5 Key Matchups That Could Determine Jaguars Vs. Dolphins
A sentence that would surprise nearly all football observers before this season began: the Jacksonville Jaguars have a chance to advance to 2-1 with a Week 3 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Jacksonville (1-1) is hosting the Dolphins (0-2) at TIAA Bank Field on Thursday Night Football, the Jaguars' only primetime game in 2020. With a win, Jacksonville could continue to build the respect from the rest of the league that they haven't been given all offseason. But for the Jaguars to grab that win, they will need several players to win key matchups.
So, which matchups could ultimately decide Jaguars vs. Dolphins? We examine below.
WR Keelan Cole vs. CB Noah Igbinoghene
With the Dolphins' major free agent addition cornerback Byron Jones out with a groin/Achilles injury, the Dolphins will be turning to first-round rookie Noah Igbinoghene in the secondary. Igbinoghene has a lot of talent but the book on him coming out of Auburn was how raw he was. This showed in Week 2 after Jones left the game with an injury early in the first quarter; according to Pro Football Focus, Igbinoghene allowed six catches for 139 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets when covering Stefon Diggs. With DJ Chark questionable to play with a back/chest injury, the Jaguars could turn to Keelan Cole to be the one to face off against Igbinoghene throughout the game. Cole leads the Jaguars in targets (12), catches (11), and touchdowns (2), and has looked like one of the NFL's more solid starting receivers this year.
C Tyler Shatley vs. DT Christian Wilkins
Jacksonville's starting center Brandon Linder was ruled out of Thursday's game with a knee injury on Wednesday, creating a big matchup in the middle of the trenches heading into tonight's game. Second-year defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, the No. 13 overall selection in 2019, has been one of Miami's best players this season and will likely make Thursday a four-quarter brawl between him and Shatley. Wilkins is currently Pro Football Focus' No. 8 graded interior defensive lineman and he has been incredibly disruptive through two games, especially considering he has faced two good offensive lines in New England and Buffalo. If the Jaguars are to keep their running game heading in a positive direction, they will need Shatley to prove his mettle vs. Wilkins.
MLB Joe Schobert vs. TE Mike Gesicki
No team has been hurt by tight ends more this season than the Jaguars. They let Jonnu Smith score two touchdowns and nearly record 100 receiving yards against them on fewer than five catches, while they have given up big plays to Jack Doyle and several backup Titans tight ends as well. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, they are drawing one of this year's best tight ends in Mike Gesicki on Thursday. The second-year tight end leads the Dolphins in targets (16), receptions (11), and receiving yards (160), and he has made numerous highlight-reel plays this season. If the Jaguars are to stop the bleeding against tight ends, they will need inside linebacker Joe Schobert to use his quickness and instincts to limit Gesicki's ability to impact the passing game. Schobert was known for his pass defense in Cleveland but has yet to make an impact in this area in Jacksonville; Week 3 would be the perfect time to start.
DE Josh Allen vs. OT Austin Jackson
Josh Allen has yet to make an impact as a pass rusher this season, though it took him until Week 3 to get going last year as well. Allen has zero sacks through two games but has recorded three quarterback hits and multiple pressures, which makes it clear he is still Jacksonville's top pass-rusher. For him to change his production fortunes in Week 3, he will need to do it against first-round rookie Austin Jackson, who Miami selected with the No. 18 overall pick in 2020. Luckily for Allen, Jackson hasn't exactly been stellar to start his career. He is PFF's lowest-ranked offensive tackle through two games after allowing five pressures vs. the Bills in Week 2. If the Jaguars' pass rush can't get going this week, it may never get off the ground.
CB Tre Herndon vs. WR Isaiah Ford
It remains to be seen just how healthy wide receiver DeVante Parker is, but he might not be Jacksonville's biggest worry on the outside anyway. In 2020, Isaiah Ford has been one of Miami's top receivers, catching nine passes for 89 yards. These aren't gaudy stats, but he has made a number of impressive plays vs. two of the best pass defenses the NFL has to offer. With CJ Henderson likely focusing in on Parker, the Jaguars will need No. 2 cornerback Tre Herndon to prevent Ford from making any big plays that give the Dolphins' offense any breathing room.