3TFO: Jaguars @ Seahawks, Week 3
This NFC/AFC matchup has the potential to be the most lopsided contest of Week 3, as the 0-2 Jacksonville Jaguars travel to Seattle to play the 2-0 Seahawks.
Jacksonville is at least coming off a game against the also-woeful Oakland Raiders in which they at least put offensive points on the board. In their home opener, the Jaguars could muster only a safety via a blocked punt. The Seahawks didn’t look thoroughly impressive in a 12-7 opening week victory over the Carolina Panthers on the road, but certainly impressed last week against the hated division rival San Francisco 49ers — they held double-threat QB Colin Kaepernick to 127 yards passing.
On paper, this is a laughable blowout that should be over by halftime. But anything can happen in the NFL… here are three notable matchups to watch in this contest.
Chad Henne vs. Seahawks Defense
With Blaine Gabbert still nursing injuries, Chad Henne has the unenviable task of playing what is arguably the best defense in football, and doing it on the road in one of the toughest stadiums to play. While Henne failed to throw a scoring pass until less than three minutes remained in the game against the Raiders, he was not horrible. The former second-round pick did not turn the ball over and completed 25 of 39 passes for 241 yards — he also had two passes dropped on him. Henne was best throwing 10-19 yard passes outside the left numbers.
Meanwhile, this Seattle defense has put the league on notice through two weeks, giving up only 10 points including a TD pass to Steve Smith on a crossing route against a linebacker. Further, they gave Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick (as a starter) career-lows in passing yardage. That the Seahawks have done this without starting CB Brandon Browner and DE Chris Clemons only reiterates what a solid core this defense possesses. While Henne will obviously want to avoid Richard Sherman, there isn’t anyone he should feel comfortable picking on. The only Seahawk with a negative coverage grade is LB Bobby Wagner, who gave up 73 yards to the 49ers but still successfully defended a pass. If an upset happens, it will be because Henne played a great, nearly flawless game.
Marshawn Lynch & Robert Turbin vs. Jaguars Defense
As of this week, the Jaguars defense has collectively ‘earned’ our fourth-worst run defense grade. Through two games they’ve given up 346 rushing yards and missed 10 tackles in run defense. All three levels of their defense have been culpable in this — the defensive line (especially Roy Miller and Jason Babin), the linebackers (Geno Hayes and Paul Posluszny) and the secondary (rookie Jonathan Cyprien and ex-Cowboy Alan Ball).
This is a major problem because the Seahawks can run the ball. While they struggled to pound the rock against a ferocious Carolina defense in week 1 (Marshawn Lynch only had 43 yards on 17 carries), they rebounded last week against a still formidable 49ers defense with 172 yards and two scores on 47 carries. Most of that came from bell-cow Lynch, but last year’s fourth-round pick Robert Turbin is no slouch, either. Turbin has run the ball only nine times so far, but for 48 yards and a 5.3 yards-per-carry average. Both running backs should see ample carries against this Jacksonville defense.
Jaguars Pass Rush vs. Russell Wilson
While the Jaguars are arguably the worst team in the NFL right now, they are at least capable of putting an opposing signal-caller on the ground. Through two games, five Jaguar defenders have sacks — journeyman Babin, former first-round pick Tyson Alualu, Jeremy Mincey, ex-Bill Posluszny and ex-Patriot Brandon Deaderick. That’s more sacks than the Cardinals, Falcons, Panthers, Bears, Bengals, Packers, Vikings, Patriots, Saints, Giants, Eagles, Steelers, Chargers, and the Seahawks have. Obviously sacks aren’t everything, but Jacksonville also has 17 further pressures. It would be a mistake to assume a QB will finish the game against this defense without ending up on the turf a few times.
Meanwhile, while Russell Wilson continues to impress in this young season, his sophomore outing, his passing performance has clearly been affected by pressure. With no pressure he has been reliable, completing 74.2% of his passes for a PFF passing grade of +2.9 and a TD pass. When he feels the heat, however, his numbers drop significantly — a 47.6 completion rate for a -2.3 grade along with a TD, interception and six sacks. With former first-round LT Russell Okung due to miss time with an injury, that leaves 2006 third-round pick Paul McQuistan protecting Wilson’s blindside. McQuistan is primarily a guard, but the last time he spent significant time filling in at LT was at the end of 2011, and he struggled, conceding three sacks, three QB knockdowns and six hurries in four contests. Otherwise, RT Breno Giacomini is the only Seattle offensive lineman with a positive pass blocking grade (responsible for only a sack and three hurries). If the Jaguars have any hope of pulling off this upset, they need to get passed Seattle’s front five, which can be done.
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