Key Matchups: Chargers Vs Jaguars
By the time the Chargers take on the Jaguars Sunday, they will have had 10 days off since their last game against the Chiefs. Despite having these 10 days off, they find themselves with much worse injury luck than the Jaguars. Chargers are going in with several high-level players that are banged up with the Jaguars very healthy at this point.
Injuries made it very difficult to really break down what matchups are going to be key in this game. I think some people are underestimating the Jaguars. Coming off a 24-0 shutout of the Colts, the Jaguars are wanting to prove that it wasn’t a fluke and that they are here to stay. With that and the injuries the Chargers are experiencing, I think we are in for a closer game than most think. Below, I will go over the three important matchups of the game.
Battle Of The Trenches
I went back and forth about whether I wanted to highlight the Chargers’ offensive line against the Jaguars’ defensive line or the opposite. Both competitions are going to be huge in this game so I want to touch on both of them. In two games this season, Trevor Lawrence has only been sacked twice and has looked relatively comfortable in the pocket. They also had whatever they wanted in the running game in the first week of the season. In order for the Chargers to be able to control this game, their defensive line needs to dominate early and often. Stopping the run game and getting pressure on Lawrence is going to be key in doing that.
The Chargers are last in the league in runs that go over 10 yards. There are a few reasons for this, the main reason is their offensive line is usually one solid block away from being able to break a few big runs. This is understandable for the beginning of the season while you are knocking the rust off. The line needs to get in better sync this next game to control the clock and tire the Jaguars defense. The Chargers are going into the game without knowledge if Corey Linsley is going to be playing or not. It will be even more important for this line to be in sync if they are out.
Christian Kirk Against The Chargers Corners
At the point of my writing this, JC Jackson has not practiced yet this week and his status for Sunday is unclear. I am curious about how they approach this matchup if Jackson plays. The Chargers signed him, in part to travel with opposing number one receivers. In his debut against the Chiefs, he took a good amount of reps against Travis Kelce but he wasn’t really traveling with anyone. Some of that is due to his limited health to be sure, some of it is because the Chiefs don’t have a true number one wide receiver.
Through two games, Christian Kirk has absolutely established himself as the Jaguars’ number one wide receiver. Kirk is up to 195 yards and two touchdowns in the first two games this year. The Jaguars are not shying away from throwing it to him as much as they can, and he is delivering. He has been electric with the ball in his hands and the Jaguars are using him all over the field. To me, limiting Kirk is paramount to the Chargers’ defensive success, which could merit a traveling day for Jackson if he is able to play.
If Jackson isn’t able to play, I would expect we see a lot of Bryce Callahan on Kirk duty. Despite the creative usage, Kirk does take the vast majority of his receiving reps out of the slot. That’s obviously where the Chargers have been deploying Callahan so far this season, and he has been lights out. He has effectively taken Hunter Renfrow and JuJu Smith-Schuster out of the last two games but the Raiders and Chiefs weren’t exactly funneling their offense through those two players. Callahan will surely get targeted much more frequently than he has been so far this season.
Brandon Staley’s Chess Match vs Doug Pederson
This is a very interesting game of two different coaches who have a similar mentality when it comes to coaching. Doug Pederson is of course known for being a great offensive coach while Brandon Staley is known for the defensive side of the ball. Both have had great starts to the season in their respective strengths. As I mentioned previously, due to the injuries the Chargers are facing, coaching in this game will be as crucial as ever.
The NFL is all about identifying strengths and weaknesses and how to use those strengths to your advantage and then how to exploit the weaknesses of the other. The Chargers are no doubt a more talented team across the board. However, with these injuries, it has a chance to level the playing field more, at the least it’ll give the Jaguars more weaknesses to try and exploit.
It is crucial for Staley to be able to have a strong game plan going in and to get this team off to a fast start. It’ll put Pederson in more desperate situations and need Lawrence to drop back more in obvious passing situations. This is what Staley is going to want and will play into the hands of the Chargers’ strengths. Pederson is obviously a very accomplished, Super Bowl winning coach. Unfortunately for him, he is going into a game with a significant drop-off in talent between the teams. Hopefully, Staley is able to exploit that and lead this team to a victory.
I am excited about this game. There were so many different positions and other things where I haven’t even mentioned the status of star Quarterback Justin Herbert. Herbert’s status is up in the air at this point. Some players have come out and said that they won’t be surprised at all if he plays. I’m guessing that he will be out there with maybe a little more of a conservative game plan, but he’ll be there. I think the Chargers would be able to win this game regardless if Herbert plays or not, but I am basing my prediction on the fact that I am anticipating him to play.
Final Score: Chargers 30 Jaguars 20
Key Matchups: Chargers Vs Jaguars. Photo via Mike Nowak