Jaguars vs. Colts: Sketching out a Game Plan for Jacksonville
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Fans in Indiana are familiar with the concept of a season on the brink.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are currently living through it.
The Week 3 matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars doubles as this week's AFC South Pressure Game of the Week.
The Jaguars must win this game.
Simply put, if Jacksonville opens the season at 0-3 and loses to a division rival that only recently began to rebuild, it's nothing short of a complete denouncement of the Gene Smith era of Jaguars football.
It shouldn't take four years to rebuild a roster, but if the Jaguars lose their first three games, two of which were against bad teams, the only possible conclusion is that they are still rebuilding and the project isn't going well.
With a schedule that only gets tougher from here on out, the Jaguars must install a winning game plan if they hope to beat the Colts.
Here's what it should look like.
Don't Get Away From Maurice Jones-Drew
Running the football well is rarely the path to victory in the NFL, but for the Jaguars, it's the be all and end all for their hopes.
Jones-Drew was effective against Houston, but oddly enough the Jaguars didn't stick with him. As Adam Stites of Big Cat Country pointed out, the Jaguars never even tried to run their most effective play with him.
Part of what hurt the Jaguars against Houston was penalties. They committed eight on the day, but four of them were by offensive linemen on first down.
When a drive starts at 1st-and-15, it's difficult to stick with the run.
Indianapolis will load up against the run, but there are yards to be had. It's going to take philosophical and mental discipline to continue pounding the ball and to avoid the stupid mistakes that make doing so more complicated.
Attack Justin King
The Colts feature two credible corners in Vontae Davis and Jerraud Powers. Davis has struggled some early in the year, but there's no question he's a solid player.
After Davis, there's a steep fall to nickelback Justin King. Gabbert should be looking for Cecil Shorts in three-wide sets, and the Jaguars should use the kind of motion they did against Houston to isolate Justin Blackmon on King whenever he's in the game.
Blackmon is the kind of player who can break big gains if he has room to get open. King will give him that room. When the Jags moved Blackmon around against Houston, it put him across from lockdown corner Johnathan Joseph.
Against Indianapolis, they should manipulate the coverage to their advantage.
Go Deep Against the Blitz
The Colts have rushed the passer reasonably well this year, but it's been based largely on blitz pressure.
The Jaguars struggled with four rushers against Houston, but the Colts' line isn't as good as Houston's is.
Gabbert has not been asked to throw many passes over 10 yards, but against Indy, he'll have to. The Colts will bring extra rushers, and there are opportunities to hit long passes against them.
This is a major test of skill for Gabbert. If he can read the blitz and adjust his protection accordingly, he'll have his opportunity to show he can make big plays downfield.
Collapse the Middle, Contain the Edge
Jeremy Mincey and Andre Branch need to stay at home against Andrew Luck.
Indianapolis has struggled to run the ball through two games, and what offense they've generated has been sparked by the feet of Luck.
He's adept at escaping the pocket, but when he does so, he wants to pass, not run. When he throws on the move, he hits big plays.
That makes him imminently dangerous.
Indianapolis has been wracked with injuries along their offensive line, especially up the middle at guard and center. While original starting left guard Joe Reitz may play, if Seth Olson sees the field, pressure can be had. Meanwhile, starting center Samson Satalte is likely out, with Mike McGlynn moving from right guard to center, and Trai Essex stepping in along side him.
That kind of shuffling of the line is something the Jaguars can relate to.
Tyson Alualu is going to have to beat his man inside, while the ends keep Luck from escaping.
Dare Indianapolis to Run
The Jaguars' run defense isn't what it once was thanks to injuries to Daryl Smith and Clint Session, but if they can't shut down Indianapolis' run offense without resorting to help from the secondary, then there's simply no hope for this team.
Luck is the best player on the Colts, and there's no point in daring him to beat you. Almost every play the Colts run the ball is a wasted play, so giving them as many run-friendly looks as possible is the way to go.
The Colts and Jaguars are roughly similar teams in terms of overall quality, but their talent is distributed differently.
Indianapolis is playing at home, and given the kind of advantage home teams have right now, it's hard to pick against them.
The Jaguars are desperate for the win, however, and the game should be close. Gabbert is going to have to show that he can make the big plays on the road, and until he does, the outlook for the Jags is dim.
Look for Indianapolis to squeeze out a similar game to what both teams played against the Vikings.
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