Back in the offseason when we saw the Jaguars on the Bengals’ schedule, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Cincinnati would add another notch in the win column. However, thanks to a collection of recent, solid draft picks and some big-time gets in free agency, Jacksonville is in a tie with the Titans atop the AFC South at 4-3 this year. The Jaguars also sport one of the league’s best defenses with 33 sacks this season, a historic pace.
Because both teams have drafted many high-profile players lately, we’re provided with many quality matchups on Sunday. Here are some of the best for Week 9 when the Bengals take on the Jaguars in Jacksonville.
Jaguars defensive tackle Marcell Dareus versus Bengals offensive guard Clint Boling:
The Bengals’ left guard is really the only steady player on Cincinnati’s offensive line this season. Even so, the Bengals haven’t had overall success rushing the football or protecting the passer.
Entering an already nasty defense is the former Pro Bowl lineman Dareus, who is slated to backup both interior defensive line spots this week. With or without that designation, Jacksonville is surely expecting him to play a lot of snaps for them and he’ll likely be lined up often against Boling, Russell Bodine and even Cedric Ogbuehi, depending on the situation.
Jaguars offensive tackle Cam Robinson versus Bengals linebacker/defensive end Carl Lawson:
The 2017 NFL Draft was weak when it comes to offensive linemen, but many believe Robinson was the best of the bunch. He’s a bit more of a mauler than a finesse player, so the Bengals’ ferocious pass rush might find some creases on Sunday.
Lawson has been one of the better players of the rookie class, racking up 4.5 sacks in limited snaps this year. Michael Johnson hurt his back last week, so the Bengals might be more heavily relying on Lawson and Jordan Willis off of the edge. Lawson and Chris Smith move around a little, so if the two rookies battle it out, it will be interesting to see if Lawson can gain leverage against the mammoth tackle.
Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee versus Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick:
Fortunately for the Bengals, they have finally seen some great strides from first round corners Darqueze Dennard and William Jackson III this year. Kirkpatrick signed a lucrative extension with the Bengals this offseason and the first seven games have brought many ups with a few downs.
Lee hasn’t found the end zone yet this season and has yet to realize his potential from his days at USC, but he has been thrust into a bigger role this year after a season-ending injury to Allen Robinson. Lee has the speed to break one deep and even though Blake Bortles has had his own roller coaster of a season, Kirkpatrick will need to stick to him like glue.
Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye versus Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green:
After wallowing in relative obscurity for the first three years of his career, Bouye broke out with the Texans in 2016, making him one of the most prized free agents on the market this offseason. Jacksonville pounced on him and he has been a solid addition to a very good defense.
Green has found the end zone four times in the last five games, but has statistically struggled the past two weeks. Against the Colts and Steelers in Weeks 7 and 8, Green has combined for six receptions, 68 yards and one score. Poor protection and inaccurate throws from Andy Dalton have been part of the problem, but if the Bengals can get their star receiver going against a good defense, it should pave the way to a win.
Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette versus Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict:
This might be one for the ages. After dominating the NCAA ranks at LSU, Fournette has taken the NFL by storm as a rookie, racking up 596 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 4.6 yards per carry. He missed last week, but he will be back for the matchup against Cincinnati.
We all know about Burfict’s physical style of play, but he rarely sees backs with the power/size combo that Fournette employs. Also complicating things is Kevin Minter’s injury, which has forced the Bengals to give Burfict looks in the middle. Long story short, Burfict and Fournette will be going head-to-head a lot on Sunday.