JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines ten things the Jaguars must do to beat the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California, Sunday
1.Shock the world.OK, maybe this wouldn't be an upset of historic proportion. It is, after all, Week 4 and therefore not yet October. But it would be significant. The Jaguars have given no indication of playing at a postseason level this season, are struggling in several areas and have a quarterback making his first NFL start. The Chargers are a savvy, veteran team defined by an underrated, veteran quarterback. Make no mistake: This may be the tallest order yet for the Jaguars this season.
2.Start Blake Bortles.Oh, he is starting. Hadn't heard.
3.Let Bortles play free.This shouldn't be a problem. Bortles, who will make his first regular-season start as the Jaguars' quarterback, has played four preseason games and one regular-season game. In those five games, he has shown no indication of not playing loose and free. He may or may not be ready for his first NFL start, but he's not afraid to look downfield and not afraid to throw it. That will lead to mistakes, but that's OK. It's going to lead to plays, too. Let him get outside the pocket. Let him run. You're letting the kid start. Now, let him play.
4.Cover someone.The Jaguars haven't done it enough this season. Not nearly enough. For all of the bewildering things on defense, most bewildering is wide receivers running too open too often. It's not as if every defensive back is getting beat on every play, but it's more than enough to give up far too many explosive plays. Keenan Allen is dangerous, and so is Malcolm Floyd. You must get assignments right, and when it's time to cover, challenge routes.
5.Get in third-and-manageable.Remember when this was a huge issue a couple of weeks back? Well, the Jaguars' quarterback may be new, but that doesn't mean this isn't important. Getting in manageable short-yardage situations is about being efficient on early downs. It's just as critical with Bortles at quarterback as it was with Chad Henne. Oh, and once you get to third-and-manageable, block the Chargers' pass rush. The front is dangerous, and veteran linebacker Dwight Freeney can still get to the quarterback.
6.Stop Antonio Gates.This is a pretty obvious factor this week. The Jaguars have had trouble covering tight ends this season. Actually, they struggled with it last season, too. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said this week there were three or four flat-out missed assignments covering tight ends against the Colts. Make similar errors against Gates and Rivers and that duo will beat you often.
7.Defy history.The Jaguars historically have been weak traveling west. The Jaguars roster is so new and young that they don't care about that sort of history. But traveling west isn't just brutal on the Jaguars. It's traditionally tough on every team, particularly very, very young ones playing a third road game in four weeks.
8.Pressure Philip Rivers.The first step here is stopping the run, but even if you stop the run, Rivers is good enough to beat third-and-long situations. He's a veteran with a knack for clutch plays at key times. But the Jaguars have displayed legitimate signs of a very good pass rush early this season. The key is getting in more pass-rushing situations, and that means stopping the run.
9.Use your playmakers.The Jaguars are starting to show a few early signs of having some guys on offense who can turn nothing into something. Denard Robinson has been such a player for a little more than a season, but he hadn't earned the coaches' trust yet. He's earning that respect and to hear Bradley tell it earning in the week, he's earning more time, too. Don't forget Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson, either. All three of these guys will make young-player errors, but all three can make plays of significance, too.
10.Seize the moment.Forget the first three weeks. They were brutal by any measure. But the future starts now. Bortles is starting. He gave the team some momentum last week. Give that momentum a chance to grow. Seize it. Surprise everyone. Shock the world.