Ah, my favorite part of the week. The part where we finally get to talk about this week's opponent, with very little input on my part (oh, to be lazy during the holidays). Plus, I'm not nearly as intelligent an authority on the Jacksonville Jaguars as River City Rage from Big Cat Country and a rather close friend of ours here at Rumblings (well, other than this week, obviously).
RCR was kind enough to answer some questions about the Jaguars I posed to him, and also kind enough to find my opinions on the Bills valuable enough to post on his site. Be sure to check that out if you're still thirsty for Bills coverage (and I know you all are); for now, let's get the low-down on the Jaguars (my questions in bold):
Obviously, you have some major injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Name the players that need to step up and make big plays to ensure the Jags keep winning.
BCC: Justin Durant has a huge responsibility with the injury to Mike Peterson. The second round pick out of Hampton had a run in with the police and was suspended by the Jaguars for the New Orleans game. In two weeks he's gone from suspended to probable starter at outside linebacker. OLB Daryl Smith will probably move to middle linebacker. We also signed veteran LB/DE Jorge Cordova who will certainly see some time in the rotation. All the pressure will be on Durant to live up to not only his high draft pick, but to make up for his off the field behavior.
Durant is a hard hitting sideline to sideline sort of linebacker, but he's a little undersized and can get pushed around a little bit. I'd expect that the Bills will try and challenge him, though I'd expect that the Jaguars depth will prevent too many problems.
Also, Reggie Nelson needs to continue developing. He's getting to the ball pretty quick and he's not blowing coverages as he did earlier this season, but Reggie needs to watch out and not get flagged for leading with the helmet. These two young players now have starting roles in our defense; they'll be attacked by the Bills offense, and any mistakes by either one could cost the Jaguars the game.
What's up with Matt Jones? He was a first-round pick you guys, but he rarely sees the field. Is it injury? Dog house? What's the deal?
BCC: Who? Matt Jones? I've been watching film from the Chargers game and I can't find a single play that he was involved in. Ernest Wilford and Reggie Williams are taking 90% of the snaps, with Jones taking the occasional 3rd down play. That said, Matt's in the coaches' dog house because he's perceived as playing lazy, he's a bad run blocker, and he can't do what he was drafted to do, that being a big speedy receiver who makes catches in traffic and gets big yards after catch.
Actually, we do have a Matt Jones, his name is Greg Estandia, and he does everything we paid Jones to do, but Greg gives actual effort and acts like he wants to play the game. I wouldn't be surprised if he was cut at the end of the season. The Coaches, the players, and the City have to be tired of the Matt Jones experiment, even if he were to become a Hall of Fame receiver somewhere else. He's an absolute mistake - we could have had Steelers TE Heath Miller instead. The Jaguars got a little Wide Receiver Fever (I guess they watched too many Arkansas highlight reels) and didn't really think through the sort of prospect we'd be getting.
Talk for a moment about the play of Quinn Gray - the Jags were just 2-2 when he was the primary starter, but how important were those two wins in keeping Jacksonville alive while David Garrard healed? Were you impressed by Gray?
BCC: Discounting the loss against the Colts, we won 2 out 3 games with Gray at the helm during a very difficult three game road trip. Sure, the Jaguars worked around Gray by emphasizing the running game (to a huge degree against Tampa Bay), but he won games. He did exactly what you're supposed to do as a backup quarterback. Without those two wins Jacksonville would be behind the Titans in the Division race, we'd be one of may teams chasing the playoffs, rather than the AFC leader in the wild card race and only a game and a half behind the Colts for the division. Gray beating the Titans could be the "season changing" moment that sets us up for the rest of the year.
The short answer is yes, I was very impressed. I'm glad Gray is on our bench. He did everything that was expected of him.
Fred Taylor went over 10,000 career rushing yards two weeks ago. Talk about his importance to the Jaguars franchise. Is he a Hall of Fame player?
BCC: He's going to have to get closer to 12,500 yards to be a serious candidate for the Hall of Fame. Sadly, the voters consider Pro Bowls as a serious factor in their decision and Fred's never made it to Hawaii. That's gonna hurt him. He also lacks any sort of serious playoff apperance that features Fred's ability. Now, were the Jaguars to go to the Super Bowl, win, and Fred win the MVP, we could dial down the yardage a bit, but most likely he'd need another 2 or 3 seasons.
I figure Fred will get about another 500 yards this season, putting him somewhere around 10,600 or 10,700 for his total. He'd need two more seasons of about 800 yards to get to the 12,500 or so mark. His contract with the Jaguars is good until the end of 2009, so it's theoretically possible that he could get it as a Jaguar, but we know how the NFL works. I'd imagine he'll finish his career somewhere else, sadly.
That said, I think he's a fantastic candidate, but realisticaly it'll require more yards or a dominating playoff performance for it to happen. He'll be a legend in Jacksonville though, no doubt he'll be in our Ring of Honor.
Remove your black/teal/white jersey for a moment (I know, it's tough). If you were game-planning to beat the Jaguars, what would you try to accomplish?
BCC: With the Jaguars it's a little bit of a pick your poision. We've got three very good running backs (I dare you to forget about Greg Jones), and Garrard is a safe enough passer where our ordinary wide receivers and good tight ends can hurt you. That said, were I to be defensive coordinator against the Jaguars, I'd try as many variations of pressure packages that keep players in the box. Dare Garrard to pass and hope that you can get to him before he throws the ball. If you worry too much about the pass, Jacksonville will murder you with the run.
There are some key things to prepare for: Jacksonville likes to screen pass to Maurice Jones-Drew, often on 3rd and long. Your players are probably not used to tackling someone like Jones-Drew, and finding someone to recreate his style in practice is going to be pretty difficult. Emphasize form tackling and taking good angles is critical. With Jones-Drew it's better to give him the extra yard and line up the tackle right rather than make a bad approach and let him shed the hit and gouge you for 30 yards.
Long sustained drives. The Jaguars offense can grind you to death. Make lots of defensive rotations, even if it's just for a play or two. The Chargers' vaunted defense was so worn out after the first half of play that they were a non factor in the 4th quarter. You don't want to let that happen to you if you want a shot of winning the game.
On offense, the Bills need to focus on executing on 3rd down. The Jaguars have some depth issues on the Defensive line, so a little hurry up offense can really hurt the Jags, especially when Grady Jackson is on the field. Some clever timing could knock him out of the game.
Thanks once again to RCR for the Jags information - now we know exactly how to beat your boys. For continued excellent Jaguars coverage leading up to game day, be sure to stop by Big Cat Country. A bit more on the Jaguars - and more specifically, how the Bills can beat them in their house - tomorrow. (Don't worry, we have more coming for you this afternoon - apparently, turkey gets me all philosophical-like about the Bills.)