We are now entering Week 10 of the NFL season and the Jaguars are coming off of a much-needed bye week.
The team is now getting ready for back-to-back home games and the first of those is a big-time matchup against the San Francisco 49ers at EverBank Stadium on Sunday.
The Jaguars are 6-2, currently sitting atop the AFC South and riding a five-game win streak after going 5-0 in the month of October.
The 49ers are also coming off of a much-needed bye week. San Francisco is 5-3 and currently trying to stop a three-game losing skid.
San Francisco has shown some flaws in its last three losses. The team struggled to generate pressure and in coverage. The offense also was only able to score a total of 17 points in all three losses.
Jacksonville is 13-4 over its last 17 games, tied with San Francisco for the second-best record in the league over that span. The only other team with a better record during that time is the Kansas City Chiefs.
Since November of last season, the Jaguars are 3-1 against teams from the NFC.
Before San Francisco’s most recent losing streak, head coach Kyle Shanahan had the team looking like the most complete in the NFL in all phases.
The 49ers hired Shanahan back in 2017 and since then, he has coached the team to several NFC championship games and made a name for himself as one of the league’s best offensive play callers.
Shanahan identified some of the areas that the 49ers need to work on during the bye week.
“We really have to eliminate some of the times we kill ourselves,” Shanahan said. “You don’t ever want to take stuff from other teams because other teams always make it harder. I do feel that the times we’ve struggled, we’ve made some key mistakes that we are capable of not making. We’re the ones that have slowed ourselves down.”
San Francisco’s offense is led by second-year quarterback Brock Purdy out of Iowa State. Purdy won his first seven starts in a row for San Francisco last year and started out on a five-game win streak to begin this season.
Since then, the 49ers and Purdy have dropped three straight and struggled in those showings. Purdy has committed six turnovers in the team’s last three losses.
Purdy met with the media on Thursday and talked about the importance of Sunday’s matchup against Jacksonville.
“It’s huge, we need a win. We need to back to that winning feeling,” Purdy said. “Guys are flying around, we’ve had a good week of practice.”
Purdy says he feels good after the bye week and that it was important both mentally and physically to help the team get ready to focus on the Jacksonville Jaguars.
When Purdy looks at the tape of this Jaguars defense, the one thing that stands out to him is their ability to create turnovers.
“They’re great at creating turnovers,” Purdy said. “Essentially by showing space in their defense before windows tightly close to result in deflected or intercepted passes.”
The Jaguars defense currently leads the league in turnovers with 18.
San Francisco has been without star wide receiver Deebo Samuel for most of the past three losses. Samuel sat out of the team’s losses to the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals in Weeks 7 and 8 after exiting the team’s Week 6 loss to the Cleveland Browns with a shoulder injury.
A CT scan revealed Samuel suffered a hairline fracture of his left shoulder and would miss at least two games. The team plans to reevaluate Samuel after the bye week, but Samuel said he’s “ready to go.”
On Monday, Samuel returned to practice with the team and is expected to be able to give it a go against Jacksonville on Sunday.
No one will be more excited to have Samuel back in the lineup than Purdy. Purdy has struggled the last three games without Samuel.
According to Next Gen Stats, Purdy’s touchdown-to-interception ratio is 8-0 with Samuel on the field this season compared to 4-5 in the three games without him.
Purdy also has a 71.1% completion percentage with Samuel compared to 64.6% without him, and there’s nearly a 40-point difference in his passer rating.
Even without Samuel, Purdy still has plenty of weapons to chose from.
Wideout Brandon Aiyuk Is quietly putting together his best year as one of Purdy’s go-to targets. He has 35 receptions for 620 yards and two touchdowns through eight games this season.
The Jaguars secondary will definitely have its hands full trying to contain the 49ers skill players for four quarters. Jacksonville’s defense has been a big part of its success through eight games. They currently lead the NFL in turnovers with 18 total takeaways.
The 49ers are also very good in the run game.
San Francisco’s offense basically revolves around running back Christian McCaffrey, who currently leads the NFL with 652 yards on 137 attempts and 13 touchdowns.
The 49ers traded for McCaffrey back in October of last year, dealing a second, third, and fourth-round pick in 2023 and a fifth-round choice in 2024 to the Carolina Panthers.
Since then, McCaffrey has also scored at least one TD in every game this season, extending his streak to a record-tying 17 in a row in the regular season and playoffs.
Tight end George Kittle spoke highly of McCaffrey’s work ethic on and off the football field.
“There are not a lot of guys who are as hard on themselves as he is,” Kittle said. “You see him make a mistake and he’s very upset about it. And not like emotionally upset. It’s like, ‘I need to be better than that and my expectations for myself are way too high for that’. And you never see him make the same mistake twice ... Christian is an elite player.”
McCaffrey also has a chance to make some history this weekend in Jacksonville. He is currently tied with Hall of Famer Lenny Moore for the longest streak of consecutive games (including playoffs) with a touchdown with 17.
If he is able to score against Jacksonville on Sunday, he will break that record. He is also just a single game away from tying Marshall Faulk’s record of 15 career games with both a rushing and receiving touchdown.
But McCaffrey doesn’t care about stats and records, he just wants to win. Shanahan talked about the impact McCaffrey has had on the team.
“Just a ton, how good he has been, how dependable he has been, how reliable he has been, how he learns everything, not just the running backs and stuff. It’s really easy to put a lot on his plate, move him around each week,” Shanahan said. “He reminds me of just like a walk-on guy who’s just trying to get people’s attention for working so hard... It’s a really great example of how to be as a football player.”
The offensive line blocking for McCaffrey has been without All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams, who suffered an ankle injury against the Browns and then missed the next two weeks.
Williams didn’t return to practice on Monday but Shanahan expressed optimism that he would return to practice at some point this week.
The Jaguars defense has been playing like an elite run-stopping unit. Jacksonville currently ranks third in average rush yards allowed with 79.3 yards per game.
When it comes to the 49ers defense, Shanahan is making a slight coaching change for this Sunday against the Jaguars.
Shanahan announced on Wednesday that defensive coordinator Steve Wilks will move from calling plays upstairs in the coaching box to being on the field with the players and other coaches.
Shanahan is hopeful the change will result in better communication which is key in making sure everyone is doing their job.
“Just because of some of the stuff you do in the box, all the advantages to it, which are great. But I kind of want him to be down and be near our players a little bit,” Shanahan said. “They’ve had that more just with the linebacker communication in the past, and I want him to be down there so he can talk to guys a little bit more.”
The 49ers defense has struggled during this most recent three game skid and currently ranks 10th in total yards allowed per game.
San Francisco also made a huge move right at the NFL trade deadline to help the defense, brokering a deal with the Washington Commanders for defensive lineman Chase Young in exchange for a third-round 2024 draft pick.
The former second-overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft and AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year will be reunited with fellow Ohio State Buckeye Nick Bosa along San Francisco’s defensive line.
On Monday, 49ers defensive end Randy Gregory talked in the locker room about what Young brings to this team.
“Explosive athlete. Does a lot of things well. There’s a reason why he’s the player he is. He gets after the quarterback, all the things we look for in a defensive lineman. Excited to have him. Young guy. A lot of talent. A sponge,” Gregory said. “You see him out there trying to learn the details of a new position. It’s fun to have him out there.”
Young talked about his reaction when he found out he was being traded to San Francisco.
“I wasn’t mad. Nick is here, always been a big brother to me. Just stepping in here for today, got in here last week, just the culture, the vibe is a lot different,” Young said. “I definitely know that I’m in the building with winners.”
Young is looking forward to playing alongside Bosa once again when the pair take the field against Jacksonville on Sunday.
“Even in college, we never thought that we would be able to play with each other again,” Young said. “I think that it’s going to be just like in college, just a race to the quarterback kind of. It’s going to be real fun, that’s all I know.”
Bosa spoke on Wednesday about the importance of getting back on track this week against Jacksonville.
“We need to get back on track. We need to string together one win,” Bosa said. “We’re not looking ahead. We definitely want to put a good showing out there.”
Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars offensive linemen will need to be playing at their best if they want to be able to move the ball consistently on a 49ers team that plans to be playing like a team on a mission to win.
On Wednesday, Shanahan spoke highly of Lawrence, recalling when the pair went against each other two seasons ago and San Francisco came out on top 31-10.
“I think Trevor is one of the more talented quarterbacks in this league. He’s a problem at any time,” Shanahan said. “The height he has, the size he has in that pocket. He can make any throw and what he can do with his legs on any type of play, whether it’s a design run for him or just getting out of the pocket and doing off-schedule stuff.”