Buffalo Bills (1-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)
SB Nation's Jaguars coverage: Big Cat Country
The Buffalo Bills are set to square off against the Jacksonville Jaguars in just over three days' time, and these teams could not be coming off of more different Week 1 results. The Bills dominated the Seahawks in a 34-10 win in their home opener; the Jags, however, dropped a 17-10 decision to division rival Tennessee, losing several offensive linemen along the way. The events of Week 1 have many Bills fans believing that a Week 2 game that most of us had chalked up as a loss might, in fact, be a winnable game.
Want more low-down on the Jaguars? Big Cat Country is the place to be, and the man who heads up that effort, River City Rage, was kind enough to answer a few questions of mine about his Jaguars as we start mentally preparing for this game. (OK... I'm just straight up ready for the game, as I'm sure many of you are. But we might as well talk about it until then, right?)
Buffalo Rumblings: With a banged up offensive line and a dinged up Jerry Porter, how concerned are you about the Jaguars' ability to be balanced offensively?
RCR, Big Cat Country: Honestly, I'm terrified. The tackles - Khalif Barnes and Tony Pashos - get a lot of attention, but our running game was driven by Vince Manuwai. Having the entire middle of our line stocked with second tier players will drastically change the way the Jaguars operate. In many ways, the Jaguars will have to learn to pass in order to set up the run, rather than running to open up the passing game. David Garrard will need his recievers to run short crisp routes and exploit their size advantage in order to move the ball down the field. Look for short passes and a lot of dink and dunk. That is, unless Tulan Reyes can prove to be a road grating run blocker. Ed. Note: Don't count on it.
Buffalo Rumblings: Talk a bit about David Garrard, who had a terrific 2007 season. How confident are you that he can replicate that success in 2008?
RCR, Big Cat Country: I will tell you for a fact that David Garrard will throw more than 3 interceptions. I can also state for a fact that he'll throw more than 18 touchdowns. I'm not expecting him to match his numbers - he'll throw more picks, especially with the protection breakdown - but he'll also throw closer to 27 or 28 touchdowns. Opposing teams are going to key off against the run, and if Porter, Matt Jones, Reggie Williams and Marcedes Lewis can continue to develop in the Jaguars' system (and stay healthy), they'll offset the inevitible decrease in rushing TD's.
Buffalo Rumblings: Gregg Williams takes over what has traditionally been a strong Jaguars defense this season. Which player(s) has he been attempting to emphasize in his scheme? Does the defense have a weakness?
RCR, Big Cat Country: Yes, the weakness is that we have to get there. Gregg Williams called a blitz on 3rd and 15 that Mike Smith would have never called. Rather than play conservative, the Jaguars attacked and got burned to the tune of a 44 yard catch and run by Bo Scaife. The Jaguars and Gregg Williams want to be aggressive, but they can't do so until the players can get there. Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves were drafted (at a cost of picking NO offensive linemen, that's the definition of irony) to bring the heat. Williams also thinks that Reggie Nelson is greater than or equal to Ed Reed and the three of them are going to be featured. Weaknesses include: relying on rookie defensive ends to create a pass rush that was not there and moving a cornerback (Brian Williams) to strong safety and assuming he can stuff the run.
I'll tell you what, folks - I'm not scared of Jacksonville's offense, and not just because Buffalo's defense played well against Seattle. The Jaguars will score more points on Buffalo than the Seahawks did, and they'll very likely have an easier time of it moving the ball, with or without half of their offensive line. But the Jaguars need to make big plays offensively - they aren't a team that can chip their way down the field five or six times a game and come away with points, unless it's supplemented with big chunks of yardage - and Buffalo's defense is tailor-made to avoid such a development.
Their defense, on the other hand, will keep the Jags alive in this one right until the bitter end, for better or for worse. We've seen the Gregg Williams defense - in fact, the Bills beat it last year when Williams was the defensive coordinator in Washington. Williams has better talent to work with in Jacksonville. The Bills should be able to move the ball - if they can do it against the stingy Seahawks defense, they can certainly do it against Jacksonville - but they must absolutely avoid turning the ball over, because that's the lifeblood of the Jaguars. Turnovers turned a close game into a blowout when the Bills visited Jacksonville last season.
Much more on this game this afternoon and in the coming days. Time to start building up the adrenaline, Rumblers.