JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars open the 2018 season Sunday on the road against the Giants. After the trip to the Meadowlands, Jacksonville returns home for the next three games. All eyes will be on the Jalen Ramsey-Odell Beckham Jr. matchup, but that will be only part of the story. Here are four keys for the Jaguars Sunday:
Establish the run-Leonard Fournette is entering his second season in the NFL. He lost 15 pounds in the offseason in an effort to make more tacklers miss in 2018. The Jaguars spent big in free agency on left guard Andrew Norwell to strengthen the offensive line. After leading the NFL in rushing in 2017, the Jaguars will once again rely on the ground game to lead the offense. Expect T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant to be utilized as well, but Fournette will be the bell cow. If the Jaguars can establish the run early, they can take pressure off the passing game.
Turnovers-Last season, the Jaguars forced 35 turnovers, an average of nearly two per game. It wasn't just the number of turnovers that changed games, but what the team did with them. During the regular season, seven turnovers were returned for touchdowns. A defensive score can turn a game. Taking care of the football on the offensive side has been the top priority for Blake Bortles and company.
Sacksonville picks up where it left off-Last year, the Jaguars totaled 55 sacks, second most in the NFL. They opened the season with 10 sacks in Houston, one of two games with double-digit sacks. The defense will be without Dante Fowler, suspended for the opener for an off-field incident from last offseason, so expect to see Lerentee McCray get some snaps as a pass rusher, but Yannick Ngakoue will have to carry the load at the defensive end position.
Rookie contributions-The Jaguars expect to get contributions from several rookies this year. Defensive lineman Taven Bryan, wide receiver DJ Chark, safety Ronnie Harrison and linebacker Leon Jacobs, who will start at strong-side linebacker. Keep an eye on how the rookies respond on opening day in the biggest media market in the league.
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