It’s a little tough scouting the Jacksonville Jaguars as they are a team that compliments itself very well. With elite coaching and stars all over the offense and a couple of defensive playmakers making noise this season, this week's contest for the Pittsburgh Steelers will most likely be another dogfight.
Here’s a look at some of the players to watch for.
QB Trevor Lawrence
What is there to say about this generational talent that hasn’t already been said? The former No. 1 overall pick is a coach’s dream, going above and beyond in physical attributes as well as walking in the intangibles that make him a great leader.
Although the start of his career was muddled due to the state of the Jaguar franchise and the unfortunate short stint of Urban Meyer as head coach, he has continually grown, now in his third season. The game has slowed down for him and on most quarterback power rankings, he is in the top 10. Standing at 6’6, he literally sees the entire field, tough to bring down with legs that can and will pick up a first down, his eyes constantly downfield looking to make a play. Although his statistics aren’t gaudy they are good as well as efficient. Averaging 234 yards per contest over seven games, he has only thrown 8 touchdowns. However, he knows how to keep the offense on schedule.
The Jaguars do not ask Lawrence to carry the team but he does so in stretches. This is bad news for a Steelers defense that has struggled to contain opposing teams’ best receivers, as this team has some good ones. More on that below.
Although on paper it can look like Jacksonville might have its way with Pittsburgh, the one weakness they have struggled with is sacks. With Lawrence already having been sacked 16 times in seven games, look for Pittsburgh to bring heavy pressure on Sunday to slow him down.
Receiving Corps: Evan Ingram, Christian Kirk, Calvin Ridley
It was difficult to single out one threat on this Jacksonville team. All three of these players share almost identical target shares as well as a very efficient catch ratio. Calvin Ridley has the lowest as the team’s established deep threat, extremely fast with good hands. Expect Pittsburgh to run two deep safeties most of the contest, or Lawrence and Ridley will go over the top.
Underneath, WR Christian Kirk leads the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns but he only leads by a few as the man in the middle, TE Evan Engram, is right behind him. The Jags aerial attack goes through these two players. Kirk is basically a Diontae Johnson clone, a superb route runner with solid hands, while Engram is one of the more efficient tight ends in the game every season.
The Jacksonville offense isn’t the greatest show on turf but much like the LA Rams, they are methodical and stay on schedule while moving the chains regularly. Jacksonville is a very tough team to stop in the passing game, as the running game is also very efficient, always keeping this team on schedule.
RB Travis Etienne
Lightening in a bottle. Shifty. Elusive. Powerful. Great hands. Travis Etienne is a very solid NFL running back. Coming out of Clemson where he and Lawrence won a championship together, he missed his rookie season with an injury but is more than making up for time lost now.
Leading the Jaguars with seven touchdowns this season, it’s not just his running but his receiving skills are elite and he and Lawrence know each other. Every time Lawrence gets in trouble, Eitenne is close by to bail him out.
With 24 receptions on the season for 200 yards to complement his rushing, Etienne is now well on his way to a 1,700 scrimmage-yard season. That is definitely a player to look out for, and Pittsburgh better have a plan to stop him out of the backfield.
LBs Foye Oluokun (tackling machine), Josh Allen (sack specialist)
Defensively, on paper, the Steelers offense catches a break this week, but that doesn’t mean coming up with the win will be an easy task.
Jaguars linebackers Foye Oluokun and Josh Allen sit as one of the better tandems in the league regardless of where Jacksonville comes in defensive statistically. Their defense is similar to the Steelers’, playing a bend but don’t break style, allowing their playmakers to make plays.
Allen already has 7.5 sacks on the season coming from many different defensive alignments. Foye Oluokun – is a tackling machine. Second in the league with 81 tackles on the season, he is a sideline to sideline ‘backer.
Both players are veterans just now in their prime. Throw in second-year athletic phenom Travon Walker, the Jacksonville linebackers are establishing themselves as one of the better units in the league. The game hasn’t quite slowed down for Walker just yet, but he does have 2.5 sacks on the year and cannot be overlooked.
Jacksonville is a very similar team to the Rams. Not much will change in how Pittsburgh approaches this week compared to last. If Pittsburgh can lock down on these playmakers at home, another win is on the horizon.