The Jacksonville Jaguars need a spark.
That spark can come in a variety of ways, whether via a big kick return, a long offensive touchdown, or the one thing the Jaguars haven't gotten this year -- a game-changing turnover.
Through two weeks, the Jaguars are one of just two teams (the Eagles are the other) that have yet to record a single turnover. They have recorded just five pass breakups, tied for the fifth-fewest in the NFL.
In short, they need the secondary to make the big play to change the tide of the game, especially if they hope to knock off the 2-0 Arizona Cardinals and all-world quarterback Kyler Murray in Week 3. And for the Jaguars to do that, they will need rookie cornerback Tyson Campbell to step up in a big way.
Campbell, the No. 33 overall pick in April's draft, has played a big role in the Jaguars' defense through the early stages of his rookie season. He has acted as the team's top nickel cornerback, playing 57% of the defensive snaps over the first two weeks.
But Sunday against Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, and Rondale Moore could call for a bigger role for Campbell. Not only do the Jaguars need all the defensive backs they can get to prepare for Sunday, but they are also facing some uncertainty with starting cornerback CJ Henderson's status due to a groin injury. And in the event Henderson doesn't play, the Jaguars very well could look to Campbell to make his first-ever NFL start on the outside as opposed to keeping him in the slot.
“He can play both. That’s one of the things he did a lot of in college, and he’s done that here," coordinator Joe Cullen said on Thursday.
"Those guys, [Secondary- Corners Coach] Tim [Walton] and [Defensive Backs Coach- Nickels] Joe [Danna], have done a great job rolling him back and forth. He covered well, he did a good job, and I think he’s only going to get better. He has the speed to cover those guys.”
The bad news for Campbell is that getting your first NFL start against the likes of Murray and Hopkins is more or less being thrown to the wolves. The good news for Campbell, though, is obvious -- and is a big reason why Sunday has the chance to be the pivotal moment of Campbell's rookie season.
Campbell told Jaguar Report on Thursday that he has seen reps both inside and outside in practice this week. The logical scenario if Henderson doesn't play would be for Campbell to be on the outside and Tre Herndon to take over in the slot.
"So, you know, I have been getting reps and both, just being available to wherever coaches need me," Campbell said.
For Campbell, that would mean him going back to the position he played for years at Georgia. Campbell had limited nickel reps with the Bulldogs, making his entire transition to slot corner a projection from the word go. Now, Campbell could have a chance to go back to his roots, which could play into his strengths much better than in the slot.
"[It is] definitely slowing down for me whether I'm playing nickel or corner. I just take a deep breath and envision everything and make sure my keys are right," Campbell said.
Why are the two positions so different? Aside from the simple fact that nickel cornerbacks have to play in space more, they also have vastly different responsibilities from the outside cornerbacks in Jacksonville's defensive scheme.
Those differences in the roles are part of the reason the Jaguars picked Campbell to be their starting slot corner all the way back in April. Campbell is a strong tackler who is physical against the run and has seen success as a blitzer. But he is also a long cornerback who wins with press-man technique and using his downfield speed to keep up with receivers.
"Yeah, nickels have more, I guess more run responsibility," Campbell said on Thursday.
"And we really do a lot of zone pattern match, you know, as far as the nickel, where, you know, the corner can really lock in on one guy in his zone if nobody's around. So I think that's probably the main difference. And we blitz a little more."
This week, Campbell could have a chance to show why the differences are so pronounced. Campbell has flashed at slot corner, but the consensus scouting report on him out of college was that he was a future starter on the outside. And in Week 3, Campbell will get exactly the chance to show that.
If Campbell struggles, the Jaguars could look to continue to develop him in the slot while Henderson returns to the outside. If he thrives like he has the potential to, then the Jaguars could have a tough decision on their hands.
But for now, the Jaguars and Campbell aren't looking that far ahead. They are looking toward Week 3, which could prove to be a pivotal moment for the rookie cornerback and the entire Jaguars' defense.
"We just keep working man. It is behind us, so we can only control what's in front of us," Campbell said.
"So that's what we're here to do. And make adjustments, learn from it, and take advantage of the opportunities that come to us later on.