How Can 49ers Avoid A Trap Game Loss To Hapless Jaguars?
By Jerrell Richardson
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-7)
Head Coach: Gus Bradley
Players to Watch: Maurice Jones-Drew, Justin Blackmon
When the 49ers and Jaguars meet this Sunday, San Francisco will have everything in their favor. They are the better team, on a winning streak and will have the London crowd rooting for them. If there is any week for the 49ers to overlook their opponent this is the week. The Jaguars not only have nothing to lose but the 49ers are certainly looking forward to next week when they get their bye, and if they take Jacksonville too lightly, they can lose this game. While possible, a letdown does not appear likely as San Francisco is coming off some perfect performance to keep them focused on the task at hand.
When Jacksonville Has the Ball: Advantage 49ers
The only two big names on the Jaguars offense are running back Maurice Jones-Drew and wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Jones-Drew is the catalyst of the entire offense, and has struggled in 2013 to say the least. From 2009-2011 Jones-Drew was an elite back and consistent. He averaged 4.5 yards per touch and 1,440 yards over that span and even last year, when he only played in six games, still had a 4.8-yard average. This season he has yet to do anything and the offense has followed suit. He has only two touchdowns, and averages a woeful 3.1 yards per touch. With two outstanding linebackers looking to keep him under wraps in this game, Jones-Drew does not figure to wake up from his nightmare of a season this week.
With no running game to scare defenders, the Jacksonville passing attack has yet to find its rhythm. They will enter this game ranked 23rd in the NFL and there is no secret who the ball is going to when they drop back to pass. Justin Blackmon has a rare combination of size and speed that make him a tough cover. Blackmon has only played in three games this season, but has been targeted 38 times and in the last two games has eclipsed 100 yards. While he has to be accounted for at all times, Blackmon can be contained by the 49er secondary that comes into this contest ranked 6th against the pass. Blackmon will get his catches and yards, but his impact on the game can be minimized as throwing him the ball is quarterback Chad Henne, who has played how you would expect a quarterback leading a team that is winless to play.
The 49ers defense will shut down the run and will look to take Blackmon out of the game. Even if Blackmon is able to have some success, with no real contribution from the running game, the Jaguars offense will be fighting a losing battle all afternoon, putting little pressure on the San Francisco offense.
When San Francisco Has the Ball: Advantage 49ers
There is no question that the 49ers are going to be able to move the ball with the run. With the read option slowly creeping back into the San Francisco playbook, it is going to be almost impossible to stop them on the ground as a team. Just last week Frank Gore did not have a huge day running the ball, but between him and Colin Kaepernick they combined for over 150 yards. This week Gore is facing the worst run defense in the league and if he does not get 100 or more yards rushing, it will only be because another back and/or Colin Kaepernick also had a big game. With little resistance expected from the Jaguars run defense, the 49ers will not need much from the passing attack, but if needed, can look to the two main targets for production.
At this point, the passing options are Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin. The Jaguars secondary is slightly better than average, currently ranked 14th against the pass and the 49ers are well below average ranked 31st so the Jaguars should be able to do a decent job against the pass. Anquan Boldin and Kaepernick are still getting on the same page and with Vernon Davis still getting over a hamstring injury he is not quite the explosive threat he normally is. Even so, both players can still get open, and if called upon, can deliver a big day.
At the end of this game the best sign for the 49ers will be another average day passing the ball. The winning recipe for this team is a lot of Gore with the passing game sprinkled in to keep the defense honest. Despite the big play ability of Boldin and Davis, the biggest mismatch on the field is the 49er running game against the Jaguar defensive front. The 49ers will exploit this matchup in the trenches, wear down their opponent and will need little from the arm of Kaepernick to secure the win.
One More Week
After dismantling the Titans, who had beaten three other teams, it’s hard to imagine the 49ers losing to the lowly Jaguars who have lost their games by a combined score of 222-76 this season. However, this is the NFL and rarely will a team go winless for an entire season, so San Francisco had better be taking this game as serious as every other opponent. What will help the coaches avoid a letdown is the way the 49ers eased up against Tennessee last week. There are plenty of mistakes on film to improve on, ensuring that the players will not look past the Jaguars. If they show up ready to play, San Francisco will win easily, coasting into the bye week winners of five straight, and a team only getting better.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.