JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines key players, matchups and storylines as the Jaguars prepare to play the Miami Dolphins at EverBank Field Sunday
It's time to regroup, to look forward.
That's true for every NFL team every week of every season, but it feels really true for the Jaguars as they prepare to play the Miami Dolphins at EverBank Field Sunday.
The Jaguars lost to the Carolina Panthers 20-9 in the regular-season opener Sunday after an offseason of optimism and talk of improvement. The task this week gets no easier; in fact, it might get tougher.
Few NFL teams were as active in the offseason as the Dolphins, who enter the season with playoff hopes and a 1-0 record. The Dolphins, who won last season in Jacksonville by a score of 27-13, have a strong defense led by tackle Ndamukong Suh and a strong secondary. They have a capable offense that many believe will be improved this season led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
The Jaguars enter Week 2 having struggled offensively against Carolina, failing to score in the second half after playing well enough to have been tied at halftime if not for an errant extra-point attempt.
The Jaguars also continue to deal with injuries, with the status of key players such as wide receiver Marqise Lee and defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks uncertain and with tight end Julius Thomas expected to be out at least the next couple of weeks with a hand injury.
The Dolphins opened the season with a 17-10 victory over the Washington Redskins.
The talk in Miami after the game was as much about mistakes as what the Dolphins did right. They needed a late-game surge keyed by a fourth-quarter punt return by Jarvis Landry to win, with the offense struggling much of the game.
The Dolphins allowed Tannehill to be sacked three times, and while Tannehill said afterward the Dolphins didn't execute well, his three-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds remaining in the first half was key.
Three matchups to watch
*Jaguars interior offensive line versus Suh.This is an obvious matchup considering Suh was perhaps the NFL's most high-profile free agent last offseason. But this could be expanded to the Jaguars' offensive line's ability to create a running game. The Dolphins allowed the Redskins 161 yards rushing and there's little question the Jaguars want to run effectively after doing so early Sunday and then getting away from it in the second half.
*Jaguars wide receivers Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson versus Dolphins cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Brice McCain.The Jaguars' receivers group got open against Carolina relatively consistency; they just need to make makeable catches. Getting open could be tougher against the Dolphins; Grimes is a front-line Pro Bowl player who had an interception in the opener and Grimes also had a Week 1 interception.
*Jaguars defensive front versus Dolphins offensive front.Miami didn't get the offensive start it wanted. Some of that was an average game from Tannehill,but the Dolphins also managed just 74 yards rushing – including minus-2 in the first half. The Jaguars' defense limited Carolina throughout much of the opener, and a line that managed to hurry Panthers quarterback Cam Newton more than expected will need a similar performance Sunday.
Jaguars to watch
*Bortles, quarterback.Bortles has been the Jaguars' Player to Watch through preseason; he will be watched even more closely now. After an above average preseason in which he showed marked improvement, Bortles struggled at times in the opener – enough so that Head Coach Gus Bradley on Monday said he wanted to see Bortles play less cautiously moving forward. He completed 22 of 40 passes with three drops, so there were good things, but the Jaguars need better from Bortles.
*T.J. Yeldon, running back.The rookie second-round draft selection flashed in the opener, and for one first-quarter series he showed the big-play, electric potential that the Jaguars believe will make him a go-to, bell-cow back. The Jaguars want to be able to run effectively, so look for Yeldon's role to increase the more flashes he shows.
*Hurns, Robinson and Greene.While Marqise Lee has not been ruled out for Sunday, Hurns, Robinson and Greene seem likely to take the majority of the Jaguars' reps at receiver Sunday. All three had big plays in the opener; all three had crucial drops that took away potential explosive plays. That has to improve.
Keep an eye on …
*Lee. The second-year wide receiver is expected to practice limited Wednesday and has not been ruled out for Sunday. He has been out since early training camp with a hamstring injury; when healthy, he can add a big-play element the Jaguars otherwise often lack. …
*Jaguars defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks. The veteran defensive tackle also is expected to practice Wednesday on a limited basis. He is unlikely to play Sunday, but will work in individual drills this week to assess his progress from reconstructive knee surgery in January. …
*Left tackle Luke Joeckel sustained an ankle sprain in the opener and will be evaluated this week. Bradley said Monday the Jaguars felt fortunate the injury wasn't worse, but didn't specify a possible return date. …
*Greene was cleared Monday after undergoing concussion testing following Sunday's game. …
*Cornerback Aaron Colvin (shoulder) is expected to try to play through the issue. …
*Running back Toby Gerhart (abdomen) will be evaluated as the week continues. He missed Sunday's opener. …
*Tight end Julius Thomas (hand) and defensive end Andre Branch (knee) remain out multiple weeks. …