The Jacksonville Jaguars went out and spent big bucks to bring in Nick Foles to replace Blake Bortles at quarterback, but that was never meant to be. Foles went down with a broken left clavicle in the first game of 2019 and was promptly replaced by sixth-round draft pick and future folk-hero Gardner Minshew II.
The only thing more impressive than Minshew’s trademark ‘stache has been his play on the field. Minshew has thrown for 1,442 yards and 9 touchdowns and was named the NFL’s Rookie of the Month in September.
Minshew has been noted as a highly efficient passer, but he is not a “dink and dunK” type of quarterback. In fact, he thrives throwing some of the more difficult passes.
In the first quarter of the Jaguars’ Week 3 matchup against the Tennessee Titans, Minshew threw this dart from the far hash mark to get Jacksonville across midfield. Minshew starts with a play action fake and then eyes wide receiver Dede Westbrook, who is lined up on the top of the screen. He presses vertically and stems his route, taking an exaggerated step to the inside that entices cornerback Malcolm Butler to open his hips. It works.
Westbrook then cuts to the outside and Minshew delivers a great ball for a 28-yard gain. This was a great ball.
Three plays and exactly two minutes later, Minshew struck again.
It was third-and-nine in the clip above, but Minshew and the Jaguars were not looking for the 1st down, they were looking for the touchdown. Wide receiver D.J. Chark lines up outside to Minshew’s left and runs a vertical route into the endzone. Once again, Minshew throws a great ball on this 22-yard touchdown pass.
Minshew can make some big-time throws, but he will sometimes miss on easier throws over the middle and into the flats. He can avoid the rush, but is not great at getting first-down completions when scrambling.
The Bengals must get pressure and stay on top of deep outside routes.
The Jaguars’ defense is actually the exact opposite. With or without Jalen Ramsey, they are incredible playing deep outside routes.
This clip came on second-and-20.
Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye is covering Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (no relation) on the top of the screen. Bouye is smartly playing on top, but when the Brown breaks on the deep out, Bouye immediately cuts off his route and breaks up the ball.
This was a great play by Bouye.
They are, however, susceptible to passes across the middle and Joe Flacco and the Denver Broncos made a day out of exploiting this.
In the the clip above, Flacco hits wide receiver Courtland Sutton on a crossing route which winds up being a 10-yard gain.
This is just one example. The Broncos hit them with slants, digs, and skinny posts all day.
The Bengals’ best receiver, Tyler Boyd, lines up primarily in the slot. Auden Tate and Damion Willis also had success last week on routes over the middle. The Bengals must take advantage of these openings and avoid the Jaguars talented cornerbacks.
If they can do this, they will be able to move the ball effectively.
Running back Leonard Fournette is having a good year for the Jaguars, but this is not a great running game. The offensive line is not particularly talented. The coaching staff uses Whams and Counters to help, but the rushing attack is mostly dependent on Fournette himself.
He is getting hit at or near the line of scrimmage often, but he is a force to try to tackle. The Jaguars have had some big plays in the running game because Fournette has broken tackles and somehow made it through the defense.
The clip above is a 69-yard run. There is the tiniest sliver of a hole for him to get through but somehow he spins through and breaks free. He is eventually walked down by the defense, but this was a big play that put them in position to score.
The Bengals cannot let the Jaguars off the hook on this type of play. It is not good enough to stuff the gaps they must get to Fournette and get him on the ground.
On the play above Fournette has seemingly nowhere to go, but after breaking a tackle in the backfield he is able to cut back for a gain of 13 yards. It is of the utmost importance that the Bengals do not allow this to happen. They must rally to the football and get multiple players on Fournette.
Fournette breaks tackles like crazy and the Bengals miss tackles like crazy. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, that is not the only way Fournette is a bad matchup for the Bengals.
In the clip above the defense is has shifted to the right to account for the tight end and h-back and the extra gaps they have created. The problem is that they have adjusted too far. The Broncos have two deep safeties and two defenders lined up over the twin receivers to the left (not visible from this angle). When the running back starts to the right, the linebackers flow and the backside B-gap is wide open for a cutback. The result is an 81-yard run for Fournette.
Not only have the Bengals struggled with cutbacks, but they have had alignment problems similar to this throughout the season and will need to be mindful of this.
The Jaguars frequently bring in Cedric Ogbuehi (yes, that Cedric Ogbuehi) as an eligible tight end to beef up the line and run the ball. The Bengals must not over-compensate in this situation either.
Please, PLEASE do not let this be a Cedric Ogbuehi revenge game.
See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya pic.twitter.com/1CeG96IWIu— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) October 14, 2019
As far as run defense goes, the Jaguars have had their ups and downs. Their defensive line has some talented pass rushers, but they are not great against the run.
The Bengals’ only good day running the ball this season came against the Cardinals in Week 5. That was the worst defensive front they have seen. Unfortunately, the Jaguars are a lot better than that.
They are, however, not perfect. Take a look at how Christian McCaffrey gashed them in the clip above.
The Jaguars are a beatable team, but the Bengals will need to play much better defensively. They need to:
- Get multiple players to the running back on every run and ensure that he does not get away
- Be sound in their alignment and not over-pursue
- Stay on top of deep outside routes
Offensively, the Bengals need:
- Exemplary play out of their quarterback so they can efficiently move the ball down the field through the passes over the middle
- To get the ball in Mixon’s hands and get him in a position to make a play. If they struggle to run the ball, they need to get him the ball on screens.
If they accomplish even some of these tasks, we just might have a ball game on Sunday.