JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser preps for the week ahead with five quick questions for Giants-Jaguars at EverBank Field in Jacksonville Sunday
1.Can Blake Bortles find balance?The Jaguars want Blake Bortles to play free, to play with confidence. They also want the rookie quarterback to reduce interceptions. That's a tricky balance. The interceptions indeed have gone down, with one in each of the last three games, but Bortles hasn't thrown downfield much in that span. Maybe that's design. Maybe that's Bortles not looking downfield. Probably it's a combination that includes a lack of protection. It's definitely part of the process for a young quarterback, and Bortles' quest to unlock the right formula will be a key storyline for the rest of the season.
2.Will the pressure stay on?The Jaguars must pressure Giants quarterback Eli Manning. On paper, they should be able to do so because the Jaguars' defense consistently has rushed the passer effectively this season. The Giants will focus on keeping Manning clean, knowing that pressure is the Jaguars' best chance. Can the Jaguars be effective even with the Giants focused?
3.Is the running game for real? Jaguars running back Denard Robinson rushed for 329 yards and two touchdowns in three starts against Cleveland, Miami and Cincinnati. In two games since he has rushed for 85 yards, and taking away a 32-yard touchdown against Dallas in London, he has rushed for 53 yards on 28 carries in the last two games. The running game for close to a month looked like something reliable. It needs to look that way again for the Jaguars to have a chance Sunday.
4.Can the defense maintain?The Jaguars' offense is struggling. As young as it is, it's hard to see it turning into a 30-point offense overnight – or in the next week, for that matter. The Jaguars entered the season knowing the defense needed to be good for them to have a chance to win games. The unit has been good lately. It was exceptionally good for much of the Colts game Sunday. Considering the offensive struggles, it's a lot to ask the defense to be even better. It's a lot to ask for more than five sacks and for more than three takeaways. But that may be what it takes.
5.Can the Jaguars stop Odell Beckham Jr.?Maybe this isn't the question. Maybe the question is, "Can anyone stop Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.?" Did you see the catch? Did you? (On a serious note, the Jaguars versus Beckham Jr., is a key matchup this week. The Jaguars' defense has improved since early in the season, but has allowed a significant, game-breaking pass each of the last two games. Beckham, even aside from his highlight-reel, one-handed touchdown reception against Dallas last week, has shown he is capable of being a game-breaking receiver.)