Jaguars season-opening loss provides the Broncos with keys on Sunday
The Denver Broncos kicked things off with a win on the road over the New York Giants in Week 1. This Sunday, they’re back on the road but this time off to face the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2.
The Jaguars are a young team with playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Their defense is a work in progress, and they’re led by rookie head coach Urban Meyer – who was a fantastic college coach now trying to find his way in the pros.
As per usual on Monday during the regular season, I have broken down the coach’s film of the Broncos upcoming opponent. Here are three observations from the Jaguars first game that could be the keys for a Broncos victory on Sunday.
Laviska is Everywhere
The Jaguars got a great receiver when they selected Laviska Shenault out of the University of Colorado in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Shenault was a player that I compared to A.J. Brown (Titans) and scouts knew that he was the type of wide receiver who could be moved all over the formation.
This year, the Jaguars kicked things off by showcasing the second-year pro. Shenault caught seven of his nine targets for 50 yards and added a nine-yard run in a 37-21 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 1.
The Broncos struggled to stop slot receiver Sterling Shepard in Week 1, and Shenault is much better player in my opinion. The Jaguars will have watched the Broncos inside linebackers, Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson, struggle in coverage and they will likely use Shenault to attack that area of the field. They don’t have a tight end of note, but Shenault is a player who can be dangerous in the middle of the field like a slot receiver or a tight end.
No Run Game to Speak Of
If the Jaguars wanted to run the ball, they have two capable running backs who have produced at the pro level in the past. James Robinson is the starter and Carlos Hyde is the primary backup, but neither one of them was able to get in a rhythm.
In Week 1 against the Texans, the Jaguars didn’t use either one of those backs effectively. The game script got out of hand, with a 27-7 deficit at halftime which meant the Jaguars had to pass to play catch-up football.
Robinson rushed five times for 25 yards and caught three of his six targets for 29 yards in a 37-21 loss to the Texans in Week 1. Hyde rushed nine times for 44 yards and caught two passes for 14 yards in that contest.
We don’t know how good the Broncos rush defense is yet. They held the Giants Saquon Barkley to only 26 yards on 10 carries, but he was not himself and was still coming back from the knee injury that cut his 2020 season short. If the Jaguars have more of an intent to run the football, Denver will face a much stronger test – even though both Robinson and Hyde are not the caliber of runner that a healthy Barkley is. The Broncos should be ready for the test.
Uneven Steven (or Trevor)
I believe that Jaguars rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a budding superstar in the NFL. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft has the upside and potential we haven’t seen from a college quarterback since Andrew Luck (Stanford) came into the league back in 2012. In his pro debut, Lawrence turned in a non-surprising inconsistent performance.
Lawrence completed 28 of his 51 passes for 332 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions in a 37-21 loss to the Texans in Week 1. As aforementioned, the Texans fell behind quickly and had to go into a pass-happy mode just to try and climb back into the game.
The Texans defense is not good – and the Broncos defense is great. This is Vic Fangio’s defense, near full strength, against a rookie quarterback – that’s a huge advantage for Denver. Regardless of how great Lawrence will be in the NFL, he’s not that player yet and he’s going to see things from Fangio that he has never seen before.
Lawrence was only sacked one time against the Texans and he was hit four times. There’s a good chance that Lawrence will be sacked multiple times and under duress for most of his snaps against a pass rush and coverage group that could end up ranking among the best in the league.