Week 2 Preview: Chargers vs. Jaguars
The Chargers on Offense
The Chargers will be able to move the ball on the Jaguars. Even without Marcus McNeil and Vincent Jackson (who even if signed, wouldn’t be playing because of suspension), the Chargers have enough skill on offense to put up big points on the board against Jacksonville. Philip Rivers completed at least two passes to seven different receivers on opening night. Wide receiver Legedu Naanee passed his opening night test with flying colors, with a team high 110 receiving yards and a touchdown. Rivers and Naanee should again be able to hook up against a less than stellar Jaguars secondary.
It will be interesting to see how the Chargers create ways to get Antonio Gates open. For a long portion of the opener, the Chiefs were able to double and triple team Gates and take him out of the passing game. In a copy cat league, you would think the Jags would use some of the same techniques the Chiefs used to shut down Gates. Since a lot of attention focused on Gates, there should be room over the middle for receiver Malcom Floyd. Floyd still needs to prove he can make the tough catch consistently with safeties closing in on him.With fresh legs in the backfield, the Chargers appear committed to establishing a running game in 2010. Rookie running back Ryan Mathews showed the NFL he can run tough, earning all 75 he gained in his first NFL game. The Jaguars are sure to see a lot of number 24 in this tilt.
The Chargers on Defense
It’s no surprise what the Chargers want to do, stop Maurice Jones-Drew and make quarterback David Garrard beat them. Expect San Diego to load the box and force the Jaguars to pass the ball. Expect to see Eric Weddle and Steve Gregory near the line of scrimmage often on Sunday. Stephen Cooper, Kevin Burnett and the mix and match defensive line will have to pay disciplined to keep Jones-Drew in check. The bowling ball of a running back will get his yards; the Chargers objective is to not allow the big one.
Shaun Phillips had a terrific week one and it appears he will have pass rush buddy Shawne Merriman to race to the Jags backfield. Merriman has been chomping at the bit to get another crack at Jones-Drew since the running back leveled him with a block in 2007. This is a pretty good match up for the Chargers. Outside Jones-Drew, the Chargers do not have a lot to big play threats to worry about. Cornerbacks Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason match up real well with the Jacksonville wide receivers.
The Jaguars on Offense
MJD…it’s as simple as that for the Jaguars. For Jacksonville to win games in 2010, Jones-Drew will need to be able to pick up positive yards on first and second down. If the Jaguars can be put themselves in 3rd and short situations, it could be a long day for the Chargers defense. Outside of Jones-Drew, Jacksonville does not have any other weapons that will have the Chargers defense from sleeping at night.
Quarterback David Garrard has been good, but not great since taking over the starting job in 2006. One thing has been is…sacked! In 56 games since 2006, he has been sacked 126 times. He has averaged over 300 yards rushing the last two seasons, not because he wanted to, but because he has had to with the passing pocket disappearing quickly around him.
Serviceable wide receivers Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas start on the outside. Sims-Walker who led the 2009 Jags in receptions was shut out in week one against Denver. Thomas was the primary outside target and is their biggest deep threat.
Tight end Mercedes Lewis had a big week one, scoring two touchdowns and back up receiver and former Charger Kassim Osgood would love to repeat his week one effort and score a touchdown against his former teammates.
The Jaguars on Defense
The Jags have pieces in place to be a much improved defense from a year ago by adding veterans like linebacker Kirk Morrison and defensive end Aaron Kampman. The very young Jacksonville defense, ranked 24th in the NFL in 2009 and had the knack for giving up a lot of points to teams with high powered offenses similar to the Chargers. They allowed 31 big points the Arizona Cardinals and 35 each to the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots.
Morrison and Kampman add several things missing from the 2009 Jags defense: sure tackling, rushing the passer and probably most important…experience.
Morrison adds a 100-tackle per season in the middle of the Jags defense. He has recorded at least 100 tackles in each of his first four seasons in the NFL. Fellow linebacker Daryl Smith led the Jags defense in 2009 with only 84 tackles. Kampman, a two-time Pro Bowl selection while with the Green Bay Packers, provides Jacksonville a legitimate pass rush presence for a team had only 14 sacks total last season. The former Packer is coming off a knee injury while ended his 2009 season prematurely. He looked very healthy terrorizing Kyle Orton last week, recording 1.5 sacks.
With a rowdy home crowd on their side and no rain in sight, the Chargers will get healthy against the overmatched Jaguars. Ryan Mathews will score his first NFL touchdown early on and Philip Rivers will be passing the ball over Qualcomm Stadium in the first half. When the Jaguars fall behind early and are forced to abandon the running game, Merriman, Phillips and company will have Garrard running for his life.