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Saturday, October 12, 2013
Five things to watch: Jaguars-Broncos

By Michael DiRocco

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Here are five things to watch in Sunday’s Jacksonville Jaguars-Denver Broncos game at Mile High Stadium:

Johnathan Cyprien, Josh Evans
Rookie Jaguars safeties Josh Evans, left, and Johnathan Cyprien should gain valuable experience when they face Peyton Manning on Sunday.
First-time jitters: Having two rookie safeties on the field against Peyton Manning is never good, but that’s what the Jaguars are going to do on Sunday. Johnathan Cyprien and Josh Evans were drafted to form the backbone of the secondary, but both of them being on the field at the same time wasn’t expected to happen until next season. Evans was forced into the lineup by an injury to Dwight Lowery and has played well enough that the team put Lowery (concussion) on IR this week and will cut him when he has been declared healthy. Cyprien and Evans are looking forward to facing Manning and Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker. They’re going to get beat, but it will be a good learning experience for them.

More Mojo: Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said he wants to get Maurice Jones-Drew more than the 17 carries he had against St. Louis last week. That’s a solid plan, but the Jaguars are going to have to do a better job early in the game of getting the running game going. The Jaguars ran for 49 of their season-high 96 yards in the fourth quarter. They were able to do that because it was a seven-point game. If they’re able to have success on the ground early, they can get Jones-Drew more work and shorten the game.

Henne time: As I wrote in the Stat of the Week post on Thursday, having Chad Henne at quarterback is actually good news for receivers Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts. According to ESPN Stats & Information, since Henne joined the Jaguars in 2012 he has done a much better job than Blaine Gabbert of getting the ball to Shorts and Blackmon. Henne has thrown nearly twice as many touchdown passes to Blackmon and Shorts as Gabbert (nine to five) and less than half the interceptions (four to nine).

Moreno problems: Everyone talks about Manning and his trio of receivers, but running back Knowshon Moreno has quietly had a solid season. He is third in the AFC in rushing (331 yards) and his success makes Manning’s play-action fakes even more effective. The Jaguars gave up 143 yards rushing to the Rams last week and are last in the NFL in rush defense (160.6 yards per game).

Ace in the hole: Ace Sanders did what he was drafted to do last week: He returned a punt for a touchdown. It was called back because of a questionable illegal block penalty but Sanders flashed the speed and elusiveness that make him a good returner. A couple big returns could provide a spark for the offense, and if he can take one back for a touchdown he’d be the first Jaguars player to do so since Mike Thomas against Indianapolis on Dec. 19, 2010.