Steelers Scouting Report: what to expect from the Jacksonville Jaguars

Following a dominating performance against the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend, the Steelers are still standing strong as the only undefeated team in the league. However, each week brings a new opponent that will be throwing everything at them to hand them their first loss.

This Sunday, that team will be the Jacksonville Jaguars. As has been the case the past few seasons, the Jaguars have been one of the worst teams in the league sitting at a 1-8 record. While this game looks like it shouldn’t be close on paper, this league is always full of surprises. With that being said, let’s take a look at this week’s opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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Injury Report

The Jaguars have a handful of key injuries to take into consideration this Sunday. On offense, they will be without running back Chris Thompson (Back), wide receiver Dede Westbrook (ACL), kicker Josh Lambo (Hip), and tight end Josh Oliver (Foot) who are all on the Injured Reserve.

Rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. has also been ruled out this week with a hamstring injury. Quarterback Gardner Minshew is listed as questionable but isn’t expected to be able to play this weekend due to a thumb injury. Rookie wide receiver Collin Johnson is also listed as questionable with a hamstring injury but was able to have limited participation in Friday’s practice.

On defense, they will be without cornerbacks C.J. Henderson (Groin) and D.J. Hayden (Hamstring), along with strong safety Josh Jones (Chest), linebackers Shaquille Quarterman (Knee) and Leon Jacobs (ACL), and defensive tackles Abry Jones (Ankle) and Dontavius Russell (Undisclosed) as they are all on the IR. They could also be without cornerback Sidney Jones who is listed as questionable with an Achilles injury and did not practice on Friday.

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Can James Robinson carry Jacksonville’s offense?

While this season hasn’t been filled with much to brag about for the Jacksonville Jaguars, they do seem to have found a diamond in the rough in undrafted rookie running back James Robinson. He has emerged as the lead back for the Jaguars as he is currently fifth in the league in rushing with 155 carries for 689 yards and five touchdowns. While Robinson will receive the majority of the carries, it will be Devine Ozigbo that will likely come in to give him some occasional rest.

Robinson will face his toughest challenge yet as he will be facing a very talented Steelers front seven. Pittsburgh is currently ninth in the league against the run, allowing 106.8 rushing yards per game and five total rushing touchdowns so far.

While Robinson and the Jaguars’ rushing attack have had a very strong 2020 season, he hasn’t gotten much help from the passing game. Gardner Minshew has put up decent numbers when healthy but unfortunately staying available has been a big issue for him this season. With things not looking promising for Minshew’s status this weekend, the Jaguars will likely be turning to rookie Jake Luton to lead their offense.

In two starts this season, Luton has thrown for 473 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

He will hope to have a big game from star wide receiver D.J. Chark who leads the team with 37 receptions for 493 yards and four touchdowns. With a couple injuries at receiver, Chark will be joined in the passing attack by receivers Keelan Cole Sr., Chris Conley, and Collin Johnson, along with tight ends James O’Shaughnessy and Tyler Eifert.

Luton will be faced with his biggest challenge yet as he will be facing one of the best secondaries in the league. The Steelers currently rank fifth in the league against the pass, allowing 211.3 yards per game and 15 total passing touchdowns. They are also tied for second in the league with 11 interceptions. To make matters even more difficult, he will be facing a Steelers pass rush that leads the league with 36 sacks, led by TJ Watt who is tied for second in the league with nine sacks.

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Jacksonville must improve tremendously on defense

While their offense hasn’t exactly blown anyone away, the Jaguars have been even worse on the defensive side of the ball. They are currently 31st in the league in total defense, allowing 415.6 total yards per game and 30.1 points per game. Although they haven’t been good at defending anything this season, if you had to pick a strength of their defense, it would be against the run. The Jaguars currently rank 25th in the league in rushing defense, giving up 131.7 rushing yards per game and 12 total rushing touchdowns so far this season.

Their front seven is led by middle linebacker Joe Schobert who leads the team with 72 total tackles. He will be joined in the linebacker core by a promising young talent in Myles Jack and Quincy Williams. In front of them, the defensive line is led by second year star Josh Allen at defensive end who will be joined by Adam Gotsis at the other end with DaVon Hamilton and Taven Bryan at the tackles. Rookie K’Lavon Chaisson will rotate in at end with Doug Costin in the defensive tackle rotation.

They will be facing a Steelers rushing attack that has struggled to get much going in the past couple weeks. Lead back James Conner got off to a hot start this season but has been held to 58 combined rushing yards and zero touchdowns in the past two weeks against the Cowboys and Bengals.

As bad as they have been at stopping the run, the Jaguars have been even worse against the pass. They are 30th in the league in passing defense, allowing 283.9 passing yards per game and 19 passing touchdowns while coming away with seven interceptions. With their secondary being hit with multiple injuries, they will be relying on several unproven players this Sunday.

If Sidney Jones can’t play, their starting corners will consist of Luq Barcoo and Tre Herndon with Josiah Scott and Chris Claybrooks likely being in the rotation. They will be joined in the secondary by Jarrod Wilson at free safety and Daniel Thomas at strong safety.

This secondary will be facing a red hot Steelers passing attack this Sunday. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is coming off an AFC Offensive Player of the Week performance against the Bengals last Sunday and has truly looked like an MVP candidate so far. He has thrown for 2,267 yards with 22 touchdowns and only four interceptions so far. If the Jaguars want any chance this Sunday, Josh Allen and company must get some pressure on Roethlisberger to help out this secondary.

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Final Thoughts

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, this game doesn’t look like it will be close on paper but this league is full of surprises. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, I don’t see them being one of those surprises this Sunday.

The Steelers are simply on another level from a talent standpoint in this matchup. I see Ben having another huge day against this injury riddled secondary with over 300 yards and at least a pair of touchdown passes. This will also be an opportunity for James Conner to get back on track as he will find the end zone at least once in this game.

On the other side, this defense will continue to do what they have all season and I don’t see Robinson being enough for the Jaguars to get anything positive going.

I have the Steelers running away with this one 35-10 to keep their undefeated season going.

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