Jacksonville's defense looked transformed against the Kansas City Chiefs last week. The unit had struggled all season long to generate pressure against opposing quarterbacks all year, 5 in the first 7 games, but registed 3 last Sunday and applied constant pressure. Playing against a suspect offensive line and a quarterback who holds the ball too long had a lot to do with it, but the Jags also changed their scheme. After running a 3-4 defense, a poorly thought out Mangini style scheme change, Jacksonville reverted to using the 4-3 as their base. The Jaguars did display some 3-4 against the Chiefs and zone blitzed a lot to try and confuse the protection. Against a rookie quarterback, expect a lot more of this. Also expect the four first round picks and Brandon Moore on the offensive line to do a lot better against the Jaguars.
Jacksonville's 4-3 has strength built up the middle. John Henderson is still playing at a high level. He registered a sack, a hit, and 5 pressures against the Chiefs. He's joined by Terrence Knighton, a 325 rookie from Temple who does not have a great burst to get to the quarterback but freqently occupies a pair of tacklers to open things up for others. 2008 first round pick Derrick Harvey played inspired football against Kansas City, displaying good power moves and athleticism against Brandon Albert, the talented young left tackle from Virginia. He'll look to duplicate his performance against another young talented left tackle from Virginia, D'Brickashaw Ferguson. The way D'Brickashaw and Nick Mangold are playing, I feel comfortable with the Jets' ability to hold Henderson and Harvey in check.
Bryan Smith will start at left end in place of another 2008 pass rushing draftee Quentin Groves. Groves is raw but has a lot of athletic ability. He can get to the quarterback but it really best served as a situational pass rusher. The Jags will probably use him as a rusher both with his hand on and off the ground. Aside from then, his playing time could be limited because he struggles against the run and is giving up over 60 pounds to Damien Woody. Can you say mismatch? Smith is even smaller than Groves. It will be important for him to get off the line quickly and use his speed against Woody because unless he gets on top of Damien quickly, he will be overpowered.
Daryl Smith is going to play a key role for Jacksonville. The outside linebacker is excellent in pass coverage and will probably draw Dustin Keller frequently. The Jets made Keller Mark Sanchez's primary read against Miami to try and keep things simple and safe. Keller responded with his best game of the year. Keller is going to give Smith all he can handle (as well as linebackers Justin Durant, who is solid in pass coverage and Clint Ingram, who is something of a liability). Smith will also be used as a blitzer. He had 2 sacks and 3 pressures against the Chiefs.
On the outside, there will be plays to be made. The secondary of Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox at corner and Reggie Nelson and Gerald Alexander has been suspect all year, and you can only blame the pass rush to a certain extent. The Jags are giving up over 240 yards through the air. Alexander is nursing a shoulder injury. Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery have the edge here and will all day. Keller also will have a great chance to exploit the safeties in coverage. I'd also look for David Clowney to have an impact. The Jaguars will be aggressive, and the Chiefs burned them long on a safety blitz.
I think the Jets handle the pass rush well. They have a significantly better offensive line than Kansas City. If he has to, Brian Schottenheimer can leave in extra blockers as he frequently did against the Dolphins and give Mark Sanchez time to find the matchups that favor his receivers.