WHEN THE CHIEFS PASS
Can the Chiefs block one of the league's worst pass rushes this week? Before the bye week, against the San Diego Chargers, they couldn't, so we have to consider that as they face a Jacksonville team that has only five sacks this season. That's fewer sacks than the Chiefs, and in fact fewer sacks than any other team.
The Jaguars find themselves in this predicament because their first-round draft pick from a year ago, Derrick Harvey, is inching closer and closer to bust status. Harvey has only 3.5 sacks in 23 career games, not even close to the kind of production Jacksonville was anticipating when they drafted him with the eighth overall pick. Even so, the Jags are thin where pass-rush talent is concerned, so Harvey is moved around quite a bit.
Because of injuries to defensive ends, the Jaguars have switched to the 3-4 on an almost full-time basis. Harvey will play both right and left outside linebacker, but at either position his rush is not up to par. He's just not all that explosive off the ball, and this is seen in how the Jaguars line up in nickel defense.
Frequently, Harvey will play defensive tackle in passing situations. Clearly, this is an indicator that the Jaguars just don't have much faith in his ability to generate a pass rush from the outside consistently. The will bring linebackers in off the bench to play defensive end in these situations.
Obviously, none of this is working well for Jacksonville. They allow a whopping 70.2 percent completion rate, have given up 13 touchdown passes against just five interceptions, and rank 26th in passing yards allowed per game. Even Vince Young managed to play like a real quarterback against the Jaguars, hitting 15 of 18 passes.
Can the Chiefs take advantage of Jacksonville's awful pass rush? Perhaps, but the question is if KC's slow receivers can get open against what is still a rather athletic Jaguars secondary. Cornerback Rashean Mathis is as good as ever and rookie Derek Cox, though inexperienced, combines a big body with freakish athleticism. The Jags also like to bring athletic safety Reggie Nelson down to cover receivers one on one.
WHEN THE JAGUARS PASS
The Jaguars made a concerted effort to improve their traditionally lackluster passing game this offseason. They signed Torry Holt from free agency, moved Ernest Wilford to tight end, picked up left tackle Tra Thomas and decided to start a talented young receiver named Mike Sims-Walker. Did all those moves pan out?
Sort of. The Jaguars can move the ball through the air, but they still lack an explosive element in their passing game. Holt, 33, is no longer the deep threat he used to be. Sims-Walker is a big receiver more in the Dwayne Bowe mold. There is just not a player in Jacksonville's passing attack that makes a defensive coordinator really scared, and that's a problem. The Jags have only four passing plays over 30 yards this season. Quarterback David Garrard is as efficient as ever, but has only five touchdown passes, and has failed to throw a touchdown pass in five of his seven games this season.
Can the Chiefs pressure Garrard? The Jaguars don't suffer from a terrible offensive line the way Kansas City does, but they have their own question mark at left tackle. Rookie Eugene Monroe was replaced in the starting lineup last week by Thomas. All season long, the Jaguars have mixed and matched their offensive line, which of course leads to continuity issues.
Certainly the Chiefs might be able to take advantage, but as talented as the Jaguars are up front – not only Thomas and Monroe, but also second-round right tackle Ebon Britton – it's unlikely. If Jacksonville watched the Chiefs/Chargers tape and saw Vincent Jackson toasting Kansas City, they may try to get Sims-Walker deep against the Chiefs' safeties, one of whom will be the inexperienced DaJuan Morgan, who will start for the injured Jon McGraw.
WHEN THE CHIEFS RUN
What difference will the Chiefs see with Jamaal Charles starting in place of the suspended Larry Johnson? They will hope to see the same awful run defense the Jaguars put on display last week, when Tennessee's Chris Johnson torched them for 228 yards and a pair of touchdowns. How awful was last week's debacle for the Jaguars? Consider that before Johnson scored his first touchdown, the Titans had gone over 120 plays without breaching the end zone.
The issues with Jacksonville's run defense may not be quite as bad as they seemed a week ago. The Jaguars had not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season before Johnson went off and in fact had shut down talented backs like Steven Jackson and Joseph Addai. Even with Johnson's 228-yard explosion, the Jaguars are only allowing 4.3 yards per carry.
But they do have some issues. Their nose tackle, Terrance Knighton, is a rookie. Defensive end John Henderson is out of position at left defensive end. The Jags' linebackers are not particularly explosive, which was definitely on display last week against Johnson's speed. Most of all, tackling has been a problem.
Reggie Nelson is a terrible tackler and perhaps the worst culprit of all on Jacksonville's defense. The bad tackling shows up at every level of defense to be honest, and the Jags' coaches have noticed. This week they harped on the issue in practice.
Can Charles take advantage the way Johnson did a week ago? Enough missed tackles and anything is possible. Of course, the Chiefs couldn't run against the awful San Diego run defense the last time out, so who knows?
WHEN THE JAGUARS RUN
Is Maurice Jones-Drew as good as his 5.5 yards per carry indicates? Probably not. Like Johnson, last week his huge game has inflated some numbers a bit. Before his 177-yard game against the Titans, Jones-Drew was averaging "only" 4.3 yards per carry. Even so, it's clear he's a huge threat.
Jones-Drew is just below Johnson on the NFL leaderboard with six rushes of over 20 yards this season and three over 40. His 10 rushing touchdowns lead the league, and last week the Jaguars would not have scored at all had he not ripped off two 80-yard scoring gallops.
It's no secret what kind of back Jones-Drew is. He's a "little big man," meaning he's built so thickly and runs so low to the ground, he breaks tackles that defy logic. A week ago, Tennesse's Kyle Vanden Bosch, a 270-pound defensive end, had Jones-Drew wrapped up and could not bring him to the ground.
The Jaguars have a large offensive line with three players weighing in at least 320 pounds. Brad Meester is one of the league's bigger centers. If Jones-Drew can get to the second level of KC's defense, he's a mismatch against just about every defender in the open field. The Chiefs may need DaJuan Morgan's speed to run him down.
Kicker Josh Scobee has missed only one field goal under 50 yards this season for Jacksonville and also leads the league in kickoff distance. Jacksonville's kick coverage units are on par with Kansas City's. Give a slight edge to the Jaguars with rookie Mike Thomas bringing some explosion to the return units.
The Chiefs are coming off an embarrassing loss and a bye week, but how much of a distraction is the Larry Johnson situation? With new and returning starters on offense and defense – Jamaal Charles, DaJuan Morgan, Branden Albert, even perhaps Andy Alleman at right guard – the Chiefs may find themselves at a disadvantage.
The Chiefs won't appear as inept as they were against San Diego, but a Jack Del Rio-coached team eager to even its record at .500 and stay in the playoff race won't let a cellar-dweller like Kansas City stand in the way. Unfortunately the city of Jacksonville will miss it, as the game will be blacked out locally.
Jaguars 27, Chiefs 14
The Matchups - Chiefs vs Jaguars
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