By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – Call it the resistible force and the easily moved
The Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars will get together this Sunday
in northeast Florida while each is looking for some sort of certainty when it
comes to pass rush and pass protection, respectively.
The Colts are without incumbent 2013 league sack leader Robert Mathis thanks
to a suspension and torn Achilles tendon, and they’ve gotten limited
production thus far out of free-agent signee Arthur Jones, who’s hampered with
a sprained right ankle. Meanwhile, the Jaguars were gashed for a franchise-
record 10 sacks in a 31-point debacle against Washington last week and has
shifted some of its bodies up front.
Jacksonville released right tackle Cam Bradfield, who’ll be replaced by Sam
Young. And in the middle of the line, Luke Bowanko gets his first start at the
Status quo will remain for at least the time being for the Jaguars when it
comes to quarterback, where veteran Chad Henne gets his third straight start
amid increasing calls to shift the operation to heir apparent No. 3 overall
draft choice Blake Bortles.
Jacksonville managed 148 total yards against the Redskins in a 41-10 loss.
“It’s too early to push the panic button,” running back Toby Gerhart said.
“We’re 0-2, two games on the road. Starting off against two good defenses on
the road. We’re looking forward to playing at home, right the ship and get
Gerhart averaged barely a yard per carry – eight yards on seven attempts – in
Week 2 and Henne will be without tight end Marcedes Lewis, who’s on the short-
term injured list with an ankle problem. That said, both the No. 1 receiver
from 2013, Cecil Shorts III, as well as offensive tackle Austin Pasztor might
be back. Shorts is questionable with a hamstring issue, while Pasztor is
probable with an injured hand.
Safety Jonathan Cyprien is probable, too, though he’s returning from a
Jacksonville has allowed 75 points and 869 total yards through two weeks,
figures which place it 32nd and 29th, respectively, in a 32-team league. The
Colts are barely better, though, after surrendering 61 points (30th) and 819
yards (28th) in close losses to Denver and Philadelphia.
Still, Indianapolis has had recent success in the series, winning three
straight overall and two in a row in Jacksonville. The Colts haven’t won four
in a row against the Jaguars since they won the first five all-time meetings
between 1995 and 2003.
The season-opening losses are new experiences for quarterback Andrew Luck and
coach Chuck Pagano, who’d not lost consecutive games since arriving in 2012.
Twelve percent of teams that have started 0-2 in the last 24 years have
righted the ship to make the playoffs, and just five of 197 teams since 1970
have managed it with a 0-3 start – the last in 1998.
“You can point out every week if we did this, this and this we’d be 2-0,”
Pagano said. “We have 14 games left and the only that matters right now is
Jacksonville and that’s the next one. The record is the record. We’re not
going to sit there and dwell on anything other than Jacksonville.”
Indianapolis appeared on the road to 1-1 last week when it held a 20-6 lead
halfway through the third quarter, but the Eagles rallied late and ultimately
escaped with a 30-27 win.
Trent Richardson’s fumble in the third quarter led to a Philadelphia
touchdown, and Luck threw an interception with less than six minutes to go in
the game, turning a potential clinching field-goal drive into a possession
that led to Eagles’ tying touchdown.
It’s the first time the team has been 0-2 since 2011, when it began 0-13 with
Peyton Manning on the sidelines with a neck injury. The eventual 2-14 finish
allowed the Colts to select Luck No. 1 overall in 2012.
“It appeared we had that game won and we let it slip away,” Pagano said. “I’ll
start with myself. I’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to coach better,
we’ve got to play better.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Holding Up Their Ends
When a line gives up double-digit sacks in a game, the microscope comes out.
Thus, expect a good deal of focus on the matchups between offensive tackles
Pasztor and Luke Joeckel and the Colts’ rushing linebacking duo of Bjoern
Werner and Erik Walden. It’s not as if the Indianapolis pair has been setting
the world ablaze through two weeks – they have one sack between them – so
something has to give.
Coming from Both Sides
Luck, like Manning before him, is a quarterback who can make a star out of a
previously anonymous tight end. He’s managed to turn Coby Fleener and Dwayne
Allen into household names in middle Indiana in just two seasons, and he’ll
no doubt be looking toward those two again as they contend this week with
Jacksonville linebacker Paul Posluszny and safety Josh Evans.
Close losses to the defending AFC champions and a popular pick for 2014 NFC
supremacy – two teams that have started a combined 4-0 – is hardly a cause for
widespread panic for the Colts, and the meeting with a scuffling Jaguars team
probably couldn’t have occurred at a better time. Jacksonville coach Gus
Bradley will have his team amped up for a home opener, but in terms of talent,
it’s not enough yet.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Colts 27, Jaguars 10