4 causes for concern as Jacksonville takes on Arizona

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Jacksonville Jaguars have had about as rough a start to the season as fans could’ve imagined. While there was some hope the team would take a leap forward in 2021, it hasn’t shown it through two weeks of the season. Jacksonville is 0-2 with losses to a Houston team that was expected to be the league’s worst and a Denver team that, while talented in some areas, is far from an elite squad.

The road doesn’t get any easier this week, either. The Jags welcome the Arizona Cardinals and their second-ranked offense to town. The Cardinals are 2-0 (thanks to a missed game-winning kick from Minnesota as time expired last week), and they have one of the game’s best young quarterbacks and a very talented defense.

Flat out, this is a bad matchup for Jacksonville, and there are many reasons not to be optimistic about its chances in this one. But here are four of the biggest reasons.

Kyler Murray is playing at an MVP level

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) throws the ball to running back Chase Edmonds (2) against the Minnesota Vikings during the first quarter in Glendale, Ariz. Sept. 19, 2021.
Cardinals Vs Vikings

Jacksonville has struggled with mobile quarterbacks so far this season in Tyrod Taylor and Teddy Bridgewater, both of whom had big games through the air against it. But Kyler Murray makes them both look like flat-footed pocket-passers by comparison. His agility makes him a nightmare to contain in the pocket, and he can fire accurate passes while on the run and juking out defenders. He's been one of the NFL's best quarterbacks so far this season, tossing for 689 yards and seven touchdowns to just three interceptions with a season passing efficiency of 121.5 (which ranks fifth in the league). He hasn't used his legs for much other than escaping the pocket, though he does have two rushing touchdowns on the year. This is a Jacksonville team that has been able to garner pressure, but it has struggled to contain the quarterback. Murray could have a field day against this struggling defense, especially if the secondary is shorthanded. More on that next.

C.J. Henderson may not be available

Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville lost arguably its best defensive back against Denver when C.J. Henderson left the game with a hip injury. He was limited in practice on Wednesday and didn't practice on Thursday, which isn't a great sign for his availability. If he's not able to go, it would be bad news for the Jaguars, who will likely have a hard enough time covering Arizona's talented receivers even if Henderson can suit up. The Cardinals have DeAndre Hopkins, one of the game's best receivers and a matchup nightmare for even the best defensive backs, and Christian Kirk, a solid No. 2 receiver. But so far, the standout has been rookie second-round pick, Rondale Moore. Moore was an electrifying college player at Purdue, and his skills have translated very well into the NFL. He's Arizona's leading receiver, and his ability to make plays in the open field will challenge Jacksonville's primary nickel corner, rookie Tyson Campbell. But if Henderson can't play, Campbell will likely see more reps on the outside, leaving Chris Claybrooks to cover Moore on those downs. That's a big play waiting to happen.

The O-line faces another tough challenge

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones (55) celebrates a play against the Minnesota Vikings during the third quarter in Glendale, Ariz. Sept. 19, 2021.
Cardinals Vs Vikings

Last week, Jacksonville's offensive line held up pretty well against a talented Denver front, only allowing one sack from Von Miller. But Bradley Chubb missed most of that game, and now the line faces another test. The Cardinals have one of football's best edge rushers in Chandler Jones, and he had five sacks in a Week 1 win over Tennessee, alone. Arizona also added J.J. Watt from Houston this offseason, though he only has four tackles on the year and hasn't notched a sack yet. Still, Jacksonville will likely find it tough to run the ball once again, especially against talented second-year utility linebacker Isaiah Simmons, and Lawrence could face some pressure from Jones. He'll need to make much better decisions moving forward. Here's why.

Lawrence's gunslinging tendencies

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

To be clear, there's nothing wrong with Lawrence being aggressive. That was a part of his game in college, and it will continue to be a part of his game if he's successful in the NFL. But he needs to be more judicious in taking those chances, especially in some specific game situations. Luckily for him, this Cardinals unit isn't overly fearsome. Budda Baker is one of the better safeties in the NFL, but the secondary lost cornerback and franchise centerpiece Patrick Peterson in free agency this offseason. In his place is third-year cornerback Byron Murphy Jr., who plays opposite a veteran in Markus Golden. The group only has one interception on the year, but it has been very solid against the pass in general, ranking eighth in the NFL in passing yards allowed with just 202 per game. The pressure up front is certainly a factor in that, and if Lawrence isn't more careful with the ball this time around, that interception total will likely be higher than one after this game.

1

1