Seahawks vs. Jaguars. CenturyLink Field this Sunday. We haven't done a ton of previewing of this week's game while busy breaking down the Hawks' win against the Niners, so I traded scouting reports with Big Cat Country's Adam Stites today, and here's what he had to say about the upcoming matchup with the Jaguars. My questions in bold, his answers follow.
1. What has been the overall fan reception for Gus Bradley? Renewed enthusiasm, excitement? Do fans, generally speaking, trust Gus?
The rough start to the season put a damper on the excitement of some, but the overall reception for Bradley has been overwhelmingly positive. He's a young, positive coach that is easy to like and looks like the perfect type of coach to allow a young time to grow around. Two games into his tenure with the Jaguars, he has a pretty long cushion to work with before he loses the trust of the fans.
2. What are Jacksonville's strengths and weaknesses on defense? Have you noticed big changes from how things went last year thus far?
The most painfully obvious weakness for the Jaguars is their lack of a pass rush. The fact that the team has managed four sacks is really surprising after watching the team struggle to get after the quarterback in each of the first two weeks, but it's clear that the roster doesn't have an elite rusher that an offense has to account for.
That said, the Jaguars defense really hasn't been too bad so far. With an offense that puts them in a bad spot far too often, they forced nine punts in Week 1 and five field goals in Week 2. An all-around decent group, they are strong at the second level and have a secondary that is good enough to hold pass games in check.
3. What have been the major issues on offense?
Well...what hasn't been a major issue? Aside from the obviously bad quarterback play from Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, the interior offensive line is what has really set everything back. Guard Will Rackley and center Brad Meester have been particularly faulty and it's disrupted the team's ability to run and pass. The skill positions have some young, ascending talent in Cecil Shorts III, Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson, but getting the ball in their hands has been a struggle and even those players still have plenty of growing to do.
4. Who are a few under-the-radar players that may have a chance to make an impact in this game? How has the 2013 Draft class looked thus far?
A player that hasn't really been talked about is tight end Clay Harbor. Claimed off waivers just a couple weeks ago, he was in on just nine pass plays in Week 2 and caught three of four targets, including the Jaguars' only touchdown of the season so far. I expect he'll continue to see increased snaps and could be a tough matchup for the middle of the Seattle defense.
As for the 2013 Draft class, there's plenty of promise. Luke Joeckel and Johnathan Cyprien have struggled, but few Jaguars fans believe they won't be very good players in the future. Beyond those two, Dwayne Gratz, Ace Sanders, Denard Robinson and Demetrius McCray have all looked really good, at times.
5. What is your key to the game in terms of the Jags getting the upset this week over the Seahawks?
For the Jaguars to have any chance, they need to have some kind of sustained offense to have any chance and that would require improved play from the interior line. Holding Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane and co. in check is the only way the Jaguars find success on offense, although I'm not very confident about that happening.