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Quick Thoughts: On Myles Jack, the new No. 99 and more

Jacksonville Jaguars middle linebacker Myles Jack (44) reacts after his defense stops an Indianapolis Colts drive during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. Jaguars won 27-20. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton with three quick thoughts as the Jaguars approach Sunday's Week 2 matchup against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. …

Oehser …

1.Myles Jack is good after all – maybe really good. The most encouraging early-season sign for the Jaguars? Myles Jack's quick adjustment to weak-side linebacker shouldn't be overlooked. The fifth-year veteran moved from middle to the weak side in the offseason when the Jaguars signed middle linebacker Joe Schobert. Defensive coordinator Todd Wash, Head Coach Doug Marrone and General Manager David Caldwell all spoke during the offseason of the weak side being Jack's "natural" position – and he played like it Sunday with 11 tackles, three quarterback hurries, a sack and a tackle for loss. Marrone this week correctly called him perhaps the best player on the field in that game. Jack took way too much criticism last season playing in the middle; while he had some high-profile missed assignments, much of his issues stemmed from trying to make up for less-experienced players around him. But the move to the weak side – delayed for multiple seasons because of the presence of Pro Bowl weak side backer Telvin Smith – appears to be benefitting Jack. If he's as natural there as he appeared Sunday, he could be as valuable a defensive player as the Jaguars have this season.

2.Precision and discipline will be key for this team. The Jaguars learned a valuable lesson in Week 1, one that could serve them well this season – that the key for this team will be playing mistake-free and taking advantage of opportunities. The Jaguars scored touchdowns on all three of their drives inside the 25 against the Colts; the Colts, by contrast, left points on the field with a missed 30-yard field goal and a failed first-quarter fourth-down run from inside the five. The Jaguars also committed no turnovers compared to two for the Colts and were penalized just six times for 61 yards after being the NFL's second-most penalized team last season. This was a much more disciplined, opportunistic team than recent Jaguars teams, and that's a good sign. This young team probably won't dominate many opponents. But they're good enough to compete – and win – if they play smart and remain opportunistic.

3. The run defense looks better; now, a bigger test. The Jaguars showed signs in Week 1 of being an improved run defense. Now, they get the opportunity to prove that was no fluke. Titans running back Derrick Henry not only is one of the NFL's best players at his position, he is otherworldly good against the Jaguars in Nashville. His 99-yard run against them in 2018 and his 74-yard run against them last season were the sort of highlight plays that destroy seasons – and leave deep scars on a franchise and its fans. A few things to remember, though. This game will be played early in the season, with the Jaguars very much having something for which to play; the Titans-Jaguars games the last two seasons came with the Jaguars' seasons already in decline. The psyche of this Jaguars team also just feels different – with more camaraderie and more fight. This defense also appears stouter and with more players committed to playing the run – and more players who have bought into the physical approach it takes to play against Henry and the Titans. Those are all just early-season feelings at this point – gleaned from one encouraging victory over the Colts and from listening to players and coaches in recent weeks. The Jaguars on Sunday will get a chance to show if the feelings are correct.

Sexton …

1.Most of the offseason comes down to this. The Jaguars' run defense was abysmal last season, allowing the Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans to run for more than 200 yards and allowing the Los Angeles Chargers to come close at 195. They spent free-agent cash and draft capital this past offseason on defensive linemen to turn that around. Though their first effort against the Colts was successful, Sunday is a different level. Henry has single-handedly embarrassed the Jaguars on their last two trips to Nashville, running for nearly 200 yards per game and averaging 11 yards per rushing attempt. They don't call him the bulldozer for nothing; he's incredibly difficult to stop. But in their last two games in Jacksonville, the Jaguars held him to 50 yards per game and 3.2 yards per attempt. Both of his big games were in Nashville after Thanksgiving while his below average performances were in Jacksonville in September. This one is in Nashville in September and the Jaguars hope the combination of new players on defense plus the schedule difference work to their benefit Sunday. If they can stop Henry, they can stop anyone. If they can stop anyone, they can beat anyone. Let's see what they've got.

2.Find No. 99. Jadeveon Clowney has replaced former defensive tackle Jurrell Casey as the Titans' No. 99. But the new 99 isn't new to the AFC South. Clowney, the one-time Houston Texan, is an absolute game wrecker and creates all sort of headaches for quarterbacks over the course of a game. He's a match-up nightmare with a six-feet-six frame and the longest arms you've ever seen – which are either tripping up runners, tipping over quarterbacks and occasionally tipping passes. Clowney has had some knee issues and isn't the edge pass rusher he must be to get the mega-contract he sought this spring and summer. That's okay, because he is a great football player and a guy who has always caused problems for the Jaguars. It's Minshew's first look at Clowney. If Jaguars are ready for him, that first look will only be in passing. If they're not ready, it's going to be a very long afternoon.

3.Nashville isn't as tough a place to play as they make it out to be. Don't get me wrong: The Jaguars haven't played well there since 2015 and haven't won there since 2013, so it isn't an easy place to play. But while they sell a lot of tickets, their fans don't show up in droves unless it's late in the season and they're in the playoff race. Neither of those factors come into play on Sunday. Few will see this as a winnable game for the Jaguars; few saw any games as winnable for the Jaguars before last week if we're being completely honest. This is a winnable game for the Jaguars, but it will require them to do the little things effortlessly and make the big things look easier than they really are. Are they up for it? We're about to find out if they're going to bark every once in a while this season or if they have some bite to them. This one would draw a little blood from those AFC South standings.

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