Bold City AFC South Showdown
This weekend in Jacksonville is an important AFC South battle between the Indianapolis Colts and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Although the game no longer features high profile names, like quarterback Andrew Luck or defensive back Jalen Ramsey, there are two key matchups to pay close attention to while viewing.
Colts Running Game Against Jaguars Linebackers
It has been said repeatedly that the strength of the Colts is their offensive line. Although this is indeed a fact, the impressive statistics come on their rushing attack. In 2019, the Colts averaged almost 200 yards on the ground against the Jaguars. That’s high school stats. In fact, during the mid-November contest, the Colts had two 100 yard rushers. The offensive line played their role in opening up holes for running backs Marlon Mack and Jonathan Williams.
However when reviewing the tape, one can see that it was not the offensive line alone that enabled Mack and Williams to churn out chunks of yardage. In fact it was poor tackling by linebackers. This offseason, the Jaguars signed middle linebacker Joe Schobert to a five-year, $53.75 million contract in hopes to solve this issue. Schobert has the vision and anticipation needed for a middle linebacker to be successful at this level. Based on his last three seasons with the Cleveland Browns, he also has the ability to wrap up a ball carrier.
The addition of Schobert moves Miles Jack to the weak-side linebacker, a position that allows him to utilize his speed more effectively. In order for the Jaguars to achieve a stalemate against the Colts rushing attack, Schobert and Jack need to play at a high level. They will be looked upon to yield fewer yards after contact and come up with impactful stops on third down. Easier said than done against this divisional rival.
Chark and Rhodes Matchup
Xavier Rhodes is a three time Pro Bowler and a former All-Pro cornerback that joins the Colts looking to revive his career at age 30. D.J. Chark is a high-rising wide receiver that is his quarterback’s main target. This Sunday will be the first matchup between the two and it will be entertaining.
Rhodes joins the Colts with a chip on his shoulder. He wants to prove that he is still capable to perform at a high level. He is a savvy and opportunistic veteran. Rhodes likes to be physical and initiates contact at the line of scrimmage. His intention will be to disrupt the timing between Chark and his quarterback. If the Colts are able to pressure Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew, Rhodes will capitalize in the secondary.
On the other side of the ball, Chark has something to prove as well. He is looking to prove that last season was not a fluke and was merely a stepping stone for his career. Last season Chark emerged out of obscurity and earned a place on the Pro Bowl.
On Sunday, Chark will need to use his size and speed to take the upper hand in the matchup with Rhodes. He will need to release cleanly from the snap and keep Rhodes guessing. Fly route? Flag? perhaps a hitch and go? By getting into the mind of Rhodes and confusing him, he can then use his gifts and be a target for Minshew. If he can withstand the initial punch at the line of scrimmage, it will be a difficult day for Rhodes and the Colts secondary.
Game Within the Game
Time to dust off the cooler and fire up the grill. However this season it will be at home instead of your favorite tailgate spot. But that’s ok, right? Football is back. Perhaps view the game a little different and focus on key matchups within the game. In conclusion, week one in Jacksonville offers an opportunity to dissect this pair of matchups that are sure to impact the game.