The Jacksonville Jaguars need a win in the worst way. As one of just a handful of teams who are still winless through the first two weeks of the season, the 0-2 Jaguars are badly hoping to end their losing ways against the undefeated Arizona Cardinals.
If the Jaguars hope to knock off the Cardinals on Sunday at home, they will need a few key players to step up and make impact plays. While every single player on the roster is key to victory, we believe there are a few who are more important than the others depending on the week and the opponent.
So, who are the Jaguars' five players who will help decide Week 3's result? We break it down here.
QB Trevor Lawrence
Trevor Lawrence can be the pick here any week, obviously, since he is the starting quarterback. But it is even more paramount this week that Lawrence has a strong game, in large part because the Jaguars need him to break out of his current slump. Lawrence's 50% completion rate and five interceptions through two games underscore his struggles, but the Jaguars will have a genuine chance in any game that Lawrence plays without making fatal mistakes. Lawrence has the arm talent, intelligence and athleticism to wreak havoc on defenses once he settles in.
The Jaguars will need this week to be the week Lawrence starts to settle in considering how good Arizona has been against the pass to start 2021. The Cardinals are ranked No. 8 in pass defense DVOA and the 12th best defense in adjusted net yards per pass attempt (5.9). The Cardinals have some terrific back-seven defenders in Byron Murphy, Isaiah Simmons and Budda Baker, so Lawrence will badly need to dial back on the mistakes in Week 3 to give the Jaguars a chance.
CB Tyson Campbell
The Jaguars could be without second-year cornerback CJ Henderson on Sunday due to a groin injury, which certainly isn't ideal considering the Cardinals offense consists of DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore, A.J. Green, and Andy Isabella. Campbell will likely be the cornerback who sees an increased role in the event Henderson doesn't play, with there being a chance for Campbell to take snaps both on the outside and in the slot.
Considering the Cardinals' explosive passing attack that puts pressure on cornerbacks to stay in coverage for extended periods of time, it will be key for Campbell to adjust quickly if the Jaguars ask him to move to the outside. The Jaguars' best strategy would be to move Herndon inside and have Campbell across from Shaquill Griffin in the event Henderson doesn't play, which would put a tremendous amount of pressure on the rookie cornerback to produce.
RB James Robinson
We know, we know. Until the Jaguars prove they remember James Robinson exists for a period of four consecutive quarters, it is hard to fully believe he is one of the players who could decide a contest. But if there is any week for the Jaguars to finally establish the running game, it is against a bad Cardinals' run defense. Just read Diante Lee's fantastic piece on Pro Football Focus to get a deep understanding of why the Cardinals can't stop the run, but the ultimate fact is just that -- that Cardinals have been weak against the run, opening the door for the Jaguars to take advantage.
In short, the Cardinals' structural issues have led to big gains for opposing run games, specifically for the Minnesota Vikings and Dalvin Cook in Week 2. The Cardinals have allowed the third-highest average (5.4 yards per carry) and seventh-most total rushing yards through two weeks despite seeing the 10th-fewest carries among defenses in that span. The Cardinals have made big plays against the pass, but they are genuinely vulnerable against the run. If the Jaguars are going to win, they will need Robinson to take advantage of the Cardinals' achilles heel.
LB Myles Jack
Kyler Murray, Kyler Murray, Kyler Murray. The Jaguars' defense hasn't stopped hearing the name all week and that won't stop until the end of Sunday's game, when the Jaguars prove whether they can slow down a player who has been arguably the best in the NFL through the first two weeks. Murray ranks ninth in the NFL among quarterbacks in Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement, per Football Outsiders, and has driven the Titans' and Vikings' defenses crazy with his backyard football style of play.
If the Jaguars are going to limit Murray, they will need their best athlete to match him. That is linebacker Myles Jack, who the Jaguars will likely prioritize with slowing down Murray since tasking Damien Wilson with that challenge would yield disastrous results. Jack is the Jaguars' best option to contain Murray when he breaks past the line of scrimmage, as well as their top option to spy Murray on passing downs or key on him during read-option looks. Murray is bound to make big plays, but Jack's performance can help determine just how many of those big plays happen.
RT Jawaan Taylor
Just like last week, Jawaan Taylor is one of the Jaguars' most important players. One week after holding his own against Denver Broncos' edge rusher Von Miller, Taylor is going to be lined up against one of the NFL's best pass-rushers in Chandler Jones. Nine pressures, four quarterback hits, five sacks, and two forced fumbles through two games are stellar numbers for Jones, who singlehandedly beat Taylor Lewan so bad in Week 1 that Lewan felt compelled to tweet that Jones exposed him.
If the Jaguars are going to help Lawrence limit his mistakes in Week 3, they will need to ensure Jones isn't getting consistent pressure or many chances at causing forced fumbles. And for that to happen, they will need Taylor to step up in a similar way to how he did in Week 2 against Miller and the Broncos' defense.
"Just knowing this is the NFL man, every week we're gonna play somebody good," Taylor told Jaguar Report on Thursday. "You know, just having the right mindset going out there, just wanting to do what I do, just play football and have fun out there going against great players."