Four Keys To Jags-Cowboys

Jacksonville Looks To Bounce Back From Their Underwhelming Performance at Arrowhead Stadium

Arlington, TX — The Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2) found out the hard way that quarterback Blake Bortles is not a volume passer. Bortles’ career-high 61 pass attempts turned into four interceptions, and a lost fumble.

“It felt a lot like some games we’ve had in the past, just moved the ball, there were some good things done, we had some bad turnovers,” Bortles said. “You can’t turn the ball over.”

The reason Jacksonville felt the need to sling the ball all over the place, is the loss of running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette is nursing a hamstring injury and will miss his third game of this season.

Due to the lack of depth at running back, Jacksonville signed veteran running back Jamaal Charles. Charles will play this Sunday vs. the Dallas Cowboys (2-3).

Dallas comes into Sunday’s matchup after a heart-breaking loss on Sunday Night Football. As head coach Jason Garrett’s seat heats up, the Cowboys are in a must-win-situation if they want to be taken seriously as playoff contenders.

Five Keys To Jags-Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott

Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys go as running back Ezekiel Elliott goes. Elliott comes into Sunday’s game leading the NFL in rushing with 430 yards.  Zeke is a threat out of the backfield, leading Dallas with 22 receptions. Last week the Texans held Elliott to 54 yards on the ground as Dallas struggled to move the ball. They struggled so much, Garrett elected to punt on fourth and one in overtime; the Texans drove down the field, winning 19-16.

Jacksonville’s first and foremost priority is to stop Elliott. Their 14th-ranked run defense gives up 101.2 yards per game. Most noteworthy, limiting Dallas to minimal yards on first down, making quarterback Dak Prescott beat you in the passing game.

Make Dak Throw…A Lot

The Jags and Cowboys are built the same, elite rushing attacks, strong defenses, and limited quarterback play. Much like Bortles, the Cowboys don’t want Prescott throwing the ball 40 plus times per game, especially against Jacksonville’s defense. Prescott has been mediocre as is gets this season completing 61.8 percent of his passes, five touchdowns, and four interceptions.

Jacksonville wants to do what Kansas City did to them last week, make the opposing quarterback throw as much as possible. As the Jags stack the box preparing to stop the run, they’ll be daring the Cowboys to throw the ball. Prescott will be facing the NFL’s top pass defense the yields just 191 yards per game. Dallas only averages 192 yards passing per contest. If Jacksonville can stop the run, it’ll be a long day for the Cowboys

Establish The Run

Jacksonville’s offense is built around running the football. At times Bortles can carry the team, but not from whistle to whistle. Some reports suggest the Jags could be without Fournette until week ten. That’s a long time without their bell cow. Running back T.J. Yeldon will get the bulk of the carries, Charles will spell him as he gets into football shape.

Running room will be hard to find Sunday as the Cowboys have the 11th-ranked run defense allowing 95.8 yards per game. Look for Bortles to get a few more designed runs to get himself into a rhythm, providing a few first extra downs. If Jacksonville cannot establish the run game, Dallas will hang around longer than Jacksonville wants.

Back To Basics for Bortles

The troubling part of Bortles’ 61 pass-attempt, five-turnover performance is that it wasn’t necessary. Jacksonville came out the gates throwing and throwing downfield. The ran the ball effectively averaging 5.9 yards per carry. However, they only ran the ball 17 times leading to the four interceptions due to the 61 pass attempts.

The Cowboys have the 12th-ranked pass defense allowing 241.6 yards per game. Jags’ head coach Doug Marrone must find ways to be more efficient passing the ball. Stick to their west-coast scheme with crossing routes, and screens to slow down the pass rush. Look for Bortles to have much more effective day Sunday afternoon.

Must-Win Game in Week Six?

Yes. This is a must-win game for both teams this early into the season.

For Jacksonville, starting 3-2 is not how they envision starting the season. Starting 3-3, Jacksonville losses credibility as a playoff contender. Especially losing to a team they are perfectly matched up with, facing the 30th-ranked pass offense with their top-rated pass defense. Jacksonville must leave AT&T Stadium with a victory by any mean necessary.

As for Dallas, they’re feeling the heat after losing future HOF tight end, Jason Witten, and all-time leading receiver, Dez Bryant. Prescott has been exposed, and Garrett’s enigmatic offense is not going over well with Dallas fans, or owner Jerry Jones. A loss means a 2-4 start to the season, and huge questions ensuing. How long does Garrett have? Is Prescott the future? Do they retool or rebuild from here?

Prediction: Jacksonville 23 – Dallas 17