The Jacksonville Jaguars are in for a rough afternoon on Sunday, but here are five players who could make things interesting on the Jaguars. Cecil Shorts is at the top of the list.
1. WR Cecil Shorts
Champ Bailey is finally set to make his 2013 debut this week, but he’s probably going to be on a pitch count and lined up against Justin Blackmon, Either way, Shorts figures to draw a difficult assignment against somebody. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie‘s resurgence in Denver hasn’t been as good as some people are saying, but he’s still not the easiest person to go up against. If Shorts is on Tony Carter with Bailey out of the game and DRC switching to Blackmon, then that figures to be a very favorable matchup for Shorts. Carter has excellent ball skills, but he’s also burn-prone.
Shorts and Blackmon are going to have stronger numbers with Chad Henne behind center, and the focus is definitely on the Jaguars passing attack. If they want to have a prayer at winning this game, then they will need their quarterback and two star receivers to be at their best in order to come close to keeping up with the Broncos offense.
2. WR Justin Blackmon
Now for the former Oklahoma State superstar. Blackmon made his season debut last week after coming back from a four-game suspension, and he was an immediate factor. He always plays better with Henne under center, and Blackmon went off on the St. Louis Rams with five receptions for 136 yards. The Broncos are deep at corner, but the way to take advantage of them is by utilizing a playmaking receiver who can stretch the field. There is no doubt that Blackmon can do that, and he could put up big numbers similar to what Dallas Cowboys Terrance Williams had last week. Blackmon is also a better player than Williams, so I would glue my eyes to what Blackmon is doing.
3. QB Chad Henne
Make no mistake, Chad Henne is bad quarterback too. However, he’s a better player than Blaine Gabbert, because at least he has a TD:INT ratio of 1:1 instead of 1:7 this season. Gabbert is going to be out for some time with a hamstring injury he suffered last week, and I can’t see how he keeps the starting job. It’s clear that Gabbert is not even close to a legitimate starting QB in this league, and it’s also clear to me that Henne gives them a better chance of winning. That can change if Henne struggles badly enough with Gabbert out, but I have absolutely no faith in Gabbert.
Henne is an inaccurate quarterback, but the Jacksonville Jaguars passing attack can have some solid success with him behind center. He has a very strong arm and can do a really nice job of challenging defenses deep. This is something the Jaguars need, and Henne’s skill-set plays into the strengths of star receivers Shorts and Blackmon.
4. CB Will Blackmon
The Blackmon on the defensive side of the ball, Will Blackmon is enjoying an excellent season thus far. He has really stepped up on the Jacksonville Jaguars defense and is currently second in the NFL with nine passes defended; only Tennessee Titans CB Alterraun Verner has more. He is playing the best ball of his career, and he been arguably the Jaguars best defensive player so far this season. He will certainly need to be at his best with Peyton Manning tossing the pigskin and either Demaryius Thomas or Eric Decker lined up on him. Blackmon will not only have to help hold down either of those two talented receivers, but it would also be huge for him to come up with his second interception of the year.
5. DE Jason Babin
Sometimes it is just so frustrating watching Jason Babin play, because he is such an inconsistent and penalty-prone player. But he’s also one of the most deadly edge rushers at the 4-3 DE position in the game, and he also leads the team with eight quarterback hits this season. AFC South transfer Sen’Derrick Marks has made more of an impact on the defensive line than Babin, but Babin is the most talented player on this DL and one of the most talented players on this Jacksonville Jaguars defense. He does, however, have a difficult assignment in front of him, because Denver Broncos left tackle Chris Clark has definitely banked on the Broncos coaching staff’s confidence in him. He’s been nearly flawless in pass pro since taking over for the injured Ryan Clady, and the Broncos blocking hasn’t missed a beat with Clark starting. He looks like a really good foil for the explosive Babin, but Babin’s slashing ways could cause problems for the Broncos left side of the line. Zane Beadles should be able to provide some great help for Clark if needed, so Babin needs to be at his best. You have to get into Manning’s face, because elite quarterbacks will absolutely pick a defense apart if not pressured.