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Sexton-Oehser keys: Eagles-Jaguars


JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton break down three Jaguars keys for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Wembley Stadium in London Sunday …

Oehser …

1.Get ahead early. This is a multilayered issue for the Jaguars, one that has become an overwhelming tell on their chances to win or lose. The Jaguars this season have yet to come from behind in a game in which they have trailed and have let to lose a game in which they have led. The trend has been magnified in the current three-game losing streak, with the Jaguars falling behind 20-0 to the Kansas City Chiefs (30-14 loss), 24-0 to the Dallas Cowboys (40-7 loss) and 20-0 to the Houston Texans (20-7 loss). The inability to get a lead has kept the Jaguars from utilizing their pass rush, and falling behind early has put the offense in come-from-behind situations that injuries and offensive philosophy make difficult to overcome. A quick start is doubly important this week because the Eagles also have struggled to get early leads this season. The team that wins the first quarter will have a major edge Sunday. For the Jaguars, that makes it imperative they score their first first-quarter touchdown since a September 16 victory over New England.

2.Beware the misdirection. The Jaguars have struggled against mobile quarterbacks this season, and they also have struggled against offenses that use run-pass option in the short and intermediate passing game. That's concerning this week because the Eagles with quarterback Carson Wentz like that approach and use it effectively. Wentz has been remarkably efficient since returning from the knee injury that kept him out of the Eagles' run to the Super Bowl title last season, throwing 10 touchdowns with one interception in five games this season. This is just one way getting an early lead is important. If the Jaguars can get ahead and make the Eagles' offense one-dimensional, the pass rush can force a mistake or two and make Wentz uncomfortable. If the Jaguars are trailing and Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson is calling plays in manageable situations, a repeat of the overwhelmed feeling the Jaguars' defense had in Dallas two weeks ago is a real possibility.

3.Run … somehow. The overriding key for the Jaguars is to win the turnover margin and field position. Those are Head Coach Doug Marrone's areas of focus this week, and correctly so. But perhaps as important is re-establishing a functional running game. The Jaguars, after leading the NFL in rushing last season at 141.4 yards per game, rank 23rd this season at 98.6 yards per game. They have rushed for 65 and 70 yards the last two weeks, and Jaguars running backs rushed 14 times for 32 yards in a loss to Houston this past Sunday. Look for running back Carlos Hyde – acquired in a trade with Cleveland last Friday – to play a significant role Sunday. The Jaguars hope he can help give the offense an element of the downhill, physical running style they have lacked with Leonard Fournette struggling to return from a hamstring injury. Don't expect Hyde to magically save a dormant offense. But perhaps he can help.

Sexton …

1.Run the ball. The running game lifts the quarterback in Jacksonville. It's the other way around in most NFL cities, but in Jacksonville the power-running game sets up play action and helps build the lead – which allows the defense to run downhill to the quarterback. Let's face it: Without Fournette, the Jaguars have had no running game; now, with the prospect of his return plus the addition of Carlos Hyde, the Jags should be able to reset their offense – and maybe their season – with their favorite approach to football. The Eagles are an outstanding and aggressive defense, so it's important to have them off balance. The return of the running game is the No. 1 reason for optimism this week.

2.Do your job. This is a simple, but worth a reminder. The last few weeks, especially on the defense, players have discarded the Xs and Os for a desperate attempt to make something happen. There is a big difference between discarding the Xs and Os and playing above them. which is making a play within the system. A quick review of the Texans game tape – and the Cowboys' game tape as well – shows too many examples of the kind of freelancing that opens up opportunities for opponents. Everyone needs to take a deep breath, trust the system that got them to within four minutes of the Super Bowl last season and simply do what they're supposed to do.

3.Sleep on the plane! I watched the Ravens sleepwalk through the first half at Wembley last season. It's a tough trip for teams that have never made it – and it's a decided advantage for the Jaguars, who are heading to London for a sixth consecutive year. Sleep on the plane, drink plenty of water, listen to strength and conditioning coordinator Tom Myslinski and his team, and do everything they ask you to do. If the Jaguars take the lessons learned the last few years in London and apply them to No. 1 and No. 2 on this list they can build a lead, lean on the defense and keep the defending Super Bowl champions off balance in their first trip to play in the United Kingdom.

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