By Julie Dixon // @ABroncoNole
These two teams haven’t been to a playoff game in so long, kids have been born and are in high school. For a Jags home playoff game? They graduated. Two teams new to the playoff with quarterbacks who also haven’t been in one. It’s going to be either a mess or a sign of good times ahead for the under 30 guys.
Head coach Doug Marrone is coaching his old team. That should make a difference, but teams change a lot in a couple years. What will definitely have an effect, is the fact that running back LeSean McCoy is far from 100%. That hurts not only their run game but their passing ability. He’s their second-leading pass catcher. They’re losing a day of practice and the Jags don’t have to change a thing.
Their second best rusher is quarterback, Tyrod Taylor. This isn’t exactly typical. Reduce McCoy’s role and it has to go somewhere and that’ll be on Taylor. Not just to throw, but scramble as well. Jags have struggled against QBs who can do this. See Tennessee Titans. Quarterback Marcus Mariota gained 60 yards against them and it was the difference. While Taylor doesn’t turn the ball over much, he also hasn’t thrown all that much. This is the wrong defense to try and throw against to win a game.
“Sacksonville” has defensive end Calais Campbell and defensive tackle Malik Jackson up front, cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey, and A.J. Bouye back deep, but, it’ll be up to defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to earn his keep and stop the run.
The Jags, in my opinion, have the better coaching staff, defense, and special teams. How Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett call this game for QB Blake Bortles will decide the game. Bortles isn’t Mr. Reliable, but get him in the red zone and he’s money. The rest of the time, run.
The Jaguars need to use running backs Leonard Fournette, Corey Grant, and Chris Ivory as much as possible, so play action can work. That’s where they can beat a pretty good Bills defense. Tight end Marcedes Lewis should be used often to help sell the play action. Wide receiver Marqise Lee will be back, it’s WR Dede Westbrook who’s the real threat.
One match-up I’m curious to watch is TE Nick O’Leary vs Ramsey. They were teammates at FSU and it’ll fun to see if Ramsey can help his linebackers with his knowledge.
This game is on Bortles. He has every tool he needs to win. There’s also pressure because, in my opinion, he’s playing for his job. If Jacksonville decides to move on, there’s not a single FA QB who wouldn’t kill for this team and the price, literally, is right. Plus, with a franchise so loaded with talent, they could make a trade and move up in the draft to grab a QB.
Taylor is sort of in the same boat. His job is also on the line, but Buffalo isn’t a top destination for any QB. How he plays will determine his future, too. The starter in Buffalo going forward, or back-up elsewhere. I foresee both guys making mistakes, but Jags’ defense makes up for their QB.
Talk Jaguars with Julie on Twitter @ABroncoNole