Jaguars expect ‘different outcome’ against Philip Rivers
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars have been no match for Philip Rivers over the years.
The Los Angeles Chargers quarterback has torched Jacksonville’s defense routinely, including each of the last four years. Rivers even has better passing numbers against the Jaguars than New England’s Tom Brady, who is 7-0 against Jacksonville with 17 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Rivers has downright ruled the team from the River City.
The 14th-year pro has completed 74.6 percent of his passes for 1,810 yards, with 18 touchdowns and two interceptions while winning six straight against Jacksonville. He’s also been sacked just nine times.
“We’re preparing for it to be different,” linebacker Telvin Smith said.
The Jaguars (5-3) are counting on more success when they host Rivers and the Chargers (3-5) on Sunday. Although former coach Gus Bradley’s return to Jacksonville 11 months after he was fired will get plenty of attention, the Jaguars are focused on Rivers.
And rightfully so. He has 15 touchdown passes and no interceptions in the last five games against Jacksonville.
“Great player, a Hall of Fame player, but this is a new defense with new players and we’ve got a new swagger to us right now,” cornerback Aaron Colvin said. “It will be a different outcome.”
Both teams have won three of their last four games. Jacksonville is looking for its first three-game winning streak since 2013.
Defense has been one of the biggest reasons for the franchise’s turnaround. The Jaguars lead the league in scoring defense (14.6 points), passing defense (156.4 yards) and sacks (35).
Veteran Calais Campbell (11 sacks) has been the NFL’s top free-agent acquisition, with cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Barry Church not far behind. And trash-talking cornerback Jalen Ramsey has shown the ability to take receivers out of games.
Rivers has noticed Jacksonville’s defensive rise.
“It’s just a matter of sticking with the scheme and what they do, believing in it, and then they’ve added some pieces over the years,” Rivers said. “This is certainly the best group of guys they’ve had together. They’re playing really well, they’re playing with a lot of confidence and they’re playing fast.
“Definitely this seems to be the best Jacksonville defense we’ve played, but it’s been trending in that direction the last few years.”
Reversing the other trend — Rivers’ recent run of success — is all the Jaguars care about this week.
“We’re coming for our respect,” Colvin said. “It’s another opportunity to show how good we really are. Until we’re at the top of the mountain with no questions asked, then we won’t have the respect we deserve.”
Some other things to know about the Chargers and Jaguars, who are playing for the fifth consecutive year:
BRADLEY RETURNS: Bradley has no idea what kind of reception he will get in his return to Jacksonville. The Jaguars fired Bradley nearly 11 months ago, parting ways with the gregarious head coach following a nine-game losing streak that capped one of the least successful coaching tenures in NFL history. Jacksonville won 14 of 62 games during Bradley’s four seasons.
Bradley’s wife and four children still live in the area, so they will be at the game. Bradley will have plenty of support on the opposite sideline, too.
“Obviously, I wish him nothing but the best of luck in every game except for this one, and he feels the same way,” said Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash, one of Bradley’s closest friends.
SIMILAR STYLES: With Bradley having been at both teams in the last year, the defenses play similar schemes with compatible terminology. They are so close that linebacker Hayes Pullard was released by Jacksonville in final cuts and now leads Los Angeles in tackles.
The Chargers rank seventh in scoring defense, allowing 19 points a game, and are built around pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. The Jaguars have allowed the fewest points in the NFL.
“It helps us because we go against it all the time,” Jaguars offensively coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “It’s a hell of a scheme. There are some weaknesses in it, but those are hard to expose.”
RAMSEY ISLAND: Ramsey coined a new phrase this week — “Ramsey Island” — following his ejection for instigating a fight with Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green. It’s an ode to “Revis Island” that was part of former New York Jets star Darrelle Revis’ lore.
“Jalen has confidence, there’s no doubt,” Wash said. “To play that position in this league, you better have confidence. Some of the wideouts he has to line up across from, you better have confidence. ... He’s going to continue to be Jalen, and I hope he never changes.”