REDSKINS // JAGUARS OVERVIEW
On one of the least attractive slates of the season, this is perhaps the least attractive game, with the rapidly-sinking, fourth-string-quarterbacked Washington Redskins traveling to Jacksonville to take on the long-sunk, second-string-quarterbacked Jaguars. The Jaguars have allowed the sixth fewest yards and the eighth fewest points on the year. Both of these offenses rank bottom eight in yards and bottom five in points. This game carries an Over/Under of only 36.0, with the Jags installed as touchdown favorites. No team has a lower Vegas-implied total than the 14.5 that the Redskins carry.
REDSKINS PASS OFFENSE
The only teams in the NFL allowing a lower expected yards per target than the Jaguars this year are the Bears, the Bills, and the Ravens — with the Jags allowing the second lowest catch rate in the league, the fourth lowest yards per pass attempt, the fewest passing touchdowns, the fourth fewest wide receiver yards, and the third fewest wide receiver receptions. Avoiding wide receivers against the Jaguars this year has been a profitable strategy, while avoiding Washington wide receivers has also been a profitable strategy. If we take away garbage time against the Giants last week, the closest any wide receiver on the Redskins has come to relevance across the last five weeks was the 6-66-0 line that Josh Doctson posted on 10 targets against the Cowboys in Week 12. This week, the Washington pass catchers will be relying on passes from journeyman Josh Johnson.
Speaking of Johnson: I imagine there will be at least some discussion this week about taking the savings on him at quarterback for his rushing upside. It is at least worth noting that no team in football has allowed more quarterback rushing yards than the Jaguars — and this is not entirely fluky, as only one team has faced more quarterback rush attempts, with the Jags’ solid downfield coverage often nudging quarterbacks to take off with the ball. Of course, Johnson’s high-efficiency, 7-45-1 line last week was fueled by garbage time, and such efficiency is unlikely to remain in this spot — likely forcing Johnson to supplement his rushing with a strong game through the air. His likeliest range is “low floor to modest ceiling,” with outlier potential for something more.
If for some reason you feel compelled to play Washington wide receivers, your best bet is Jamison Crowder working the middle of the field where the Jags are weakest. Crowder’s likeliest line is something like 4-50-0, but as he put on display last week: he is not incapable of posting some yards after the catch from time to time. Doctson would be the next most viable option if scraping the bottom of the barrel, though he will require a multi-touchdown game in likely shadow coverage from Jalen Ramsey in order to become worthwhile.
This passing attack wraps up at the tight end position, where we have one of the slate’s only injury-related pricing mishaps. Jordan Reed is currently being viewed as doubtful for this game, which should thrust Vernon Davis into the starting role. Reed entered last week with recent target counts of 12 // 6 // 6 // 11 // 8 // 5. In the games last year that Davis played without Reed, he saw target counts of 5 // 9 // 11 // 6 // 1 // 2 // 7 // 5 // 3 // 3. The Redskins remain a run-heavy attack, and there is obvious “quality concern” on the targets Davis will see, but he does shape up as the Redskins’ best means of moving the ball against a Jacksonville defense that has been merely average against tight ends this year.
REDSKINS RUN OFFENSE
As we have explored throughout the year, the Jaguars have been one of the better run defenses in football — though last week’s visibly low-effort game against Tennessee calls into question some of the season-long numbers that have backed up this reputation. On the one hand, the Jags were playing on the road last week, on short rest (while they will be playing at home this week with extra rest). On the other hand, the effort the Jaguars put forth on the ground in that game was bad enough that I’d be fine upgrading this matchup if you feel the need to do so. For me, this remains a Spectator Spot regardless, as Adrian Peterson has carried a low floor all season as a heavily yardage-and-touchdown-dependent play. A broken play or a multi-score game is clearly not impossible in this spot…but that is what Peterson will need in order to post a worthwhile score at the running back position.
Behind Peterson, Chris Thompson has mixed in for three carries and five targets each of the last two weeks. He would need a spike in usage or a couple of big plays to matter.
JAGUARS PASS OFFENSE
A bet on the Jaguars’ passing attack is a bet on the Redskins putting up points (which is something to keep in mind if building rosters that make this bet), as this team wants to lean heavily on the run and on solid defense in order to pull off wins — with Cody Kessler throwing the ball only 24 times in the Jags’ 6-0 home win against Indy a couple weeks back, and with Blake Bortles throwing 23 and 18 passes in the previous two weeks.
Taking away last week’s pass-heavy outlier, recent target counts on the Jags look like this:
If betting on a spike in passing volume for the Jags, the best bet from a route-running and hands perspective is Westbrook — though this offense has shown us all year that target projections among these guys are an iffy week-to-week proposition, making this a guess-and-hope spot if you choose to bet on a back-and-forth affair.
JAGUARS RUN OFFENSE
Washington has been average against the run this year, ranking 17th in yards allowed per carry while ranking middle of the pack in both rushing and receiving yards allowed to the position. The Redskins have shown an ability to clamp down on the run from time to time against one-dimensional offenses, which creates slim concern for Leonard Fournette — though the workload expectations in this spot should keep his value afloat. Taking away the game in which he got tossed for fighting (21 touches in that game through three quarters before being sent to the showers), Fournette has touch counts since returning from injury of 29 // 30 // 16. The 16 touches, of course, came in last week’s blowout loss, where Fournette still played 55 of a possible 71 snaps, good for his largest snap share since returning. Working against Fournette are an offense that is telegraphing intentions and a pass game role that is low on creativity. Working in Fournette’s favor is the likely old-school nature of this game, with both teams looking to lean on the run in what projects to be a low-scoring affair. It won’t be a surprise if Fournette fails to produce at a level commensurate with his lofty price tag (giving him a lower-than-lovely floor), but he also has the locked-in usage and multi-touchdown role to turn into one of the better plays on the slate if things go right.
I can see the merit to playing Josh Johnson this week, though there are obviously quarterbacks I prefer more. He’s a risk/reward play, with a non-awful shot at 20+ points, but with a roster-wrecking floor if things go poorly in this spot. Quarterback is typically good for guaranteed points from most viable players, so I likely won’t take the risk myself. Elsewhere on the Redskins, Vernon Davis stands out as one of the only remotely appealing low-priced tight ends, though he still carries risk of a low-production game — on the road, with a fourth-string quarterback, in a broken offense.
On the Jags’ side of the ball, it’s Fournette and no one else for me. Fournette would be more attractive with a better, more creatively-schemed offense (I never thought I would say this, but: I wish the Jags would take a page out of the Cowboys’ book — figuring out ways to get Fournette into space in the same way the Cowboys have been using Zeke lately), but the usage keeps his floor fairly solid, while his upside is notable. The last four run defenses that Fournette has faced all rank 13th or better in DVOA. Washington ranks 25th.
Outside of these pieces, I won’t be looking anywhere on these offenses myself. Even with such a strange and ugly slate on tap, there are safer, higher-upside spots than this.