Maurice Jones-Drew is likely to see another defense stacked to stop him on Sunday, which means beleaguered quarterback David Garrard's performance in the passing game will likely determine whether Jones-Drew will have the breakout game for which Jaguars fans are waiting.
"There were 11 straight plays when they blitzed to an eight-man front," Jaguars Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter said of San Diego's defensive strategy in the Jaguars' 38-13 loss last Sunday. "That's why we thought we'd have some great opportunities in the pass game; we just didn't get to them."
Those opportunities evaporated in the wake of one of Garrard's worst performances as a starting quarterback. He was intercepted four times and on the first of those interceptions he grossly underthrew wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, who had gotten 10 yards behind the coverage and should've been able to catch the pass and waltz into the end zone.
"When you're throwing deep balls, you can't underthrow them. You have to throw it out front. Sometimes you don't get it out far enough and you gotta," Koetter said.
The Jaguars fashioned an 11-11 balance between run and pass in the first half of that game, but that balance disappeared in the second half, as San Diego widened its lead and forced the Jaguars to pass.
"We always try to be 50-50 in run-pass on run downs," Koetter explained. "You talk to any defensive coach; the toughest thing to defense is balance."
To achieve that balance against the Eagles on Sunday, as the Jaguars did in their season-opening win over the Broncos, Garrard will likely have to make some plays into an eight-man, pressure front. The Eagles will have their eyes trained on Jones-Drew, just as the Chargers did in holding Jones-Drew to 31 yards rushing on 12 carries.
"Every team targets Maurice. I thought Maurice had three runs in the first half that he was just a tick from breaking out of there," Koetter said.
"We need to create lanes," guard Uche Nwaneri said. "I think running the ball is going to be good. We need to have Maurice as a big contributor. As a line, there's nothing we like more than setting that physical tempo. After we do that, over the top."
Garrard was benched in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, though he had to return to the action when backup quarterback Luke McCown sustained what would be diagnosed to be a season-ending knee injury.
"There's a time to be mad and a time to coddle," Koetter said. "David's a nine-year vet. I thought Jack (Del Rio) made the right decision. It was time for David to sit down. It wasn't Dave's day. I have no doubt Dave will play well this week."
Garrard has a history of following poor performances with strong ones. It's earned him a reputation for being inconsistent. Koetter suggested that he was one of many quarterbacks that suffer from the same affliction.
"I think there were 11 or 12 quarterbacks that had a lower rating than Dave last week and Dave had as bad a day as Dave can have," Koetter said.