As the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) prepare to welcome the Denver Broncos (1-0) for their 2021 home opener today, they’ll be looking to not only start with a win at home for the first time since week one of the 2020 season, but their first win of the Urban Meyer era. The Jags admittedly looked lost and reactionary in their week one loss to the Houston Texans. So today is not only about facing the Broncos, but about improving their own mistakes.
To pull off the win, it will take these three keys to the game.
Put It On Teddy
Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went 28-36 for 264 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in their week one win over the New York Giants. Bridgewater has the capability to be a mobile quarterback (he also rushed three times for 19 yards versus the Giants) and has been used as such in the past.
The Jaguars secondary—looking to make up for big plays they allowed to Brandin Cooks of the Texans—want to force Bridgewater to put the ball downfield today, trusting they can take advantage and stop the attack.
“The offense can be explosive. You have to start fast and that’s the part we make sure we focus on is starting fast, getting the best of Teddy, and make him kind of air that ball out, make those guys try to make plays with the receivers,” explained corner Shaquill Griffin.
“As the backend, the DBs, we have to be the one to have one-on-one battles. That’s what we’re harping on, figure out who you’re going to be facing, who you’re going to be guarding, win your one-on-one battles. Let’s put the game on Teddy Bridgewater and not on the run, so that’s the thing that we’re focusing on.”
The Von Plan
Denver boasts one of the best pass rush/edge defenders in the league in Von Miller. Now he has help as well with Bradley Chubb (who is questionable for today). Miller can rush, drop into coverage, and go sideline to sideline to negate any break-away plays. He drives the defense and the Jaguars plan is primarily to keep an eye on him.
"Von is going to line up to our right side, we know where he’s at every snap,” explained Meyer. “He’s that good of a player. He’s also good against zone read and those types of things. But he’s a dynamic, generational pass rusher, so you just have to know where he’s at and you have to have a plan for him.”
For a rookie quarterback like Trevor Lawrence, Miller presents an incredible challenge on par with few else he’ll see in the league. So while offensive linemen and pass protectors will have responsibilities for Miller, Lawrence is preparing to play away from him as well, while keeping an eye downfield for what the Broncos are doing there.
“Up front, they have the two linebackers. They’re really like d-ends but can drop, play coverage, Von Miller, Bradley Chubb. They have a lot of other guys too that can roll in, but those two guys on the edge [have] great pass rush. They make it tough to break contain because they do such a good job setting the edge, and they have the coverage players too.
“They do a good job mixing it up in the secondary, showing you something pre-snap and changing it. We have a challenge in front of us for sure, but I feel like we had a great first day of prep and I like our plan so far.”
Versus the Texans, the Jags threw the ball 51 times, something Meyer says he “never” wants to do again. But it was necessary, as Jacksonville got behind Houston and the chains early, practically playing catch-up the entire day. It changed the entire game plan. The Jags threw the ball 12 straight times coming out of the gate, although there were a couple of runs but they were nullified with penalties.
So, the first step to being balanced, is fix the self-inflicted errors.
“We ran the ball decent, but we just got behind the chains and next thing you know, you’re down by a couple scores and you get the panic feeling a little bit. That’s not what you should do with a young quarterback,” admitted Meyer.
Added Lawrence, “really [it was] just penalties. We have to be cleaner. We have to be sharper, have to be quicker in and out of the huddle procedurally.”
Then, of course, there’s the actual act of being more balanced. With a little bit of breathing room, the Jaguars have to take better advantage of James Robinson. He is their bellcow and arguably the most consistent offensive playmaker. He received only five carries versus the Texans, for 25 yards.
Lawrence knows there were some misses versus Houston. And hitting them today against the Broncos will allow Robinson more room to work.
“You look at the penalties and [getting] backed up and the third down situations, you just have to [throw]. Then I had an early miss low on the out to DJ [Chark Jr.] that put us in third down or second down and screen. All that and some of those were screens too, which they were passes but obviously that’s for run after the catch so that’s a little bit different. That’s obviously not what you want, so we all have to do better. That’s not the offensive coordinator[‘s fault], that’s really us on execution and putting him in a bad spot.”
“We have the guys to do it, so I’m not concerned with that. But it’s just about playing cleaner early so you don’t get down 17, 21, whatever it is and then you kind of have to play catch up. That’s the idea is just staying in the game by not shooting yourself in the foot and we did that too much, so [we need to be] getting better with that.”