Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Jaguars Week 1 Game Preview
Last season the Eagles hired head coach Chip Kelly, who brought his fast-paced, explosive offense to the NFL, which resulted in an offensive unit that ranked fourth in points and second in total yards.
Now with a year under its belt, the Kelly-led offense is out to prove last year wasn’t a fluke. With quarterback Nick Foles, running back LeSean McCoy and receiver Jeremy Maclin leading this unit, they could be very dangerous against a young Jaguars defense.
The Jaguars will have their work cut out for them. The Eagles provide a huge challenge for the rebuilding franchise, but a win here will provide a ton of confidence for the young roster still adjusting to the NFL game.
Jaguars Preseason Recap
The Jaguars are coming off of a 1-3 preseason where they lost three games by a total of 12 points.
Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles led the team with his 521 passing yards, two touchdowns and 62.7 completion percentage.
The preseason performance by Bortles has had some people wanting Bortles to start over incumbent quarterback Chad Henne. The Jaguars are sticking to their plan, however, and will feature Henne early on. While Henne is an efficient quarterback, he seems to lack the big-play potential that Bortles wasn’t afraid to display. If he falters, Bortles will quickly step in.
Bortles wasn’t the only story of the preseason—undrafted rookie receiver Allen Hurns, who led the league in receiving yards during the preseason, also left the Jaguars pleasantly surprised. Hurns could potentially play a big role with the Jaguars needing help at outside receiver.
Other notable performers were Telvin Smith and Brandon Linder. Smith has proven he can be a dynamic player who has great instincts, and Linder has done a good enough job in early action to secure a starting spot. Both players should be building blocks for the team moving forward.
News and Notes
Jeremy Maclin Will Be Playing
Maclin is set to return after missing time last season to an ACL injury. The fifth-year receiver has had trouble staying healthy in his career, but when he’s in the lineup, he’s a legitimate threat with every touch.
Maclin will play across from second-year cornerback Dwayne Gratz. Gratz is physical but will have his hands full with Maclin, who has decent size (6’0”, 198 lbs), speed and reliable hands.
Cecil Shorts Still Not 100 Percent; Allen Robinson Participates in Full
According to John Oehser of Jaguars.com, the Jaguars' top receiver, Cecil Shorts, sat out Thursday nursing a tight hamstring. Shorts has had nagging hamstring injuries over the offseason, and I wonder if there isn’t a chronic issue there.
Luckily, per Oehser, the Jaguars got back their second-round draft choice, Allen Robinson, who should be fully ready for the Week 1 game. If the Jaguars are without Shorts, it’ll be up to rookies Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns to pick up the slack.
Denard Robinson is Toby Gerhart’s Backup
This is exciting news for Jaguars fans. Last year, Robinson was put in an “offensive weapon” role that really left him in flux in terms of a position. This offseason, the Jaguars thought that Robinson should be focused strictly on the running back position, and it’s seemed to work out.
Robinson is the anti-Gerhart—where Gerhart is slower but powerful, Robinson is flashy and elusive. Robinson is the perfect change-of-pace option for Gerhart and could be dynamic on the field.
Jaguars Injury Report:
Jaguars injuries courtesy of John Oehser's practice report. We'll be keeping these up to date until game day, so stick with us.
Eagles Injury Report:
Eagles injuries courtesy of Comcast SportsNet's Geoff Mosher's practice report.
X-Factors and Matchups to Watch
Dwayne Gratz versus Jeremy Maclin
Gratz is coming off of a strong rookie season and a solid preseason where he matched up against elite receivers like Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson.
Gratz is physical at the line of scrimmage and crashes on the ball quickly. He’ll need to be stronger in zone coverage if he doesn’t want Maclin to exploit him. If Gratz can contain Maclin, there’s a good chance the Jaguars will force Nick Foles into some poor decisions.
LeSean McCoy versus Paul Posluszny
McCoy is the most dynamic running back in the league today. He’s coming off of a season where he amassed 1,607 rushing yards and 539 receiving yards on 52 receptions.
McCoy is dangerous in so many facets of the game. Posluszny will have the task of reading the offensive formations and doing his best to contain McCoy on runs and screen passes.
X-Factor: Brandon Linder and Jacques McClendon
Linder and McClendon are both X-factors this week. Both players are getting their first regular-season starts at their positions—right guard and center, respectively (McClendon started at guard last season).
Linder and McClendon are keys to the offense—if they can play well and keep Henne from getting early pressure, the offense could really be successful.
This game should be closer than everyone expects it to be. The Jaguars defense is retooled and features an explosive defensive line that should give Nick Foles headaches.
Last year the Eagles defense allowed 4,636 passing yards, the worst in the league. The Jaguars should have their opportunities to score and should see big games from their wide receivers.
The one limiting factor for the Jaguars is Henne’s reluctance to throw the long ball. If he just manages the game with short passes and doesn’t attempt to stretch the defense, the Jaguars’ offense could fall flat.
Prediction: Eagles 24, Jaguars 20
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.