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Week in focus: Mind games


JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser takes a final look at the Jaguars entering the team's Week 2 matchup against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California, Sunday


Paul Posluszny likes watching Philip Rivers play quarterback.

There's really only one time the Jaguars' middle linebacker said that's not true – and that's when the Jaguars are playing the San Diego Chargers.

Because as much as Posluszny respects how Rivers plays – his veteran savvy, his ability to control a phenomenal amount of things from the line of scrimmage – all of those things make the task of playing against Rivers extraordinarily tasking. That's true both mentally and physically.

Posluszny has lined up yards from a slew of big-time quarterbacks in 10 NFL seasons. In terms of a mental challenge, he said facing Rivers is as difficult as any.

"He's able to put his guys in the absolute best position to succeed," Posluszny said as the Jaguars (0-1) prepared to play the Chargers (0-1) at Qualcomm Stadium Sunday at 4:25 p.m. "He can create situations where it's a very challenging down for the defense.

"He's one of the best if not the best when it comes to that. He has such great control of the offense."

Posluszny said Rivers' line-of-scrimmage skills are many. There's the ability to manipulate defenses with a hard count, thereby keeping defenders off balance. There's also the ability to see and adjust wide receivers' positioning – as well as their routes – seconds before the snap.

That's why Rivers often can be seen directing receivers at the line of scrimmage, and it helped Rivers complete 29 of 43 passes for 300 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in a 31-25 Chargers victory at EverBank Field last season.

The Chargers, as they will Sunday, played that game without top receiver Keenan Allen and with relatively limited well-known weapons. Rivers' two second-quarter touchdown passes to veteran tight end Antonio Gates were key to the victory.

"That's his offense," Jaguars veteran defensive tackle Roy Miller III said. "He's been doing this for a long time. He's about as smart as it gets. He can look at a defense and know what he wants to do. That's the difference when you talk about elite quarterbacks. They automatically change the call and what seemed like a great call now all of a sudden is a disadvantage.

"He's smart guy, poised and he can throw darts. That's a deadly combination."

Posluszny said Rivers' ability doesn't make the Chargers' impossible to defend, but it does create a much smaller margin for error.

"He has such great understanding of defenses that he knows exactly how to attack us and put us in our most challenging position," Posluszny said.


The Jaguars enter Week 2 with two players having been ruled out: running back Chris Ivory (general medical condition) and cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring). Ivory's absence means T.J. Yeldon likely will start with Denard Robinson and Corey Grant playing roles. Amukamara's absence means Jalen Ramsey and Davon House likely will start at corner with veteran Dwayne Gratz playing in nickel situations.

Offensive tackle Jermey Parnell missed Thursday's practice with a groin injury and Leo Dante Fowler Jr. missed Thursday with the flu, but both are likely to play Sunday.


Sunday's game will feature two teams in the Top 5 of the 2016 NFL Draft – but it won't feature two Top 5 2016 NFL Draft selections. Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, the No. 3 overall selection whose training camp holdout cost him much of the preseason, will miss the game with a hamstring injury. Jaguars cornerback and No. 5 overall selection Jalen Ramsey will start after a performance in the regular-season opener that helped prompt defensive coordinator Todd Wash to say of Ramsey this week, "He's a stud."


While Rivers is a difficult matchup, Miller said he's far from the Chargers' lone weapon. San Diego is second in the NFL rushing entering Week 2, having rushed for 155 yards against Kansas City in the regular-season opener. Second-year veteran Melvin Gordon scored his first two NFL touchdowns, and Miller said running back Danny Woodhead gives the Chargers a difficult dimension to defend. "Every time I watch the guy I'm always surprised," Miller said of the 5-feet-8, 200-pound back who rushed for 89 yards on 16 carries Sunday. "You look at him and say, 'That's a little dude.' But he's like [longtime Chargers running back Darren] Sproles. He's so shifty. He's so athletic that he turns a tackle for loss into a gain for 15. When you have a guy like him and a guy like Gordon, that's a 1-2. You can roll off that."


"I think mentally he's definitely up there and he's been for a really long time. So he's able to do it, kind of runs everything from the line of scrimmage, getting them in and out of plays. So I think he's definitely someone you want to imitate and be like for sure as a young quarterback.""

---Jaguars QB Blake Bortles on River

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