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Previewing the Jaguars 2018 Season: Week 1 @ New York Giants

Ruairi Songer

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Dec 31, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning passes against the Washington Redskins during first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 season should be an interesting year for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Coming off their first playoff campaign since 2007, they will finally have their chance to prove that they are not just a “one-year wonder.” However, the 2018 schedule will bring lots of challenges and unfamiliar opponents.

In this article, we will be breaking down the first enemy of the 2018 season, the New York Giants.

Series History: 

Series tied 3-3

Last meeting: 11/30/2014 @ Everbank Field (Jaguars 25 – Giants 24)

Preview:

Although the Giants and Jaguars don’t meet enough to form an interesting rivalry, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited about this game. Tom Coughlin has spent considerable amounts of time with both teams, and will faceoff against the Giants for the first time since being fired by the organization in 2016. Fans will get to witness the long-awaited match-up of cornerback Jalen Ramsey vs. wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., as well as running back Saquon Barkley’s first regular season NFL game.

Game Information:

9/9/18, 1:00pm @ Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ

Quarterbacks

(* indicates projected starter)

Eli Manning*, Davis Webb, Kyle Lauletta

Dec 31, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning passes against the Washington Redskins during first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

After a mediocre 2017 performance by Eli Manning, many Giants fans called for a replacement such as Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold. However, Giants GM Dave Gettleman made it clear early-on that the Giants were committed to Manning and believed in his abilities.

While Manning has shown signs of decline, he is still a seasoned veteran who could test the Jaguars secondary. He has posted a completion percentage above 60% over the past four seasons, and posted passer ratings of 90+ in two of the last four years. Interestingly, Manning excels while playing in September. Over the last two years, Manning’s completion percentage is 12.2% higher in September than in other months. He also recorded an average of 13.5 points higher passer rating while playing in September. This is unfortunate for the Jaguars, as they will be facing a fresh Eli.

Kyle Lauletta is an interesting project quarterback. Coming out of Richmond college, Lauletta was one of the most accurate QBs in college football and had an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl. It is unlikely that the Jags will face Lauletta, but he could be a name to remember for the future.

Running Backs

Saquon Barkley*, Jonathan Stewart, Wayne Gallman, Paul Perkins

Sep 17, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs the ball into the end zone for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Temple Owls at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Temple 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Saquon Barkley will create a unique challenge for the Jaguars defense. The former Penn State RB, and #2 overall pick, has a remarkable combination of athleticism and instinct that makes him a big-play threat on every down. He is just as much of a threat as a pass-catcher as he is a runner. Telvin Smith and Myles Jack will be tasked with containing the explosive rookie RB.

Jonathan Stewart could possibly see playtime as a 3rd down back. However, the veteran RB’s play has been declining since 2015, and shouldn’t create much of a prevalent threat excluding at the goal line.

It is very possible that the Giants offense attempts to make this a “statement game,” by attempting to establish the running game early. New York hasn’t been able to effectively run the ball since Ahmad Bradshaw’s breakout year in 2012. Finding success with the running game could take pressure off Eli Manning, both against the Jaguars and future opponents.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham Jr*, Sterling Shepherd*, Cody Latimer, Roger Lewis, Amba Etta-Tawo

Sep 24, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) makes a one handed touchdown catch past Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills (31) during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The superstar match-up between ‏Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Jalen Ramsey will undoubtedly be the biggest headline of the game. Ramsey will be coming off his first Pro-bowl, and Beckham will play his first regular season game since he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in October of 2017. The two ultra-competitive players should produce a handful of highlight-worthy plays.

Sterling Shepherd has been a productive slot receiver over his first two NFL seasons, and could find success against the soft-spot in the Jags defense: Slot Corner. This will be an important game for Jalen Myrick, DJ Hayden and Quenton Meeks who will be competing for a the third cornerback spot.

After Beckham and Shepherd, the Giants receiving talent takes a huge dip. Roger Lewis was formidable in a pinch last year after injuries took out Beckham and Shepherd. Amba-Etta Tawo, former Jaguar, will get a chance to face off against his old team. Cody Latimer, former 2nd rounder for the Broncos, showed small flashes of production in 2017.

Tight Ends

Evan Engram*, Rhett Ellison, Kyle Carter, Shane Smith

Second-year tight end Evan Engram is one of the better receiving tight-ends in the league. Despite being part of an anemic Giants offense, he managed to post 700 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns in his rookie season. While Engram is a talented pass-catcher, the Jaguars may be able to exploit his poor blocking in run situations. Engram garnered one of the lowest grades run-blocking grades among tight ends in 2017, according to Pro Football Focus.

Aside from Engram, the Giants tight end depth is devoid of talent. Rhett Ellison has played in the NFL for six years and has yet to post over 250 receiving yards in a season. Carter and Smith aren’t locks to make the final roster.

Offensive Line

Nate Solder* LT, Will Hernandez* LG, Brett Jones* C, Patrick Omameh* RG, Ereck Flowers* RT,  Chad Wheeler, John Greco

Dave Gettleman reconstructed the Giants offensive line in the offseason by adding LT Nate Solder and rookie LG Will Hernandez. While these players are certainly talented, the line isn’t completely fixed. Justin Pugh, the Giants most essential and versatile offensive lineman, signed with the Cardinals in the offseason. Solder has never fared exceptionally well in pass protection and Hernandez, while promising, is still a rookie. Ereck Flowers, John Jerry, Brett Jones, Chad Wheeler, and ex-Jaguar Patrick Omameh are all possible starters with below average talent.

Yannick Ngakoue could find some success against Solder’s lackluster pass protection, and Dante Fowler Jr. should fare well against an under-performing Flowers. Veteran DL Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, and Marcell Dareus should see a dominant performance against a mediocre Giants interior O-line.

Defensive Backs

Janoris Jenkins* CB, Eli Apple* CB, Landon Collins* SS, Darian Thompson* FS, William Gay, Curtis Riley

A once dominant Giants secondary appears rather weak heading into 2018. On the positive side, Landon Collins is a pro-bowl caliber safety, and Janoris Jenkins can be one of the better corners in the league when motivated to play. Unfortunately for the Giants, former first rounder, Eli Apple, has proved to be an issue in the locker room. He was suspended for a game due to a heated exchange with coaches and has been referred to as a “cancer” by teammate Landon Collins. Apple’s play on the field has been unimpressive, but with the departure of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, he may earn a starting spot as a CB2.

William Gay has only started 10 games in the last two seasons, and will be nearly 34 by September. Darian Thompson earned a PFF grade of 52.2 in 2017, good for only the 69th grade best out of qualifying safeties.

DJ Chark and Keelan Cole could prove to be an unfair matchup if lined up against Apple or Gay. Gay doesn’t possess the speed to keep up with Chark or Cole, while Apple can be stiff in coverage and could get beat if baited into one of Chark’s polished double moves.

Linebackers

Alec Ogletree*, BJ Goodson*, Kareem Martin*, Olivier Vernon*, Lorenzo Carter, Ray-Ray Armstrong

Sep 10, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle (84) dives for more yards after a first quarter catch as Los Angeles Rams middle linebacker Alec Ogletree (52) moves in for the stop at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants new defensive coordinator James Bettcher will be introducing a 3-4 defensive set in 2018. This will benefit players such as former-Cardinal Kareem Martin and rookie edge rusher Lorenzo Carter, who are built to be 3-4 edge rushers. Olivier Vernon is one of the brighter spots on the Giants LB core, and should also transition well to the new scheme as a standing rusher. Alec Ogletree will have to improve his play after struggling under the Wade Phillips 3-4 variant for the Rams last year. BJ Goodson will be entering his third season in the NFL and has yet to show anything particularly impressive about his play, despite being on IR the year prior.

Defensive Line

Damon Harrison*, Dalvin Tomlinson*, BJ Hill, Josh Mauro (suspended), RJ McIntosh

Former UDFA Damon Harrison was was one of the best defensive lineman in the league in 2017 and excelled in defending the run. Dalvin Tomlinson outperformed the expectations of many as a rookie and was also a run-stopping force. Newly signed free agent Josh Mauro will be suspended for 4 games. BJ Hill, rookie out of NC State, is an athletic freak with tools and plenty of upside, but will take time to develop.

Although Nathaniel Hackett loves the inside run game, the Giants interior defenders could make finding success with the inside runs difficult. Being able to run to the outside will be crucial to Leonard Fournette’s success.

Overview

The Jaguars offensive game plan should focus on a heavy run-game with an emphasis on outside runs. As far as the passing game goes, targeting Apple and William Gay and staying away from Janoris Jenkins should reduce turnover potential. Establishing a running game early-on would create an opportunity to take a deep shot either to either Cole or Chark.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Jags will have to counter a quick pass or quick screen game. The Giants know that their offensive line is outmatched, and will most likely try to get the ball out quickly on every play. This would likely involve screens to Barkley as well as quick slant throws to Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepherd. Incorporating more Cover 2 looks into their typical man-to-man defensive scheme will give Ramsey and Bouye freedom to make plays against the screen and run.

While the Giants have made some strides in improving their roster, and will have players returning from IR, I don’t believe they outmatch the Jaguars roster. With the state of the Giants O-line, and the Jaguars pass rush, they will have to rely on a dink-and-dunk offense. On the defensive side, their secondary will be constantly challenged by the deep threats of Keelan Cole and DJ Chark, leaving extra room for Fournette to slash through their defense.

Score Prediction:

Jaguars 31 – Giants 13

(1-0)

Keep an eye out for the next article, in which we preview the week two AFC Championship rematch against the New England Patriots…

Ruairi Songer is a lifelong Jags fan and Duval native. You can follow him on Twitter (@ruairi_s) for Jags news, Draft information, and off-season updates.

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