Jaguars vs. Cowboys primer: Key matchups, storylines, predictions, and more for Week 6
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Jacksonville Jaguars wide receivers Donte Moncrief (10) and Dede Westbrook (12) dance after a touchdown during the second half against the New England Patriots at TIAA Bank Field.Shall we dance: Sports stars shake their leg
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The Jacksonville Jaguars try to steady the ship (boat?) on the road against the Dallas Cowboys at 4:25pm EST.
For a second week in a row, we get Tony Romo and Jim Nantz on the call.
Game will be called on CBS by Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Tony Romo (color) and Tracy Wolfson (sideline).
Despite some ugly losses to start the year off, the Cowboys are only a half-game behind from the lead in the NFC East. While they are undefeated at home and winless on the road in 2018, the numbers historically don’t necessarily project a tremendous home field advantage for Jason Garrett and the Cowboys. Since the opening of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, the Cowboys actually have a better record on the road (.532) than they do at home (.581).
Offensively, the Cowboys have struggled mightily and the passing game under Dak Prescott has failed to launch thus far this season.
Quite frankly, this is a nightmare match up for Dallas in a week where they’ve lost a huge amount of momentum from an overtime loss against self-proclaimed in-state rival Houston Texans. Even though the Cowboys offense has lost it’s power, they do have their generator running in Ezekiel Elliott. Not only is Elliott the NFL’s leading rusher through five weeks with 480 yards on the ground, but he also leads the team in receptions.
In fact, out of the Cowboys 1,539 total yards on offense, Elliott has 635 of them, so he’s basically accounting for over 41% of the team’s yardage production.
In speaking to the media earlier this week, Jaguars linebacker and defensive captain Telvin Smith compared this Cowboys team to their week one match up against the New York Giants where they had to sell out to stop Saquon Barkley in the run game to shut down the offense. The same game plan will be implemented this week, and one positive is that the Cowboys don’t have an Odell Beckham Jr. who could burn the secondary on play action. Expect the Jaguars to play heavy press man this week and get some takeaways to help their miserable -7 turnover ratio.
The Cowboys defense is a different story, and it starts up front with their “Hot Boyz” defensive line piloted by 2017 Pro Bowl defensive end Demarcus “Tank” Lawrence. Tank is averaging over a sack a game in a contract year and that spells trouble for ex-teammate Jermey Parnell at right tackle, who had a howler last week against Dee Ford. While banged up, the Jaguars interior offensive line should hold their own against the Cowboys defensive tackles as long as David Irving doesn’t suit up in this game. Despite having his suspension lifted last week, Irving has been battling with a domestic court issue and just returned to practice for the first time this past Thursday. Even without Irving, Antwaun Woods has been playing very well for the Cowboys this season and needs to be accounted for.
As you go into the Cowboys’ second level, things don’t get much easier with middle linebacker Jaylon Smith playing incredible football so far in 2018 as he continues to get back to the top-five caliber prospect that he was prior to a devastating knee injury in his final collegiate game at Notre Dame. Next to Smith, rookie first round pick Leighton Vander Esch had a whopping 14 tackles last week against the Texans and may very well Wally Pipp veteran linebacker Sean Lee with how well he is playing.
The secondary is where it gets interesting for the Cowboys. The decision to move Byron Jones to cornerback this offseason has paid huge dividends for Dallas, as Jones is currently ranked as the top cornerback in the NFL through five weeks by PFF, and Chidobe Awuzie is a fan favorite on the other side of Jones. The safety position, however? Disaster. The Cowboys had well-warranted interest in Earl Thomas and their committee approach of Kavon Frazier, Jeff Heath, and Xavier Woods have really hampered the Cowboys’ passing defense from being a top ten unit. The Cowboys did not have an interception this season until Woods intercepted Deshaun Watson late in the game last week, which is good news for Blake Bortles.
For some thoughts from the Cowboys’ persepctive, check out Ryan O’Bleness’ crossover piece with Dave Halprin of Blogging the Boys.
I didn’t want to re-visit this so quickly after following up a Titans loss with a week four win against the Jets, but here we are:
Doug Marrone improves to 14-8 as the head coach of the @Jaguars, and his 0.636 winning percentage is the highest in franchise history.
In 9 games played following a loss under Marrone, Jacksonville is 8-1 (4-0 at home) with a +147-point differential. pic.twitter.com/tc0VPGMsdX
— Tad Dickman (@TDickman89) October 1, 2018
The Jaguars’ ability to bounce back after a loss will continue to be an interesting storyline throughout Doug Marrone’s tenure. Combine this statistic with the pattern pointing to “Good Blake” this week and the Jaguars could take back some national attention following a poor showing in Kansas City.
Another major storyline this week comes courtesy of former Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns publicly putting offensive coordinator Scott Linehan on blast to ESPN reporter Josina Anderson.
Allen Hurns told Josina Anderson that part of the problem with the passing game is the playcalling, including calling the playcall on Dak’s second INT on Sunday night “the worst playcall you can make against that coverage”. He also said the blocking, WRs, & Dak deserve blame too.
Hurns was a multi-winner of the Jaguars Media Good Guy award and these griping comments are certainly out of character for Hurns. This tells me that the frustration in the Cowboys locker room with their offensive coaches is very real, and a game against a top defensive unit such as the Jaguars could light the fuse.
The Jaguars signed former Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough to their practice squad on Thursday, and while there is no doubt the need exists for a behemoth 235-pounder who can run between the tackles, the timing of the move is interesting. The Cowboys released Scarbrough from their practice squad earlier this week, so he should be able to provide the team with some interesting nuggets as they prepare for the game. The Jaguars used a top-thirty official visit on Scarbrough before the draft and could be the Alabama running back that hangs around if T.J. Yeldon leaves in free agency.
Not much of a match up if you ask me, but Hurns does have familiarity with Ramsey and it will be interesting to see how he’s instructed his offensive coordinator to game plan against the Jaguars cornerbacks. Hurns has the play strength to combat press man, but Ramsey is so much more athletic that it might not matter. Don’t expect Hurns to add much to his 8 catches for 84 yards season stat line.
After dialing up 70 pass attempts last week against the Chiefs despite averaging over five yards per carry, expect Nathanial Hackett to ride his new cavalry this week with plenty of rotation between T.J. Yeldon, Jamaal Charles, and even David Williams. The Jaguars will need to tire out the Cowboys defensive line this week and work off the play action, so expect a high-volume tackle game for the Cowboys impressive young linebackers.
Conversely, the Jaguars need to sell out to stop Ezekiel Elliott from carving them up on the ground. Luckily for Todd Wash, run-plugging nose tackle Marcell Dareus is playing some of his best football in a Jaguars uniform and Myles Jack and Telvin Smith have the speed to attack downfield and fill gaps closer to the line of scrimmage. Shut down Zeke and win the game. It’s that easy.
Jermey Parnell vs. Demarcus Lawrence
Parnell was a turnstile against Dee Ford last week, and his life doesn’t get any easier going against his former Cowboys teammate Demarcus Lawrence. The good news for JP is that he was getting beat with speed on wide arcs last week and that’s not really Lawrence’s game, as he prefers to bull rush and stack moves to shed at the point of attack. Hopefully Parnell plays well enough that he’ll be left alone on Instagram after the game.
Josh Walker vs. Taco Charlton/Randy Gregory
This is the match up that should keep you up at night. In limited reps last week, Josh Walker was fine when he was able to get his hands on Justin Houston and Breeland Speaks with his initial punch and did well to corral them past their rush lane. However, when Walker whiffed on speed moves, it was bad. Taco Charlton may not be the most incendiary rusher, but Randy Gregory could be a match up nightmare for the guard-turned-tackle.
“Good teams don’t lose two games in a row.” – Calais Campbell
Good teams may not, but injured teams certainly can. Were it not for some injuries especially along the Jaguars offensive line, this game would be a slam dunk for the Jaguars. With that being said, the Texans awful offensive tackles held their own for the most part against the Cowboys, and Kendall Lamm at right tackle especially did enough to keep Demarcus Lawrence from doing too much damage. If the Texans line can hold up, I’m confident that this Jaguars unit that still should have it’s starting interior trio starting will get the job done.