Now that Chris Jones is back in the fold and Travis Kelce will likely play Sunday, the real Kansas City Chiefs team will be on full display. Not to disparage the rest of the team but you have two outspoken locker room leaders who know how to properly motivate the troops and end their one-game losing streak.
This road contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars will be an opportunity to reconnect with the rest of the team in the dynamic atmosphere of game planning, practice, travel, and getting back on track with a win. That’s even more poignant for Chris Jones who got his first taste of pads on Wednesday in Kansas City. I expect to see a different defense out there Sunday afternoon with Jones rotating in and out of the defense.
Let’s take a dive into the match-up and what roadblocks Jacksonville can throw in front of the Chiefs preventing them victory.
Quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, and company pulled out a win in Indianapolis, but it sure wasn’t pretty. They only converted three of 12 first down attempts and mustered 342 yards of total offense. Lawrence had two turnovers a fumble and an interception, but he threw for 241 yards on 32 attempts. Lawrence did manage a 103.8 QBR so he wasn’t terrible, but the game was sloppy. They did manage to get 20 first downs but a chunk of those were the direct result of Colts penalties.
Wide receiver Calvin Ridley led the Jaguars with 101 receiving yards on eight catches with a touchdown, but he also fumbled the ball once. His longest completion was 29 yards with 12.6 YPC so that’s something the Chiefs defense will have to deal with on Sunday. Zay Jones had 55 yards and a score and Evan Engram had 49 yards. No one really stepped up to stretch the field, but they really didn’t need to in this game.
Running back Travis Etienne provided 77 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown and Tank Bigsby added a score. This is the best tandem of running backs the Chiefs will face in the early part of their schedule, so the addition of Jones, even limited, will help against the Jaguars solid rushing attack. Former Broncos Kicker Brandon McManus added a 45-yard field goal to finish off the Jags offensive performance last Sunday.
As we saw last year in Kansas City, the Jacksonville created an improbable run and comeback against the Los Angeles Chargers, to become a legit playoff team again this season. They played loose in their opener, but rest assured, this will be no easy win for the Chiefs at EverBank Stadium.
Head Coach Doug Pederson will have this team ready to play, who might have been looking ahead on the schedule to the Chiefs game. Pederson knows Andy Reid’s offense very well having played for him in Philadelphia and being Kansas City’s offensive coordinator from 2013-2017. Remember, though, the Chiefs beat the Jags twice last season, so Reid knows Pederson’s propensities, as well.
As for the Jaguars defense, they were the real reason for the win. Linebackers Foye Oluokun and Josh Allen were tackling machines out there. They accounted for 22 tackles and six assists. They were led by Allen a trade candidate in the off-season, who had three sacks on the Colt’s rookie QB Anthony Richardson. That could be a statistical anomaly because of an inexperienced quarterback, especially with an active linebacker crew, but considering defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell is a former linebacker and linebackers coach, he’ll dial up blitzes and stunts to get the right pressure on Mahomes.
For the Chiefs, my expectations are the same as last week. Patrick Mahomes can shoulder the responsibility to properly call the game based on what he’s seeing at the line of scrimmage, but he also must make quicker reads with his young receivers. Yet, at times it feels as if Andy Reid and Matt Nagy try to contain his decision making which makes no sense to me. Mahomes knows how complex the Jaguars’ defense can be, and if he uses the mastery of Reid’s system as well as the intangibles, he brings should make that a plainly obvious plan of action. However, we are not privy to discussions between coaches and players in each individual room, but we can surmise based on the product delivered on the field.
My only counsel would be to always exploit your top player’s abilities. The rest of the pieces will begin to mesh once the entire team begins to feel successful and the receivers make more plays. I’m talking about the emotional swell of clean execution and the execution of the game plan. I may be preaching to the choir but sometimes the X’s and O’s are only part of the formula. Mahomes must be set free.
It might not be easy against the Jaguars’ front seven, but the ground game needs to pick up. Mahomes was the team’s leading rusher and outgained both Isaiah Pacheco and Clyde Edwards-Helaire for the game. That tells me we have an issue running the ball. I don’t have to tell Andy Reid or Matt Nagy that the ground game is essential to the success of the air game, they both know that, but I’d like to see the team attack the ground game as they did in the second half of Super Bowl LVII.
You can have success by banging away and then utilizing more screens and more play-action passes. Again, without a bruiser on the roster, asking Noah Gray or Blake Bell to assist in the short-yardage game has proven to be disastrous.
As far as the receivers, Andy Reid emphasized that Kadarius Toney is not a player who has a history of dropped passes. Last year he had sticky hands and shifty legs that highlighted his abilities in Reid’s offense. Did he suddenly forget how to do his job? No sir. In my view, he did not have nearly enough time to work with the offense to get prepared for the season.
New people around, new dynamics of the receiving corps. Therefore, we are seeing the consequences of inaction. With Travis Kelce likely to play, I expect a completely new aerial scheme where the young receivers don’t have to overthink with Kelce on the field. What Kelce brings to game planning on the opposing side of the ball usually winds up with field stretchers finding open spaces for big chunks of plays.
The Lions were a legit top-10 offense, so I can’t wait to see what this defense looks like with Chris Jones back on the field against the Jaguars. To say the least, I want to see Steve Spagnuolo duplicate what he did in the opener while finding his spots for Jones. This will give the younger guys the opportunity to bang around and get their shots at Trevor Lawrence. He is surprisingly mobile, but I have the feeling Spags will frustrate the heck out of him and force him to settle down.
KC’s defense can stop Lawrence. All they need is the confidence to execute and to build upon their first-week performance. At the center of the defense, cornerbacks, Trent McDuffie, and L’Jarius Sneed along with the Safety tandem, Justin Reid and Bryan Cook, need to play with some swagger. If the linebacker wrecking crew can disrupt the middle of the field, this defense can make plays. With that said, up front, Derrick Nnadi, George Karlaftis, Turk Wharton, and Stone-Cold Jones, can clean up.
Chiefs 30 – Jaguars 17