On Monday, Urban Meyer called the Los Angeles Rams an all-star team. On Wednesday after being able to break down even more film on the Jacksonville Jaguars' next opponent, Meyer's opinion didn't change.
“Just capitalize it and underline it and then put that exclamation point," Meyer said today if anything had changed.
The Jaguars (2-9) will travel to Los Angeles for the second time in two years, this time playing the Rams (7-4) in a contest between one of the NFL's most stacked rosters and one of the league's youngest and most obvious rebuilds. The two teams are moving in different directions, but on Sunday they will collide.
“All I’m worried about is one game on the road. We’re facing an all-star team [the Los Angeles Rams] out there [on a] long trip," Meyer said on Monday. "o, we just have to put this one behind us, learn from some of the mistakes, and get ready to go. I know they lost. I think they’ve lost two in a row. I’ve not studied them yet, but I’ve seen enough of them to know what we’re getting into.”
For Meyer, the Rams present the greatest test for his team since their Week 9 home contest against the Buffalo Bills. Since then the Jaguars have lost to the Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, and Atlanta Falcons, entering a three-game skid that has seen the Jaguars struggle with other teams who are south of the .500 line.
But on Sunday, that changes. The Jaguars won't be facing another team on the downside, even with the Rams' recent losing streak. Instead, the Jaguars will be playing a team that contains some of the league's best defenders in Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Donald, and Von Miller, along with unheralded stars such as Leonard Floyd.
"The guy I didn’t mentioned was the other d-end. His name escaped me right now. It’s [Rams OLB] Von Miller and the other guy, [Rams OLB] Leonard Floyd. He’s a great player. I understand he came from Chicago there, but now that I’ve watched him, Floyd is the deal, about as good as the other one," Meyer said on Wednesday,
"So [with] this all-star team, [we] have to get the ball out, have to have answers for it.”
The Rams' defense presents a challenge for Meyer that he considers to be among the most significant they have faced all season. The Jaguars have faced other elite pass-rushers, such as in Week 3 against the Arizona Cardinals and J.J. Watt and Chandler Jones, but the Rams provide a different level of competition compared to most teams. For a Jaguars offense that has struggled to get off the ground in 2021, Meyer sees Sunday as one of the true measuring sticks of the season.
"This is it. I thought the Cardinals were also. We had great respect obviously when [Rams OLB] Von Miller was with the Broncos and the Titans, I can list them all, but this is the best one," Meyer said.
But it isn't just the Rams' defense that stands in the Jaguars' way. As the Jaguars look to refind their confidence during their West Coast trip, their defense will have its hands full just as much as the offense will.
After back-to-back weeks of facing quarterbacks who are a bit more risk-averse and don't exactly rip it like Jimmy Garoppolo and Matt Ryan, the Jaguars will now face-off against the big right arm of Matthew Stafford.
Meyer knows Stafford well from their battles during their time at the University of Florida and University of Georgia. Now, over a decade after Meyer had to bring together a team of teenagers to topple Stafford's squad, Meyer will have to do the same with a group of professional athletes who are fighting to not lose their fourth game in a row.
"I just love the guy. He’s a competitor. We competed against each other. I never forget this one time. That game [the annual Florida Georgia game], there’s 200,000 people outside, 80,000 inside, and [it’s] just nuts and top five teams going against each other. I remember he ran right in front of me and got hit out of bounds and I was focused on what I was doing. He gets up and runs right by me and kind of gives me that look and that ear-to-ear smile, and I just always remind him about that," Meyer said. "He’s a competitor that has fun playing the game.”
But that was then and this is now. Stafford's fire hasn't changed, but he is now platooned by a team of genuine all-stars. And if Meyer wants his team to somehow climb out of the hole that is their 2021 season, it will take knocking off this all-star team.
With each team looking to rebound in Week 13, it is clear the Rams will be the favorites to win. For the Jaguars to prevent from hitting double-digit losses just one week into December, it will take the Jaguars to play a different type of football game than they have over the last month.
“[It’s] about what I thought. I thought I knew what I was getting into. I knew [it] was putting together a staff, a roster. To say that I envisioned 2-9, I did not," Meyer said on Wednesday/
"I envisioned we would be a little cleaner team at this point. But I’ve coached a long time, studied this game a long time, I knew that week in week out, you’re facing the best players on the planet. But I thought we’d be a little cleaner by this point, certainly on offense.”