4 causes for concern as Jags head to L.A. to take on Rams

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The Jacksonville Jaguars had a bit of momentum at one point this season. The team beat the Miami Dolphins in London to avoid an 0-6 start, then beat the Buffalo Bills weeks later with an impressive defensive showing despite a brief backslide after the buy.

But, partly due to mounting injury problems on a team that already wasn’t particularly talented in the first place, the Jags haven’t been able to capitalize on that momentum. They’ve lost their last three games, one of which wasn’t particularly close while the other two required large comebacks to even be competitive.

The road only gets more difficult for the 2-9 Jaguars as they hit the road this week to take on a Los Angeles Rams team that sits at 7-4 and is likely to earn at least a wild card spot in the NFC playoffs. Here are four causes for concern as the Jags prepare to take on one of the more talented teams in the league.

A dominant Rams defensive line

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It’s impossible to talk about this Rams team without centering the discussion around perhaps the best defensive player in the NFL, defensive tackle Aaron Donald. One of the most disruptive interior linemen the game has ever seen, Donald has six sacks from the tackle spot and leads the team with nine tackles for loss.

But he’s not the team’s sack leader this year. That honor goes to edge rusher Leonard Floyd, who has seven on the season. As if the Rams didn’t have an embarrassment of riches already, they traded for Von Miller in the middle of the season. Miller has only appeared in two games so far for Los Angeles and doesn’t have a sack, but pairing him up with Floyd makes this front very concerning.

Jacksonville has center Brandon Linder back, and he should help against Donald, but Jawaan Taylor at right tackle matched up against Miller or Floyd is a concern. This is probably the Jaguars’ best five along the offensive line, but it may not be enough.

A matchup with the best cornerback in the game

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I know Jaguars fans probably don’t want to hear this considering how things ended in Jacksonville for the former fifth-overall pick, but Jalen Ramsey is arguably the best shutdown cornerback in football. That’s a scary prospect for a Jaguars receiving corps that struggles to get open as it is.

Ramsey will line up all over the field for this defense and cover multiple players in a game, but it seems likely that most of his efforts on Sunday will be focused on shutting down Marvin Jones Jr., who has been the most consistent member of the receiving corps this year.

It’s a big spot for Laquon Treadwell (and perhaps Tavon Austin), who led the Jaguars in receiving against Atlanta last week and could be the top target again if Ramsey can contain Jones. Either way, it’s another tough matchup for Trevor Lawrence and the offense.

The Jags' secondary will be thoroughly tested

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The Rams have the No. 7 offense in the NFL and the No. 5 passing game, and there’s one major reason for that: the addition of quarterback Matthew Stafford this offseason. Stafford is showing what he can do with a supporting cast, and the result has been a prolific season for receiver Cooper Kupp.

Kupp is running away with the receiving title, notching 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season, and given the fact that he usually lines up in the slot, he’ll challenge nickel Rudy Ford, who has had a good season but hasn’t faced a matchup like this in 2021.

Shaquill Griffin may not be able to go against Los Angeles after missing last weekend’s game with a concussion, and if that’s the case, rookie Tyson Campbell might draw a matchup against veteran Odell Beckham Jr. with Nevin Lawson potentially on young but impressive receiver Van Jefferson.

Those are both concerning matchups, but Campbell is coming off the best game of his young career against Atlanta when he notched his first interception. But this passing offense is much more effective than the Falcons’, and we’ll have the chance to see just how far he’s come this season.

The Jags are playing on the West Coast again

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We talked about it heading into the Seattle game earlier this season, and it remains true today: Jacksonville just can’t win on the West Coast. It’s beyond superstition at this point; it’s substantiated by the facts.

The 31-7 loss to a Seattle team that was without quarterback Russell Wilson and had to start Geno Smith dropped Jacksonville to 3-14 all-time on the West Coast, and though the SoFi Stadium crowd won’t exactly replicate the 12th man in Seattle, there’s little reason to have confidence in this team playing on the other side of the country.

The last win came in 2018 in the Raiders’ last game in Oakland, and this time, the Jags will have to do it against one of the most talented teams in the NFL. With little to play for at 2-9 against a team who still has a chance to win its division, a victory won’t come easy for the Jaguars.

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