The Green Bay Packers open up on the road against an AFC team this year, an oddity that has rarely been the case in the team’s recent history. The first game will be held at EverBank Field against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will be looking to improve upon last year’s 5-11 record.
Jacksonville boasts a young, promising offense, with quarterback Blake Bortles and receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns leading the way. We caught up with Ryan Day of Big Cat Country to preview Sunday’s game and to get a feel for what to expect out of the Jaguars in 2016.
APC: It appears that Blake Bortles was given more responsibility in his second year, and he responded with a huge jump in yards per attempt and touchdowns. What are your expectations for him in year three as he continues his development?
I've gone back and forth with my expectations. When we brought on Chris Ivory, I thought his production would go down because Ivory would be another mouth to feed... but the Jaguars weren't very good at extending drives last year and now I don't see why amassing more yards for more mouths is impossible. I think Bortles looks largely the same as last year -- confident, strong-armed, questionable in a few throws, lighting it up with 50-50 balls to Allen Robinson -- but the biggest differences will be in his decision-making, especially on third down. I think he checks down more often, I think he causes less sacks, and I think he's better in the red zone.
APC: Many Packers fans started clamoring for linebacker Myles Jack when Green Bay went on the clock with the 27th pick in the draft, but Ted Thompson took his UCLA teammate Kenny Clark instead. How has Jack looked in terms of health and ability this summer, and how soon is he expected to end up in the starting lineup?
If no one had ever told me Myles had injury concerns, the thought would never have crossed my mind this spring and summer. Myles has looked very, very good. He's an explosive athlete and what I mean by that is he literally runs through tackles. He's not taking angles, he's using his speed and athleticism to just get guys to the ground. If he were born in New Zealand, he'd be your rugby club's No. 8 -- in the middle of everything, balance of speed and power, great tackler.
APC: We are always curious to follow former Packers around here, so how did cornerback Davon House look in his first year in Jacksonville?
He's the most underrated player on the team. People dogged him around here because he had a bad game against DeAndre Hopkins in the middle of the season (and, like, who doesn't have bad games against DeAndre Hopkins) but he has excellent recovery speed, he's stayed healthy, he's a positive influence in the locker room, and he's locked in as an outside cornerback even with Jalen Ramsey and Prince Amukamara joining the team.
APC: Can you give us one player on offense and one on defense who fly under the radar but who you think will play a critical role in determining the winning team on Sunday?
On offense? It's funny -- I'm trying to answer this and I can't think of an "under the radar" guy. I guess that's a good thing. Maybe T.J. Yeldon? He's splitting time with Chris Ivory, but I was watching the season opener from last year between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears and the way the Bears used Matt Forte leans way more towards how Yeldon runs and catches. I could see Yeldon getting twice the touches as Ivory, especially in the middle of the field.
On defense, it'll be Tashaun Gipson. Not in terms of total impact, but he's flown under the radar big time this preseason and I think the regular season is when he really shows his command of this secondary.
APC: What do you want to see from the Jaguars on Sunday?
I want to see a close game. Never more than a possession down. I want to see third downs converted, I want to see Luke Joeckel blocking competently at left guard, and I want to see just one (one!) sack from the edge rush position.
Thanks again to Ryan for answering our questions, and here’s hoping for a clean game on Sunday with no injuries on either side!