JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When the Jaguars take the field Sunday in the season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, perhaps they can expect two advantages: the heat and the element of surprise.
There are a lot of unknowns at the start of any NFL season, but this year the Jaguars have more unknowns than usual.
A new offensive coordinator. A new quarterback. And very few snaps in preseason games to judge the new unit.
Let's start with the heat. The forecast call for highs in the mid 90s Sunday with a heat index of 104 F expected in the second half. While it can get hot in Kansas City, Florida heat is different, and the Jaguars have been living in it this summer. Particularly, if the Jaguars can establish a running game, the heat could be an ally as the game goes on.
As for the element of surprise, the Jaguars and Chiefs met last October in Kansas City, but back then, quarterback Nick Foles was in Philadelphia, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was in Minnesota and wide receiver Chris Conley was a Chief. Now, they are all key components in the Jaguars offense.
"I think that's one of the things about the first game, you really don't know," Jaguars' head coach Doug Marrone said. "You've got to be prepared for a lot of different things. And it's a fine line between over-preparing and keeping things simple. I think that's what the challenge of the first game is all the time."
The Chiefs have also made some changes, notably on the defensive side of the ball. New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will have as many as seven new regulars including defensive end Frank Clark and safety Tyrann Mathieu. The Chiefs also spent a second-round pick on safety Juan Thornhill.
But the lack of preseason tape on the Jaguars' offense should provide a brief benefit, assuming they can protect Foles and move the ball consistently.
As for the Jaguars defense, we saw some 3-4 looks in the preseason, not unlike the approach occasionally utilized when the Jaguars had Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Campbell and Dante Fowler on the field together early last season.
The Jaguars figure to utilize Josh Allen in the role that Fowler played, but after seeing him dominate the Miami Dolphins in the preseason, the Chiefs will anticipate seeing Allen in more varied roles. The Jaguars' other rookie defensive player of note is linebacker Quincy Williams, who missed all of the preseason games with a knee injury, but who is expected to start at weakside linebacker Sunday.
"Doug came up with some good stuff for him to do to prepare mentally. Mentally, we definitely worked him more than we have other guys in the past," Jaguars' defensive coordinator Todd Wash said. "So, I think he's ready to go. I'm sure there are going to be some rookie mistakes along the way, but at the same time, we feel comfortable with him."