Saturday, October 19, 2013
Jags-Chargers: Five things to watch
By Michael DiRocco
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Here are five things to watch in Sunday’s Jacksonville Jaguars-San Diego Chargers game at EverBank Field:
Tight ends: Marcedes Lewis makes his return for the Jaguars after missing all but two plays this season. He’ll make an impact in the passing game -- he has caught at least 52 passes in two of the past three seasons -- but also in the running game, as well. He’s one of the league’s top blocking tight ends and helps set the edge and allow Maurice Jones-Drew to get outside. Antonio Gates is third among NFL tight ends with 36 receptions and he is tied for the team lead. The Jaguars have had trouble with tight ends all season -- they’ve combined to catch 33 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns -- and Gates is the most talented one they’ve faced to date.
Blackmon’s streak: Receiver Justin Blackmon has had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games and is trying to become just the second player in Jaguars history to record 100-plus yards receiving in three consecutive games. Jimmy Smith did it six times. Blackmon has been on fire since returning from a four-game suspension, catching 19 passes for 326 yards, numbers which lead all receivers in the past two weeks.
Gratz’s return: It appears cornerback Dwayne Gratz will make his return to the lineup after missing the past five games with a high ankle sprain. The Jaguars’ third-round draft pick out of Connecticut had locked down a starting job before getting injured. Coach Gus Bradley said he likely will spell Will Blackmon at times if he is indeed able to play. If he does get on the field, it would give the Jaguars three rookies in the secondary. Safeties Johnathan Cyprien and Josh Evans were second- and sixth-round picks, respectively.
MoJo’s streak: Maurice Jones-Drew has failed to rush for 100 yards in nine consecutive games dating back to his 177-yard performance against Indianapolis on Sept. 23, 2012. The longest he has ever gone between 100-yard performances is 12 games, a streak that lasted from the seventh game of the 2008 season to the third game of the 2009 season, when he ran for 119 yards against Houston.
Jet lag: The Chargers played a Monday night game against Indianapolis, flew to Jacksonville on Friday, and Sunday’s game will kickoff at what would be 10 a.m. West Coast time. How will the Chargers handle the short week and cross-country travel? It should be evident pretty early if they’re sluggish.