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Cardinals Game Preview: Jacksonville Jaguars

The Arizona Cardinals hit the road for the second time in three weeks as they head to Jacksonville, Florida to face the Jaguars. After a confident performance in Week 1, the Cardinals nearly collapsed at home in Week 2. Fortunately, the Vikings missed a 37-yard game-winning field goal, salvaging a monster 400-passing yard day from Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars are off to a messy start under new head coach Urban Meyer. Despite a championship pedigree in college, it has not been a smooth transition into Meyer’s first NFL gig. The Jags are 0-2 following Week 2’s loss to the Broncos at home. First overall pick Trevor Lawrence has a long season ahead of him after the rookie quarterback threw for 118 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

Defensive Approaches

For the most part, the defense wasn’t all that bad. The Broncos were only up three going into the third quarter as Jacksonville safety Rayshawn Jenkins led the way with six tackles. The Jags forced the Broncos into the pass as the rush was not quite on its a-game. However, the passing game gradually killed the Jacksonville defense.

(Photo courtesy of Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports)

Quarterback Teddy Bridgwater finished with 328 yards in the air and he often had just enough time to launch it out. That’s a credit to the offensive line as linebacker Josh Allen is supposed to be a top rusher on the team. Furthermore, Denver wide receiver Courtland Sutton was a man on fire with 159 yards. Defenders like rookie cornerback Tyson Campbell struggled all day to contain Sutton.

Not to mention Jacksonville still hasn’t forced a turnover yet, if they finish the Arizona game without a turnover, there’s going to be some serious questions, win or lose.

Looking at the Cardinals, Arizona’s passing defense has some consistency issues to fix quickly. On just the second play of the game, Arizona allowed Vikings wideout, K.J. Osborn, to take a pass 64 yards to the house. While corner Budda Baker and the secondary held on just enough, that 2-minute defense at the end nearly gave up the game. An action that can’t be allowed against Jacksonville.

2021 NFL Top 100 players
(Photo courtesy of Ross D. Franklin)

What also helped was the offensive line creating space for Dalvin CookChandler Jones and the rest of the defensive line didn’t get as much pressure as they would’ve preferred as a result. There is plenty of depth at the linebacker spot and the Jags’ James Robinson is not Cook. So any issues regarding the inability to stop the run can potentially be tweaked in this game.

Rookie linebacker Zaven Collins has been mild but not disappointing. This game should give him a chance to step things up. The demand from him will be greater against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4.

Scoring Attacks

Trevor Lawrence is still green at the moment. And it needs to be clear that is not all his fault, it’s merely the consequence of being an NFL rookie. He’s already tied for the lead in most interceptions with five and has a QBR rating of 25 through two games. His go-to target so far has been Marvin Jones Jr., an established veteran in the league. Jones has 132 yards and two touchdowns, but that alone is also a bad indicator for the current situation in Jacksonville.

Trevor Lawrence preseason passing
(Photo courtesy of Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Ground-wise, James Robinson and Carlos Hyde are responsible for powering through but they’re not starting this season hot at all. Combined they have 123 rush yards and no touchdowns. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has rushed for nearly as many yards (122) by himself than these two together. Not to mention that it’s been very difficult for the Jaguars to get first downs on the ground, a total of eight so far.

The impressive performances so far by Kyler Murray have done a lot to prove that the Cardinals could be a serious threat this season. Week 1’s 289 passing yards and three-touchdown day were followed by even better performance. Week 2’s 400 yards and four touchdowns gave him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. The bevy of targets that include A.J. Green and Christian Kirk ought to provide plentiful scoring.

So far, James Conner and Chase Edmonds (188 combined rush yards) have not been a one-two combo that has stuck out, but they move the chains along. In an Air Raid-type offense, this sort of production from the ground is not unexpected and both are certainly functional in the passing game. But scoring would be nice as they don’t have touchdowns either. Murray’s an established scrambler too, but he’s not going to run unless absolutely necessary. He’s more than comfortable leaving that to the backfield.

Conclusion

The Cardinals are the favorite here and there’s little reason to doubt they will eventually pull away. Neutral viewers will hope for both Murray and Lawrence to put up a good show. After all, this is the quarterback matchup that unfortunately never happened in college.

But what for it’s worth, Lawrence still has a lot to learn; Murray is already established and has better weapons compared to the Jags. It’s only a matter of time before this becomes lopsided in favor of the Red Sea.

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