There will be a ton of connections when the Jacksonville Jaguars welcome the Oakland Raiders to EverBank Field on Sunday. Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio got his first NFL head coaching job with the Jaguars in 2003. He was also the last coach to take Jacksonville to the playoffs in 2007.
The team that Del Rio now leads in Oakland is very similar to the current Jaguars roster. Both franchises selected quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL Draft. Blake Bortles went third overall to the Jaguars and the Raiders selected Derek Carr in the second round (No. 36 overall).
Thanks to their young signal callers both teams entered the 2016 season with high expectations. At 4-2 the Raiders are in first place in the AFC West. After losing three straight to open the season the Jaguars have responded by winning back-to-back games to improve their record to 2-3.
“It’s one of those things where we’ll always be tied together because we’re in the same class,” said Bortles. “Derek is an awesome guy and an awesome quarterback and he’s been doing a really good job. I’m also really good friends with running back Latavius Murray that I played with in college (UCF). So I get a chance to watch them when I can and check up to see how they’re doing. I have a relationship with Derek as well. I always root for those guys to do well, obviously until we play them.”
In addition to Carr and Murray the Raiders also have one of the best young wide receivers in the NFL in Amari Cooper. That trio reminds the Jaguars of what they see every day in practice when facing Bortles, T.J. Yeldon, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.
“They have a lot of similarities,” said Jaguars cornerback Aaron Colvin. “They have a young but very talented offense. I know Derek (Carr) a little bit. I know his work ethic and how he approaches the game. We know that we’re going to have to be on our A-game in order to come away with a win.”
Through five games the Jaguars have faced some big-time wide receivers (Jordy Nelson, Steve Smith Sr., T.Y. Hilton and Alshon Jeffrey). But in preparing for Oakland they’ll likely face the best wide receiver tandem they’ve seen all season. In addition to Cooper, Michael Crabtree is coming off a season where he caught nine touchdowns for 922 yards. Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash saw Crabtree twice a year when he was on the defensive staff for the Seattle Seahawks.
“They’re obviously very good,” said Wash. “Coop (Amari Cooper) and Crabtree (Michael) are tough. We played Crabtree when he was on the 49ers quite a few times. Their young backs are doing well. We don’t know if their starting tailback (Latavius Murray) will be back. Carr is special. He can avoid the rush, he can throw the deep ball and he’s got good touch on mid-range balls. We’re going to have our work cut out for this offense.”
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