Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- D’Andre Swift has been removed from the Lions injury report for the first time since Week 1.
- Guard Evan Brown and offensive tackle Penei Sewell missed practice on Wednesday for the Lions, while guard Jonah Jackson is attempting to make his way through the league’s concussion protocol – this is important to this matchup, which we’ll get into below.
- Travis Etienne was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday. Head coach Doug Pederson earlier stated that Etienne “has a chance to play this weekend” when asked about his status after Etienne failed to finish the team’s Week 12 game with a foot injury, which doesn’t really tell us much. Pay attention to his status in practice as the week progresses.
- A game consisting of two teams in the bottom six in defensive drive success rate allowed and top eight in offensive drive success rate.
How Jacksonville Will Try To Win ::
The Jaguars have played at a top 12 pace of play in almost every situational split outside of when leading by seven or more points, during which they completely flip the script and play at a bottom two pace which makes sense. Their pass rate over expectation (PROE) lands right at league average and their overall pass rate sits just below league average. The biggest change this season has been the coaching staff, as Doug Pederson has long been known as a player’s coach, one that is very good at getting his team ready for the upcoming opponent. Furthermore, Pederson is a coach that tends to tailor his gameplan to what the opponent gives them, which has translated to only one loss all season by more than eight points (as in, the Jaguars have lost to only the Chiefs by more than one possession this season). And since they have been largely reactive in their game management, that has also kept this team from many shootouts this season.
The Jaguars backfield is one to keep an eye on as far as injuries go throughout the week as Travis Etienne has handled a robust workload since the team dealt away James Robinson at the trade deadline, seeing 78% or more of the offensive snaps in each healthy game since Week 7. Furthermore, de facto change of pace back JaMycal Hasty handled a robust 78% of the offensive snaps after Etienne left with a foot injury last week. Darrell Henderson was claimed off waivers from the Rams prior to Week 12 and should eventually fill the second running back role for the Jaguars once he’s had time to get the offense down, which may or may not be the case in his first full week of practice with the organization. Etienne’s level of practice participation should be telling as Pederson reported that the back could have returned to last week’s game, but they didn’t want to risk further injury, indicating to me that he should be thought of as a full-go if he returns to full practice at any point this week. Since the Jaguars have been largely reactive in their game management this season, there is a path to a massive workload for the lead back against a Lions team that has been gashed by opposing backfields to the tune of 4.77 yards allowed per running back carry. Furthermore, we’ve seen Etienne amass elite workloads in games the Jaguars have controlled over the previous five weeks, with as many as 30 running back opportunities during that time. The matchup on the ground yields a slightly above average 4.42 net-adjusted line yards metric while Jacksonville backs have overperformed their offensive line’s blocking metrics by the largest margin of any team in the league this season.
Continuing the evidence towards a reactive game management stance, quarterback Trevor Lawrence has two games with 23 pass attempts or fewer and four games with 40 pass attempts or more this season, leaving him with one of the wider ranges of potential outcomes as far as volume goes of any quarterback on the slate (or league, for that matter). Furthermore, both of the games with 23 pass attempts or fewer came in one possession losses, so it’s not as simple as “the Jaguars will open up their offense when forced to.” If the run game is working and if the Jaguars are not forced into increased aerial aggression early in the game, the team will simply continue looking to exploit whatever the opponent is giving them. The team has played primarily from 11-personnel this season unless their opponent allows them to bias their attack towards the ground, during which they have shown a propensity to mix in increased rates of 12-personnel via increased snap rates for blocking tight end Chris Manhertz. Finally, the target distribution amongst the top four pass-catchers has been largely spread out, with Christian Kirk leading the way with a 27.4% targets per route run rate and 24.5% team target market share (WR2 numbers, for context).
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