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JesseH
09-27-2014, 12:54 PM
Philip Rivers and the rest of his teammates are very aware of what the winless Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) have done statistically through three games.

The San Diego Chargers (2-1) understand Jacksonville’s defense has given up a league-worst 39.7 points a contest. Rivers also knows Jacksonville’s defense allowed opposing quarterbacks to post a passer rating of 110.3 through three games, second worst in the NFL.

And cornerback Brandon Flowers understands that he’ll be facing rookie quarterback Blake Bortles in his first career start when Jacksonville travels to Qualcomm Stadium to face the Chargers on Sunday.

But don’t expect any complacency from San Diego. Even though the Chargers are heavy favorites, they understand they still have to show up and play to their potential on Sunday or they will lose.

Jaguars at Chargers: Stats of the Week
35.9

The winning percentage of San Diego's remaining opponents for 2014, the easiest remaining schedule of any NFL team.
2-9

The Jaguars' record all time in games played in the Pacific time zone. They haven't won on the West Coast since beating Oakland in 2004. They've lost their past six by an average of 20.7 points. The Jaguars are 0-2 against the Chargers in San Diego and have lost those games by a combined 38 points.
“It’s like a new season for them with a new quarterback,” Flowers said. “They have new life. It’s almost like their record is 0-0 now because they’ve got a new leader. So they’re going to try and match our intensity, and we’ve just got to go out there and play ball.”

Added Rivers: “I really just think with the maturity of our team, there isn’t anything guaranteed to you in this league. Every week is a fight and a battle to win.”

ESPN Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco and ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams take a closer look the matchup:

Williams: Mike, the Jaguars’ brass took a cautious approach to putting Bortles out on the field. What changed after Jacksonville’s latest loss, and how do you think he will do against a veteran San Diego defense?

DiRocco: Nothing had changed for the Jaguars in the first half of the Indianapolis game, and that’s why Bortles got on the field in the second half. The Jaguars’ offense has been putrid since the first half of the season opener against Philadelphia, when they scored 17 points. Since then it managed just 10 in eight quarters, and when the Jaguars had three three-and-outs and a fumble in the first half against the Colts, coach Gus Bradley went with Bortles. The rookie progressed quicker than anticipated throughout the preseason and the first two weeks, and Bradley told Bortles to be ready to play. He led the Jaguars to 17 second-half points. I think he’ll have a tough time this week. I’d expect the Chargers to blitz the heck out of him, which will really test his ability to read defenses and adjust on the fly. Plus, the Jaguars are down two receivers (rookie Marqise Lee and Ace Sanders) and don’t have tight end Marcedes Lewis (short-term IR) because of an ankle injury. Bortles is going to have to make a lot of plays with his feet to have success against the Chargers.

Eric, the Jaguars have really struggled against tight ends and they’ll be facing one of the best in Antonio Gates on Sunday. Gates is 34 years old, though. Is he still the same dangerous player he has been over the past decade or has he slowed considerably?

Williams: Gates proved against Seattle that if you single-cover him with a linebacker or a safety, he can still win, particularly in the red zone. Gates finished with seven catches for 96 yards and three touchdowns in a victory over the Super Bowl champs, earning AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. He was doubled most of the time the following week against Buffalo, finishing with just one catch for 8 yards. But with Buffalo choosing to take away Gates, the Chargers used him as a decoy to free up slot receiver Eddie Royal and emerging talented tight end Ladarius Green. Pick your poison.

Mike, defensively the Jaguars appeared to be making headway toward the backstretch of 2013. Jacksonville added some pieces in free agency from head coach Gus Bradley’s days as Seattle’s defensive coordinator like defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, yet the Jaguars are giving up a league-worst 39.7 points a contest. What are the issues Jacksonville needs to resolve defensively?

DiRocco: There are several, but the two biggest are blown coverages/missed assignments and missed tackles. Players are out of position and trying to do too much, which leaves openings for big plays. One of Bradley’s mantras is: Do your job. That’s not happening. A linebacker who's supposed to crash a certain gap or have a certain area in coverage is instead freelancing. A safety who's supposed to cover the flat instead is looking the wrong way and too far downfield. Most frustrating for the staff is that it'll turn on the tape and see 10 players doing their assignment and one player out of whack. Those are the kind of mental errors that are fixable, but the Jaguars are a bit hamstrung by a lack of quality depth. For most teams, if a player continues to make mistakes they’re benched and the No. 2 gets a shot without a significant drop-off. In the Jaguars’ case, however, the drop-off between the first- and second-team players at linebacker and in the secondary is pretty severe, so they’ve had to stick with the same players. As for the missed tackles, here’s the number: 52. That’s just fundamentals. Again, that’s fixable.

Eric, it looks like Dwight Freeney still has a lot left in the tank. Now that he and Melvin Ingram are healthy can they become one of the best pass-rush combos in the league?

Williams: Freeney and Ingram had been playing well together, combining for three sacks and 11 quarterback hits through three games. But with Ingram on the short-term injured reserve with a hip injury, players like rookie Jeremiah Attaochu, Tourek Williams and Cordarro Law will have to help pick up the slack. Another player to watch for in terms of pass rush is defensive end Corey Liuget. He earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance against Buffalo, finishing with six tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Liuget leads San Diego in quarterback hits with 10, emerging as one of the better interior rushers in the NFL.

Mike, undrafted rookie free-agent receiver Allen Hurns has made some impressive plays for Jacksonville, with three touchdowns through three games. At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds out of the University of Miami, how has he added a different dimension to Jacksonville’s offense?

DiRocco: He gives the Jaguars not only a bigger target, along with fellow rookie Allen Robinson (6-3, 210), but a deep threat, as well. The Jaguars haven’t had much of either the past several years and it’s certainly something that will help Bortles. Lee is supposed to be a deep threat, as well, but he has struggled with the offense and will sit out his second game with a hamstring injury. Hurns has had a couple of drops, though, including one that would have gone for a long touchdown against Washington on the offense’s second play.

Eric, what are the Chargers going to do at running back now that Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead are out? Is it going to be the Donald Brown show, and can he get it done?

Williams: You’ll see a whole lot of Brown on Sunday, with a little bit of rookie Branden Oliver sprinkled in. Brown can certainly carry the load. He rushed 31 times for 62 yards against Buffalo. But the Chargers are averaging a league-worst 2.43 yards per carry. Brown needs to pop a couple of big runs to loosen up Jacksonville’s defense. The Chargers also signed Shaun Draughn as a third running back for depth.

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