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Previewing the Jets’ opposition: Jacksonville Jaguars

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NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

After a disastrous 1-5 start, the Jets face some theoretically winnable games over the next few weeks, but they’ll have to go on the road and overcome a competitive Jaguars team to start getting their season turned in the right direction. The Jags avoided dropping to 2-5 with a road win against the Bengals on Sunday and will now be hoping to improve to 4-4 with a win over the Jets.

Quarterbacks

Jacksonville’s season got off to a rough start when they lost quarterback Nick Foles for the season on opening day but they’ve been able to somewhat steady the ship behind sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew II.

The rookie’s “Minshew Magic” has led them to two come-from-behind wins and their three losses since opening day have all come against decent teams and been by seven points or less, so they are consistently competitive with him under center.

While he’s been operating as a game manager, averaging 242 passing yards per game, Minshew has been efficient with 10 touchdown passes and only two interceptions and has proven adept at scrambling to extend plays and has had some success as a downfield passer.

The Jaguars traded a mid-round pick for former Steelers quarterback Joshua Dobbs to back up Minshew.

Offensive Line

The Jaguars’ offensive line can probably be considered average at best. They shelled out $30 million in guarantees to left guard Andrew Norwell to spur their running game and have invested two second round picks in the last three drafts to find their tackles; Cam Robinson on the left and rookie Jawaan Taylor on the right.

Robinson is the only starter not to have started all seven games. Last year’s fourth-round pick Will Richardson filled in for him at the start of the year and he got hurt again last week. This time, he was replaced by Cedric Ogbuehi, the former first round pick who was a bust in Cincinnati. Robinson should be good to go on Sunday.

Richardson is actually listed as a co-starter at right guard with AJ Cann and has been splitting reps with him there since Robinson returned. Each has been struggling in pass protection.

The other starter is center Brandon Linder - a reliable pass protector who hasn’t given up a sack or hit yet this year.

Perhaps the biggest issue for this unit has been penalties, as four of the starters have at least five, led by Taylor with eight. Taylor has also given up a team-high six sacks.

Brandon Thomas, a former third round pick, and Tyler Shatley round out the rotation. Thomas is 28 and still yet to make his NFL debut, but Shatley has 15 career starts.

Running Backs

Leonard Fournette is currently second in the NFL for rushing yards, having averaged 134 yards per game over the last four. He’s also caught 28 passes, although he only has one touchdown.

Fifth-round rookie Tyquell Armstead has been Fournette’s back-up but hasn’t played much. The other two reserves - Tyler Ervin and the undrafted rookie Devine Ozigbo have yet to contribute at all on offense.

The Jaguars no longer carry a fullback on their roster.

Receivers

The Jags’ receivers are led by DJ Chark, who has 33 catches, 518 yards and five touchdowns to lead the team in all three categories. Dede Westbrook, who torched the Jets last year for 130 yards on nine catches last season, is one behind Chark with 32 catches. He is listed as questionable but expected to play.

Chris Conley has 17 receptions, but Marqise Lee is listed as a starter ahead of him despite the fact Lee and Keelan Cole have just two catches each. Cole was a break-out candidate at the start of last year but his star seems to have faded over the last 12 months.

Journeyman CJ Board, who has played in one NFL game, rounds out the rotation.

The two tight ends that had seen the most playing time - James O’Shaughnessy and Geoff Swaim - were both recently added to injured reserve. They had combined for 27 catches on the year.

Jacksonville now listed Josh Oliver as the starter and Seth DeValve and Ben Koyack as back-ups. They’ve combined for just one catch on the year. Oliver, the team’s third-round pick, has only played in one game so far.

Defensive Line

Calais Campbell is still the Jaguars’ defensive leader as he remains excellent against the run and in the pass rush. He leads the team in stops and defensive pressure as he continues to play both on the edge and inside.

Yannick Ngakoue is the other starting defensive end. He had 29.5 sacks over the past three seasons but only has two so far this year after turning down a big money deal in the offseason. He did have a pick-six though.

Rookie first rounder Josh Allen is presenting the Jags with some options going forwards. He leads the team with five sacks and seven tackles for loss and is tied with Campbell for the team lead in quarterback hits.

Reserves Dawuane Smoot and Lerentee McCray round out the rotation. Smoot doesn’t offer much against the run, but has contributed three sacks.

On the inside, Abry Jones and Marcell Dareus are the starters with seventh-round rookie Dontavious Russell and Taven Bryan in reserve. Russell hasn’t played much but Bryan has done well.

Linebackers

The Jaguars have Najee Goode, Myles Jack and Leon Jacobs currently listed as starters at linebacker. However, reserve Quincy Williams - a third-round rookie and the brother of Quinnen Williams - has started five games.

Unfortunately for them, Goode, Jacobs and Williams have all been ruled out for Sunday’s game so they will have to rely heavily on Jack, who had over 100 tackles last year and scored a touchdown against the Jets in 2017.

The Jags made a number of moves over the last week so they have cover, but they’ll be forced to rely on players who haven’t been in the line-up for them so far. They promoted undrafted rookie Joe Giles-Harris from the practice squad, signed former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith and re-signed Donald Payne, who was on the practice squad for just a week at the start of the season.

The other backup, former Jets cast-off Austin Calitro, has only played one defensive snap this year.

Defensive Backs

Now that Jalen Ramsey is gone, AJ Bouye is the Jags’ top corner. Bouye is in the middle of a five-year, $67 million contract, but teams have been picking on the other starter, Tre Herndon, a lot so far this year.

DJ Hayden is the nickel back and usually mans the slot, while Josh Robinson and Breon Borders have yet to contribute on defense.

Last year’s third-round pick, safety Ronnie Harrison, leads the team in tackles, passes defensed and interceptions. His fellow starter is Jarrod Wilson, who entered the year with just two career starts.

Undrafted rookie Andrew Wingard and the 30-year old Cody Davis don’t play very often as the Jaguars don’t seem to play many three-safety sets. Robinson can also play safety.

Special Teams

Josh Lambo is having a great season, as he’s made all 28 of his kicks so far, albeit with no attempts from beyond 50 yards. That included a game-winner against the Broncos.

Punter Logan Cooke has had a decent season so far, limiting opposing teams to a total of just 35 return yards.

They haven’t done much in the return game yet with Westbrook on punts and Ervin on kickoffs. Chark and Lee are also options.

In coverage, Wingard and Jacobs are leading the team in special teams tackles and Davis, McCray and Wilson made good contributions last year. Herndon and Chark were also key contributors last year, but have been used less with their increased roles on defense and offense.

Finally, Campbell is a constant threat to block kicks. He blocked a field goal in the loss to the Panthers.