Run-first Jets looking for 'identity game' against Jaguars
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — New York Jets left tackle Kelvin Beachum calls Sunday's visit to Jacksonville an "identity game."
"We have to be able to run the ball," Beachum said. "They know that and we know that."
The Jaguars (2-1) actually welcome it after what happened in the fourth quarter last week.
"We want them to try it," Jacksonville linebacker Telvin Smith said. "Try that. Try to come out and hit in us in the mouth. Try to come out and run it down our throats. ... Try whatever you want to do against us."
The Titans pretty much did, at least late. Bruising running back Derrick Henry gained 45 of his 57 yards behind "heavy personnel" in the fourth quarter. Tennessee took advantage of sweltering heat and humidity and essentially beat the Jags at their own game and in their own backyard.
Jacksonville's defense will try to redeem itself against the Jets (1-2), who have one of the top rushing tandems in the league. Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell have combined for 310 yards and four touchdowns in three games.
"Those backs together are a deadly combination," Jaguars defensive tackle Calais Campbell said. "They are special. I'm a big fan of football, and I think Crowell and Powell are two of the most underrated players. People don't talk about them, but they're great running backs."
The Jets also torched Jacksonville on the ground in last season's Week 4 matchup, which New York won 23-20 in overtime.
Powell rushed for a career-high 163 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown in which the Jaguars failed to touch him down, and rookie Elijah McGuire added a 69-yard scoring run. New York finished with 256 yards rushing.
"It's definitely going to be a good challenge for us up front," Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson said.
With rookie quarterback Sam Darnold making his fourth start and going against Jacksonville's vaunted defensive front, it makes sense that the Jets would try to establish the run. Throw in that the Jaguars have looked vulnerable to ground attacks — rookie Saquon Barkley ran for 106 yards, including a 68-yard TD run in the fourth — and New York would be silly to do anything else.
"Because they're good doesn't mean you're not going to challenge them," Jets coach Todd Bowles said. "We feel like we have good players, too, and we're going to challenge them and do the things we need to do to win the ballgame. Understandably, every week you're going to have to go through good players to try to win the ballgame, and that's what we have to do. You can't shy away from them. You have to do your job better than they do their job."
Here are some other things to know about the Jets and Jaguars:
Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette is expected to return after missing the last two games because of a strained right hamstring. Fournette ran nine times for 41 yards in first half of the season opener against the Giants, but has been sidelined since.
He practiced on a limited basis all week.
Quincy Enunwa has quickly established himself as Darnold's favorite target.
Through three games, the receiver has seen 29 passes come his way, and has a team-leading 17 catches for 212 yards and a touchdown. The next-closest receiver is Terrelle Pryor, who has been targeted just 14 times with eight catches for 158 yards. Robby Anderson has 10 targets with six receptions for 90 yards.
"I'm just going to put the ball in the receiver's hands who is open," Darnold said. "That's my job, is to find the guy who is open, whether it's a running back, receiver or tight end."
The Jaguars will try to reduce their number of penalties. They have been flagged 26 times for 265 yards.
"Obviously, it is hurting our football team," coach Doug Marrone said. "We are not a team that is built to overcome long situations. We keep talking about it. We keep stressing it."
The Jets have 23 quarterback hits, according to Radar360, a mark that ties them with Minnesota for the fourth most in the NFL.
They also have eight sacks, tying them for 10th in the league. New York has four sacks in each of the last two games, the first time they have that many in consecutive games since 2015.
Despite that success, defensive end Leonard Williams has yet to get a sack — and he registered no statistics against Cleveland.
"I thought Leonard played well," Bowles said. "He took the pressure off the other guys. They sent two or three guys at him almost every other play. But Leonard caused a lot of other people to make plays and that doesn't show up on the stat sheet. I'm happy with what he did."
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