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Five things to watch: Jaguars-Colts

12/27/2013

Here are five things to watch in Sunday’s Jacksonville Jaguars-Indianapolis Colts game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.:

MoJo’s finale? Could this be the final game in a Jaguars uniform for running back Maurice Jones-Drew? His contract expires next week and there’s no certainty that he’s going to re-sign with the Jaguars. He’s likely going to test the free-agency market but has said he wants to be back in Jacksonville. However, he also said he has a number in mind regarding salary and contract length, which may not be in tune with what the Jaguars are willing to offer. Jones-Drew could leave an impressive final impression, though, because he has averaged 100.9 yards per game against the Colts in his career.

And Chad Henne, too? Henne also will be an unrestricted free agent next week and he’s a player the Jaguars will likely want to re-sign. The question will be whether Henne wants to go somewhere else to compete for a starting job or whether he’d be willing to return to Jacksonville to be a mentor to whichever young quarterback the team drafts in May. Henne has played his best football over the past month, throwing eight touchdown passes in the four games, and has shown he’s capable of running the offense and not putting the team in bad situations. He’d be a valuable player to have around in 2014, especially if the young quarterback isn’t ready to start at the beginning of the season.

Stopping the run: Injuries along the defensive line have really hurt the Jaguars against the run the past two weeks. Buffalo and Tennessee rushed for 198 and 182 yards, respectively, in victories in Jacksonville. The Jaguars have had to rely on inexperienced players like Abry Jones and Jordan Miller and this week added two defensive tackles that will see time against the Colts: Kevin Love, who was with the team in training camp until the final cuts, and Drake Nevis. The Colts are averaging 110.9 yards per game rushing.

Tight end trouble: Tight ends have given the Jaguars trouble all season and Indy’s Coby Fleener caught five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown in the previous meeting, which the Colts won 37-3. That was rookie safety Johnathan Cyprien’s fourth game and he’s a much better player now. He has been bothered by a thigh injury and has practiced on a limited basis but is expected to play. This will be a good gauge on how much he – as well as fellow rookie safety Josh Evans and second-year safety Winston Guy – has improved.

Handling Mathis: Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is second in the NFL with 17.5 sacks (St. Louis’ Robert Quinn has 18.0). He’s not a good matchup under normal circumstances but the Jaguars’ situation at offensive tackle is uncertain. Starting left tackle Cameron Bradfield did not practice until Friday because of a high ankle sprain and is questionable for Sunday. If he can’t go, the Jaguars will move right tackle Austin Pasztor to left tackle and start Sam Young, who has played mainly on special teams this season, at right tackle. Expect the Colts to target Young all afternoon if he’s in the game.