JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines ten things the Jacksonville Jaguars must do to beat the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Sunday …
1. Ignore the crowd.This won't be easy for a young Jaguars team. History tells us Philly fans once booed Santa Claus. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't, and hey – maybe Santa deserved it. Whatever, shut the crowd out. The fans aren't playing.
2. Shut down LeSean McCoy.The Eagles' All-Pro running back is versatile, quick and dangerous. His cutback ability and unpredictability make him one of the league's toughest challenges. He's also a key to Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly's offense. You probably won't shut him down, but this Jaguars defensive line is the strength of the team. It needs to play like it.
3. Protect Chad Henne. This won't be easy, not with a rookie (Brandon Linder) at right guard and a center (Jacques McClendon) making his first start at the position. There's a backup (Cameron Bradfield) starting at right tackle and a second-year veteran with five starts starting at left tackle (Luke Joeckel), too. So, no, protecting the quarterback won't be easy Sunday, but it's necessary.
4. Get the ball to Cecil Shorts III.He was hurt enough this offseason that many forgot he is really good and really reliable when healthy. He looked good in the last two weeks of preseason, and although he left practice Thursday with hamstring tightness, Head Coach Gus Bradley said the absence was precautionary. Get Shorts involved. The offense is better with him.
5. Get the ball to Marcedes Lewis.The Jaguars didn't run much of the offense through Lewis in the preseason, but make no mistake: offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch likes Lewis and will have things in place to get him involved in the offense. That's a positive for this offense because Lewis is perhaps the Jaguars' most elite, most-dangerous offensive weapon right now. Fisch believed Lewis could have been a 70-reception player last season. Get him going toward that number Sunday.
6. Play older than you are.The Jaguars have inexperience all over the offensive line. And outside of Shorts, the entire receiving corps is young, with rookies Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns expected to play huge roles. It's asking a lot to expect rookie receivers to be go-to guys, but that needs to start happening quickly for this offense.
7. Pressure Nick Foles. This isn't easy. The Eagles' quarterback was efficient last season, and the threat of McCoy makes it difficult to pressure Foles, but the Jaguars believe the pass rush and the defense will be improved this season. Pressuring Foles is a good way to show it.
8. Keep Toby Gerhart a factor late.The book on Jaguars running back Toby Gerhart is he will run better the more carries he gets. Well, to do that, he has to get carries late in games. To get carries, games must be close enough – or the Jaguars have to be ahead enough – that he's running. The Eagles' offense is designed to run teams out of games early. Don't let it happen. Make Gerhart a factor. Make the clock a factor, too.
9. Score early, get ahead.The Eagles expect to win. They're favored to win. There's a little pressure on them and they're playing at home. Get a turnover. Do something. But get a lead and apply some pressure. That will help you stay in the game and the longer you're in the game Sunday, the better.
The Jaguars had several players return to full participation for Thursday's practice.
10. Find a way.This is vague, but remember when the Jaguars won four of five out of the bye last season? You really couldn't figure a reason they won. It was effort. It was belief. It was buying into Bradley. Whatever it was, it worked. Early on this season, especially against good teams, the Jaguars may need a big dose of that. On the road. Against a good team. That's the scenario Sunday, so they need to find a way. And they'll need to fight and play together. That's OK. It's what this team does best. Do it Sunday.