INDIANAPOLIS – A capsule look at the Colts' opponent this week, the Jacksonville Jaguars of the AFC South.
Synopsis: Following a week nine loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the Indianapolis Colts will host to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first meeting of the season between the AFC South rivals. The Colts have established an 8-2 all-time record over the Jaguars at home, and hold the edge in the all-time regular season series, 15-5.
Despite owning a significant edge in the overall series, the teams have been involved in a number of close battles over the past few seasons. The average margin of victory in the last seven matchups between Jacksonville and Indianapolis is a mere 4.4 points, and Sunday's contest has the potential to be just as tight.
Coupled with the intensity of this already exciting rivalry, Indianapolis will be tasked with the challenge of earning its first victory of the season against a revamped Jacksonville defense.
A number of additions along the defensive side of the ball have allowed the Jaguars to earn a spot near the top of the NFL's best defenses. Surrendering just 307 yards per game, Jacksonville ranks fifth in the NFL in overall defense and tied for eighth in points per game allowed (20.4).
Although NFL teams were faced with a shortened offseason Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith acquired several veteran free agents, and the unit has hit the ground running.
"I think you have guys who have come in who clearly in a short period of time have earned the respect of their teammates by how they approach their profession," said Smith. "You have some gym-rat mentalities, guys who work at their craft."
Among the notable additions prior to the 2011 season were defensive end Matt Roth, linebackers Paul Posluszny and Clint Session, safety Dawan Landry and cornerback Drew Coleman.
The newly acquired free agents understood the test that awaited them heading into the season, but they would not let a shortened offseason become an excuse.
"A lot was asked of us in a short time, with such an off-season and missing the first part of camp," said Drew Coleman. "We pulled together and watched film. We knew what our role was going to be, and we just wanted to put our best foot forward."
Indianapolis also has faced its fair share of personnel changes along the offensive side of the ball but unlike Jacksonville, the Colts are being forced to cope with these changes during the season.
Injuries along the offensive line have required Indianapolis to use six different starting combinations through nine games. However, the unit has continued to open holes for running backs, as the Colts average 100 yards per game on the ground. Indianapolis has controlled the ball and average of 24:36 each game. The offensive line has also limited opponents to just 16 sacks, which ranks 10th in the NFL for fewest sacks allowed.
Jacksonville enters Sunday's game touting its own accomplishments up front, as they have paved the way for the NFL's 13th-rated rushing attack.
The Colts have faced a number of talented running backs this season, and middle linebacker Pat Angerer knows the Colts face another difficult test on Sunday.
"(Michael) Turner, he's a big dude," Angerer said of the Atlanta back he encountered last Sunday. "I didn't realize how big he was until I was trying to tackle him. (Maurice Jones-Drew is) the same kind of guy. He's a little bit shorter, but his legs are like tree trunks, and he'll be a tough, tough guy to tackle."
Jones-Drew leads the way for the Jaguars offense, and he will look to build upon his success against the Colts on Sunday.
Jones-Drew has faced the Colts 10 times in his career, and has accumulated 929 yards and eight touchdowns on 180 carries against Indianapolis. However, the Colts were able to limit Jones-Drew to 46 yards rushing in the last meeting between the teams, and Indianapolis holds a 7-3 record in games in which Jones-Drew has participated.
Sunday's matchup against Jacksonville will provide another opportunity for Indianapolis to grab its first victory of the 2011 season. Despite both teams' struggles through the first half of the season, the Colts will look at this opponent and opportunity just as they would any other.
"Every game that you play, you think you're going to win," said Angerer. "You go into it knowing that you're capable of winning, and every game there is a chance of winning. They're a good team. I think that they've got a great running back (Maurice Jones-Drew), obviously, and they're going to try to pound it on you. We'll have to play real hard to stop him."
*2011 Record: *2-6, Third in AFC South.
*Head Coach: *Jack Del Rio, 9th season as Jaguars and NFL Head Coach (67-69).
*Last game: *Prior to a week nine bye, Jacksonville fell to the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 63 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries to pace the offense, and the Jaguars defense forced two fumbles. However, the Texans were able to pull away in the second half, breaking open a 7-7 tie at halftime to win, 24-14.
*2011 NFL Rankings: *Offense – Overall, 32nd (242.6); Rushing, Tied-13th (119.0); Passing, 32nd (123.6); Defense – Overall, 5th (307.0); Rushing, Tied-11th (110.0); Passing, 8th (197.0).
*2011 Leading Passer: *Blaine Gabbert (79-173 comp., 907 yards, 45.7 pct., 5 TDs, 4 INTs, 62.0 rating).
*2011 Leading Rusher: *Maurice Jones-Drew (166 carries, 740 yards, 3 TDs).
*2011 Leading Receiver: *Mike Thomas (31 receptions, 333 yards, 1 TD).
2011 Leading Sacker: Matt Roth (3.0).
2011 Turnover Breakdown: -2 (Tied-19th).
First-round draft choice: Blaine Gabbert, quarterback. With the 10th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Blaine Gabbert out of the University of Missouri. Gabbert received All-Big 12 honors in 2009 and 2010, and was named to the Davey O'Brien and Manning Awards watch list in 2010. In his final season at Missouri he threw for 3,186 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
*2010 Review: *Heading into week 15 at 8-5, the Jaguars found themselves in control of their own AFC South destiny. Following back-to-back victories over the Titans and Raiders the team would drop its final three games of the season, two of which were to AFC South foes. Jacksonville finished 8-8 on the season, and elected to select the team's quarterback of the future in Blaine Gabbert with the 10th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Last time in Playoffs: L, 31-20 at New England (2007).
*Last time in Super Bowl: *None.
*Super Bowl Championships: *None.
*2010 Pro Bowl Selections: *Maurice Jones-Drew RB, Marcedes Lewis TE, Montell Owens ST.
Quotable I: On the additions to the defensive side of the ball:
"All the guys who we brought in play similarly. We are guys who play fast and like to run to the ball, and get into a lot of plays, a lot of contact. I think that's why it was a fit for most of us. When I was with the Ravens, I saw the Jaguars' defense flying around and I said, 'Man, that looks like the Ravens.' "
--- Jaguars Safety Dawan Landry
Quotable II: On the play of rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert:
"I think Blaine has handled himself very well. He hasn't wavered. His mindset has been to come out and make plays, make the throws. His passion is still there from my eyes. When he misses a throw, he cusses himself out. He's been like that since day one."
--- Jaguars Wide Receiver Mike Thomas