The Jacksonville Jaguars didn't exactly have the start to the 2021 season they wanted, but they have a chance to reverse course at home against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
How does the Jaguar Report staff think the Jaguars' first home game of the season unfolds? Who wins, and why? We break it all down below in the Week 3 roundtable.
1) Kyler Murray has been electric to start the 2021 season. Do the Jaguars have any real chance at stopping him from having a big day?
John Shipley: No. Unless Kyler Murray throws some bad interceptions as a result of his style, or takes sacks on key downs, I don't see any way the Jaguars slow down arguably the most electric quarterback at the start of the 2021 season. The Jaguars' pass defense hasn't been able to slow down either Tyrod Taylor or Teddy Bridgewater, so it is hard for me to think that suddenly changes when they face an even better quarterback in Murray.
Gus Logue: I think Jacksonville’s best chance of stopping Kyler Murray is simply allowing him to beat himself. Kyler has a backyard football style of play that produces many highlights but risks plenty of negative plays as well. If DeAndre Hopkins (game-time decision) doesn’t play, Kyler forces one too many tight windows and K’Lavon Chaisson can actually convert a pressure into a sack, the Jaguars might just have a chance. It’ll ultimately come down to how well the defense executes blitzes in high leverage situations- a battle Kyler and co. seem to win more often than not.
Kassidy Hill: A chance? Sure. There’s always a chance. And realistically they have the pieces in place and a defense that is now suited to stopping someone like Murray. It will require doing everything short of putting a spy on him the entire game—and even that’s not a bad idea. What works in the Jaguars favor is they have a scheme that answers the option type offense the Cardinals can run with Murray. Josh Allen can technically rush, defend the run or drop into coverage from the position Joe Cullen has him playing now. You don’t necessarily want Allen dropping, but he can be the spy if needed. Where Murray tears teams apart is when things, well, fall apart. He’s fast and quick (yes there’s a difference and he’s both) with a deadly cut in the open field. It’s crucial to remain disciplined so as not to give him any open lanes…because he will take advantage.
He also has decent downfield threats now beyond just Hopkins, so it’s crucial as well to get after him in the pocket, collapsing it quickly. Through two games, the Jags have four sacks for a loss of 28 yards, thanks in large part to a 16-yard sack from Josh Allen versus the Broncos. That means they’re on pace to nearly double last year’s progression. But will that average be enough to stymy Murray for a full game?
Frankly, no. So while the Jaguars have the pieces and probably the game plan, they haven’t yet had the execution to make me think they can stop Kyler Murray from another big day.
2) Can Trevor Lawrence bounce back from a rough two weeks and turn in an efficient and clean performance?
John Shipley: I am hesitant to think that happens this week. Lawrence has all of the talent in the world and truly does look like he is on the cusp of having his breakout game, but the Cardinals' defense offers a lot of pre- and post-snap looks that I think could give Lawrence headaches. There is no defense Lawrence faced at Clemson that was as multiple and unpredictable as Arizona's defense is this year, especially in terms of their pass defense. Lawrence has the arm to beat up an iffy Cardinals cornerback room, but it isn't hard to think that their scheme could force the young Lawrence into some rookie mistakes.
Gus Logue: Lawrence has a few things to clean up with short area accuracy and deep area decision-making, but his first two games still left nobody questioning why he was the first overall draft selection. At some point, there will be a game when everything clicks for Lawrence and he has his first big performance as a pro that makes everybody point to the screen like Rick Dalton, nodding in agreement with themselves that Lawrence was worth pick 1.1.
This could be that week, as Arizona plays man coverage at one of the highest rates in the league and Lawrence has faced zone on the majority of dropbacks so far this season. He was much more successful against man coverage as a Clemson Tiger.
Kassidy Hill: What’s impressed me with Lawrence week in and week out is that while he continues to make mistakes, he rarely makes the same mistakes. On one hand that can be frustrating for fans to watch, feeling like each week is a new set of problems to worry about with their rookie passer. But it also shows me learning each week what he can and can’t get away with in the NFL and adjusting accordingly. So while I’m sure we see some more confounding rookie moments from Lawrence versus the Cardinals (and some perhaps not of his own making), I think he will “bounce back” and take another step forward. Will that show itself as an efficient and clean performance? Likely so.
3) How much faith do you have in the Jaguars' ability to slow down Chandler Jones?
John Shipley: I actually think the Jaguars have a decent chance at limiting Chandler Jones, but a big reason for that has been how the Jaguars approach pass-protection. They frequently gave Jawaan Taylor and Cam Robinson help against Von Miller and Bradley Chubb by calling on Chris Manhertz and the running backs to chip (even in empty formations). The Jaguars have shown the willingness to put their full attention on the opposing team's top pass-rush and slow him down, even if it means some of their route combinations suffer as a consequence. Ultimately, Jones always has the chance to change a game, but I do think the Jaguars have a solid probability of slowing him down.
Gus Logue: Jacksonville’s offensive line was impressive against Denver’s front last week, as it allowed single-digit pressures and just one blown block (from backup Ben Bartch) according to SIS. It got help in pass protection at times from tight ends and running backs, which is a recipe that is likely to be recycled this week against Chandler Jones and Arizona’s pass rushers. Lawrence has been pressured by free rushers on a few play action rollouts this season, which Jones feasted upon against Tennessee in week 1, so that will be something to watch as Jacksonville tries to get into an offensive flow. Jones is too good to be completely erased, but I think the Jaguars should be able to keep him under his current season average of 2.5 sacks per game.
Kassidy Hill: Jones provides a conundrum. He looked otherworldly in the Cardinals first game, a win over the Tennessee Titans, as he had five sacks. But then, in the week two win over the Minnesota Vikings, Jones had no sacks, no tackles and came away with just three quarterback hits. In other words, he looked human. Some of that comes from extra attention, which was completely warranted after his week one film. But there’s a game plan to stop him. And while that leaves more room for JJ Watt, the former Texan hasn’t produced as much through two games as he did in the past, with four tackles and no sacks. Granted, Watt does more than can appear in a stat sheet, but it’s clear it’s possible to limit both Jones and Watt without letting one tear you apart.
The Jaguars offensive line has done well at protecting Lawrence through two regular season games, only allowing two sacks during that time. Lawrence will have to do his part as well to recognize where Jones is every play and work away from him. So while the O-line will have to be religious about staying in their gaps, I think there’s a decent chance at slowing down Chandler Jones.
4) DeAndre Hopkins is a game-time decision, but what about Arizona's other wideouts in A.J. Green, Rondale Moore, Christian Kirk, and Andy Isabella? Are the Jaguars equipped to stop them?
John Shipley: Tyson Campbell against A.J. Green is actually a matchup I like for the rookie cornerback. Campbell is physical at the line of scrimmage and excellent at using the sideline to his advantage. If he gets matched up in the slot against Rondale Moore, though, the Cardinals have a massive advantage. The true issue for the Jaguars may be the fact that injuries could push Nevin Lawson into a major role just a few days after Week 3's game week began. If Lawson seems Moore or even Kirk on a consistent basis, it won't be ideal for the Jaguars.
Gus Logue: Sunday’s perimeter matchups will feature Shaq Griffin and Tyson Campbell, who is moving to his more natural outside position this week, against 33-year-old A.J. Green and a hobbled at best DeAndre Hopkins. On the inside, though, Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore figure to feast against whoever suits up between C.J. Henderson and Tre Herndon, both of whom are listed as questionable.
The Jaguars made a point to upgrade its cornerback room this offseason, but its slot role has been a work in progress and a constant rotation so far this year. Jacksonville’s safeties will have to step up to help prevent explosive plays, especially when Kyler breaks the pocket.
Kassidy Hill: The thing with the Cardinals is, any one of Hopkins, Moore or Kirk would be enough to cause a problem if they were the only top receiver on a team. The trio? It feels unstoppable. Having Hopkins out will make a massive difference in the game. But Moore, though two games, has proven himself capable of being a leading receiver (which he is with 182 yards). His past experience handing Urban Meyer a last second loss was so impactful it still sticks with the coach.
“I’ve just got great respect for him. He knows that. I mean, I saw first-hand and that’s the way I’ve always been. I mean, yeah, he destroyed us in one year, but he’s their primary returner—I think he’s leading the team in receptions, too. One was a scramble where he was wide open. But he’s a—you’ve got to contain him,” Meyer noted this week.
Kirk is just behind Hopkins in receiving yards, then AJ Green steps on the field and all you have is an extremely capable veteran who’s an incredibly smart route runner.
On the opposite side, the Jaguars are lining up a rookie corner in Tyson Campbell. Even if CJ Henderson does play, he’s had such spotty appearances due to injuries that he feels like a rookie as well. Shaquill Griffin opposite them provides more veteran experience. But the trio—while talented and having provided moments of textbook coverage—also have found themselves flat footed at times during the first two games, or just enough out of position to give up a big play.
Behind all of them is a safety unit that actually has looked pretty solid with Rayshawn Jenkins. But it’s always a coin flip on if we’ll see good Andrew Wingard or bad Andrew Wingard and you don’t wanna take a chance with the latter with such a downfield passing attack.
5) Final predictions?
John Shipley: Cardinals 30, Jaguars 16. Arizona's offense does seem like it living a bit on the edge, but Kyler Murray is the ultimate dynamo to produce against the Jaguars' defense. He is mobile, nearly impossible to track down in the open field, and has the arm strength and field vision to find open receivers at all levels of the field after he breaks the pocket. The Cardinals' offense is simply too good for the Jaguars' to stop, while Arizona's pass defense seems due to give Trevor Lawrence some issues.
Gus Logue: Cardinals 31, Jaguars 24. While Arizona’s offense (and Jacksonville’s defense) feels due for a few sacks and turnovers, the Cardinals still have the capability to score on any given play and will likely be too much for Jacksonville’s defense to handle. The Jaguars offense will benefit simply from not having to face Vic Fangio’s pack of Rottweilers again, so Jacksonville should be expected to score points but I’m not sure the offense is consistent enough to be able to hang with Arizona in the end.
Kassidy Hill: Cardinals 38, Jaguars 21. I think the Cardinals—specially Murray and Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury—are a good blueprint for a first time NFL coach and a No. 1 overall QB working together to turn around a franchise. Their club is getting there, finally starting to see the payoff for their patience and work. The Jaguars are just getting started. It’s the NFL, so any team can beat any team any given Sunday. And I think the Jags have enough there to pull off the upset…but I also think they’re still figuring out too many things.