Every Tuesday, we’ll take a closer look at the Ravens’ next opponent. This week it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Record: (1-5, 1-0) third in the AFC South
Wins: vs. Tennessee
Losses: @ New York Jets, @ Carolina, vs. New Orleans, vs. Cincinnati, @ Pittsburgh
Offense: 27th in NFL, 11th in AFC
Defense: 4-3 scheme, 13th in NFL, ninth in AFC
Synopsis thus far: What a disaster it’s been so far for the Jaguars. Following an impressive opening win against the Titans, Jacksonville hasn’t seen the win column. Five straight losses have sunk them to the bottom half of the AFC South, while head coach Jack Del Rio’s days are certainly numbered. He was on the hot seat before the season began and, despite a close loss to Pittsburgh last week, his cushion is practically on fire. Fans aren’t coming out to see the team play and with the exception of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, there aren’t any big names that draw fans into the stadium. On the plus side, the team is taking a look at rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. The University of Missouri product is taking his lumps as a first-timer in the NFL, meaning at this point the Jaguars have nowhere to go but up.
Where they’re strong: Defensively, the Jaguars won’t totally shut an opponent down, but they certainly won’t get pushed around, either. Against the pass, Jacksonville ranks eighth in the league, allowing just 210 yards per game through the air. Fourth-year safety Dwight Lowery leads the team with a pair of interceptions, while linebacker Paul Posluszny came over from Buffalo and continues to rack up the tackles. He currently leads the team with 55.
Jones-Drew is quietly still among the best backs in football, too. Through six games the shifty tailback is averaging 95.3 yards on the ground and has fumbled the ball just once. The Jaguars will need a heavy dose of him Monday night to take the expected pressure off Gabbert, who will make the first prime-time start of his short career.
Where they’re weak: Speaking of Gabbert, that passing game is woeful. Not that it’s entirely Gabbert’s fault, of course. In fact, the rookie shouldn’t take any of the blame for the team’s inefficient passing game, but it’s still an ugly offense to watch. Jacksonville ranks dead last in passing with just 137.7 yards per game through the air and only four touchdowns this season. The team’s leading target, Mike Thomas, has 27 catches for 301 yards, while Jason Hill is the only receiver with multiple touchdowns (2).
Against the Ravens, too, the Jags will have to worry about their rushing defense, which gives up more than 100 yards per game. Ray Rice is coming off of productive week in Baltimore’s win over the Texans and will look to carry that momentum unless the Jacksonville defense can put the brakes on him.
Overall advantage: Jacksonville has a young quarterback and not many weapons to attack with. But if its defense can keep the Ravens in check and Baltimore’s red zone offense struggles for the second straight week, the Jaguars might be able to give their opponent a scare and, under the lights of Monday Night Football, possibly steal a much-needed upset.