacksonville offense has truly found its rhythm.
CINCINNATI WINS, BUT …
The Jaguars look better on offense. Jacksonville is a double – digit dog in this game, but I think they cover the spread (like I am concerned with point spreads). The point is this defense is getting better and it shows.
The Bengals have one of the better offenses in the AFC and the NFL, but are also inconsistent from time to time. Mohamed Sanu has played well while AJ Green has been injured. Green will hopefully play this week, which creates more issues for the Jaguars secondary. In the end, it becomes too much to overcome.
CINCINNATI 27 JACKSONVILLE 23