By Dave Thomas
Most coaches will tell you that playing down to the level of your competition is a recipe for disaster. With that in mind, which San Diego Charger team will show up this coming Sunday in Jacksonville?
After a big 19-9 win at home over the AFC South leading Indianapolis Colts Monday evening, the 3-3 Chargers now prep for the other extreme, the 0-6 Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes, this is essentially going from the penthouse to the outhouse.
While the Colts (although they may not have shown it Monday evening) seem like a playoff caliber team, the Jaguars are simply looking for some good news. More exactly, a win albeit.
Even though expectations for the Jags coming into the season were low, not too many experts and fans for that matter could have said with 100 percent certainty that this club would be the absolute worst in the NFL. If they did, well, the team then has lived up to the billing.
To the surprise of some, the Jags (a nearly four touchdown underdog) gave the Denver Broncos some fits this past Sunday in their 45-19 loss in the Mile High City. While the Broncos (6-0) were never seriously threatened, that game should serve as a warning to the Bolts that they can’t just expect to roll into Northern Florida on Sunday and walk away with an easy victory.
Jags are a Mess
Coming into the 2013 season, Jacksonville was projected by most folks to again be in for a long season.
Question marks at the quarterback position, an aging running back in Maurice Jones-Drew, and issues on the defensive side of the ball have in fact proven themselves true six games into this year’s campaign.
In the loss to the Broncos, Jacksonville had little or no running game, with Jones-Drew finishing with 71 yards on the ground. In all, the Jags netted 71 yards rushing as a team on 27 carries; that translates into little to no chance to win.
The quarterback position has been an issue all season for Jacksonville, as Chad Henne (27-of-42, 303 yards, 2 interceptions) has been unable to prove himself as a dependable NFL quarterback. With Blaine Gabbert (original starter) still nursing a hamstring injury suffered in a loss two weeks ago to St. Louis (he is expected to miss the San Diego game), Henne (904 yards passing on the season) will likely get the starting nod again.
Whether it is Henne or even third-stringer Ricky Stanzi calling the shots under center, one thing the Chargers will have to focus in on is starting wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Blackmon had a stellar day in the loss in Denver, catching 14 balls for 190 yards.
On defense, Jacksonville is led by linebacker Paul Posluszny (54 total tackles, two interceptions to date) and strong safety Johnathan Cyprien (35 solo tackles). In the loss to the Broncos, Posluszny picked off quarterback Peyton Manning and returned the ball for a 59-yard touchdown in the second quarter to get the Jags within two.
Despite their issues, the Jags will not simply roll over and play dead come this Sunday when the Bolts come calling.
In the past (the 7-6 loss last season to a bad Cleveland team for example), the Chargers have oftentimes played to the level of their competition.
If San Diego does that against Jacksonville, the latter may very well be able to win its first game of the season.
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.