4-8 vs. 4-8
With the Chargers and Jaguars each losing last week, both teams fell to 4-8 on the season. Despite these struggles, the teams remain optimistic and resilient.
"We're going to finish," Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said. "We're going to fight. Football is like life. We've been knocked down, but we're going to get the hell up. It's very important how we finish this season. It says a lot about our character as a coaching staff and a team."
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone echoed a similar sentiment, claiming that these next four games present an opportunity for his players to get a "good taste back in your mouth."
One such player is defensive end Calais Campbell, who said that despite the Jags' record, he will continue to lead by example and build a winning culture.
"This team is so talented and has a chance to be special," Campbell said. "Going forward, it's such a great nucleus of young guys who are going to lead this team for a long time to come… I'm just trying to teach the guys as much as I can and keep sawing wood, because it is hard to win in this league."
The Jaguars average the most penalties per game and rank second-worst in penalty yards per game. Over Jacksonville's previous three matches, all losses, it has racked up 103.3 penalty yards per contest. Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 13, the Jags were called for 16 penalties, their most in regulation in franchise history.
"The hard part is you practice it every day and you just work at it," Campbell said about eliminating penalties. "This year, it's probably one of the biggest culprits for why we haven't succeeded...The biggest thing is telling guys to keep playing football. You don't want them to play scared and not do their jobs, but you have to do it the right way. You have to do it within the rules of the game."
Ten of the Chargers' 12 games this season have been decided by seven points or fewer. In games that close, penalties could play a decisive role.
"We have to find a way to play more disciplined and get our assignments done without committing penalties," Campbell added. "If we do that going forward, we should win a couple ball games."
Jaguars Players and Matchups to Watch
QB Gardner Minshew II
After quarterback Nick Foles was benched in the second half of last week's loss against the Bucs, Marrone announced that Gardner Minshew would be the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season.
"He has the respect of his teammates, he works extremely hard, (and he's) very intelligent," Marrone said. "(It's) a joy being around him...On the field, he gives us some mobility, which I think is important for us right now."
Minshew has 12 fumbles this season, tied for second-most in the league, and has struggled at times while also showing athleticism and productive flashes.
Minshew is a more mobile quarterback than Foles, and ranks sixth in yards rushing among QBs this season.
"For a rookie, (Minshew has) a lot of composure," Lynn said. "Holding the ball, eyes downfield, finding receivers, extending plays-- he's done some really good things for a rookie. It seems like that team is inspired by him when he comes into games. He's their second-leading rusher as well."
The rookie signal caller is tied for 10th in the NFL alongside Philip Rivers with 11.9 yards per pass completion, but his 61.1 percent completion percentage ranks 30th. Although Minshew has been inaccurate at times, he has thrown 14 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
"He plays kinda like backyard football," Campbell said. "You see him run around for seven, eight seconds and throw a touchdown. He's kinda that modern-day quarterback-- super, super-elusive...(and) he has this childlike love for the game."
After being named the starter, Minshew said that he's used his time on the bench to regroup.
"A lot of times when you're playing, there's a million little things you have to focus on," Minshew said. "But when you're out of that role, you can step back and see the little details, and it was a really good experience for me."
Minshew said that, despite being far behind in the wild card standings, the team's focus remains the same.
"I don't think there's ever a time when you're out there thinking 'we have nothing to play for,'" Minshew said. "I'm playing to beat the crap out of the guy across from me, and it doesn't matter whether I'm in practice or in games. I don't need some extra incentive to go out and compete. I think we have a lot of guys who think like that, and we aren't going to mail it in just because we don't have playoff expectations anymore."
RB Melvin Gordon vs. Jaguars Run Defense
Jacksonville's defense has allowed the fifth-most yards rushing, the second-most rushing touchdowns (17) and the second-most yards per carry (5.1).
"Both those backs do a heckuva job," Marrone said. "Melvin, I've always had a ton of respect for him. He can run inside, he can run outside, he's good in the passing game on screens on the perimeter, (and he) breaks tackles. Austin's the same way: explosive and runs real well. Both of those backs will be a challenge for us."
Also, Gordon's yards per rush attempt has increased each game since Week 8, with the running back averaging 89 yards rushing per game during this span, helping the running back reach the 4,000 yards rushing mark in his last game.
While Jacksonville's defensive numbers don't provide a favorable case for the effectiveness of its run defense, Lynn expects the Chargers' running game to be tested, nonetheless.
"I think when teams have issues stopping the run, (it's because) they emphasize different things," Lynn said. "It doesn't mean they aren't good at stopping the run. I think when you're going after the quarterback the way they are right now, you're going to give up some rushes. But when they decide to tighten down the techniques and play the run, they play the run just fine."
RB Leonard Fournette
In his third NFL season, Leonard Fournette comes in not only much improved but as one of the more reliable running backs in the league. He leads the AFC in total yards, ranks seventh in carries and in yards rushing, and he has not fumbled this season. In fact, Fournette has only two fumbles in 33 career professional games, and neither were lost.
Marrone said the biggest difference he's observed in Fournette is his durability.
"Last year, he was injured and missed a bunch of games," Marrone said. "This year, he's been available, coachable, he's gotten a lot of touches, and he's been productive for us. He's our most productive player on offense."
The former fourth overall pick out of LSU also has big-play ability, with six 20-plus-yard rushing plays, which is tied for eighth in the league. After struggling last year with 3.3 yards per carry, Fournette has posted an impressive average of 4.5 thus far in 2019.
WR D.J. Chark Jr.
Jacksonville's No. 1 receiving option this season has been second-year wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr., whose eight receiving touchdowns rank fourth in the NFL.
Marrone mentioned how Chark was "disappointed" with the way his rookie season went and how the wideout put in serious work this offseason.
"He's played really well for us and is a guy who continues to get better every week and continues to make plays," Marrone said. "There's no telling what the ceiling is for him. He's a guy that can run, he has a good catch radius, (and) you can move him around...We're excited about where he is and where he's going."
Like Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams, Chark has a propensity for explosive plays, as the wideout is tied for fourth in the league in 20-plus-yard receiving plays. Consequently, the 6-foot-4 receiver ranks 16th in yards receiving this season.
Sacksonville: DEs Josh Allen, Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue
As defensive end Yannick Ngakoue declared earlier this season, "Sacksonville is back, baby," with the Jags tied for sixth in sacks. Ngakoue is joined by fellow DEs Calais Campbell and rookie Josh Allen, the team's leading trio in sacks, combining for 20.5 through 12 games.
"When you have those three guys and you can put teams behind the chains," Marrone said, "then you feel real good getting after them."
Campbell is a four-time Pro Bowler with 87.0 career sacks, who stands 6-foot-8 and weighs 300 pounds. The massive defensive lineman leads the Jaguars with 19 QB hits and 11 QB knockdowns, also recording 27 pressures this season.
"It's important to pressure the quarterback in this league," Campbell said. "When we do it and do it well, we're a tough team to beat. We always say that you have to earn the right to rush the passer, and then when you do, you make him pay. You make him feel you. We have a very talented group of guys that take turns making plays, and it's been fun just to see the growth of some of the younger guys."
Guys like Allen…
"Josh has been growing before my eyes, just seeing his development and how good he's becoming," Campbell said. "The guy always wants to be better, (and) he's always working on his craft, and it shows...He's a natural playmaker (and) has a nose for the football...He's eager and hungry to learn, so I try to give him everything I've got, and it's fun to see him play well and really show what he can do. He's gonna make a lot of plays in this league."
Allen is the team's sacks leader with nine and also leads in pressures with 36 and in tackles for loss with 10.
Marrone added that Allen's performance has "really just scratched the surface."
"We've played him at multiple positions," Marrone said. We've increased his snaps, (and) his production has remained high for us. Down the road, he'll be one of the better players at his position, and we're really excited about him. He's a heckuva player."
Ngakoue, a 2017 Pro Bowler, has tallied eight tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks this season.
"(Ngakoue) has always been a constant," Marrone said. "He's a guy that works extremely hard every single day. You get everything out of him."
K Josh Lambo
Former Chargers kicker Josh Lambo has found his groove in Jacksonville. Throughout his time with the Bolts, Lambo converted 81.3 percent of his field goal attempts. His efficiency has drastically improved with the Jaguars, as the kicker has only missed four kicks over a three-year span with the team.
"As a coach, when you put him out there, in my mind, I'm thinking he's gonna make every one," Marrone said. "So I never even think twice about it. When you take a step back and look at what's going on around the league and the difficulty that some people are having in the kicking game, all of a sudden you feel fortunate to have someone like Josh."
Lambo is enjoying a career year in 2019, making 25-of-26 field goals this season, which is an NFL-leading conversion percentage. Additionally, his 25 field goals tie him for third in the league, solidifying Lambo's case for a Pro Bowl selection.
The Chargers lead the Jaguars in their all-time head-to-head with a 7-3 record. In these seven wins, the Bolts' average margin of victory is 18.4 points.
The teams have split their six meetings in Jacksonville, with the most recent contest won by the Jags in overtime, 20-17, in 2017. In that game, Austin Ekeler caught two touchdown passes from Rivers and tallied 77 yards receiving.
Jaguars' Last Time Out
In Week 13, the Jaguars dropped a home game to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 28-11, their fourth straight loss. Jacksonville trailed 25-0 at halftime and could not crawl out of this early hole. In the loss, the Jaguars committed four turnovers and rushed for just 49 yards.
At halftime, Marrone made a change at quarterback after Foles committed three turnovers on his first three drives, with each leading to a Buccaneers touchdown. On a positive note, the Jags recorded four sacks and limited the Bucs to 2.4 yards per carry and 74 yards rushing.
- Sunday, Dec. 8, at 1:05 p.m. PT
- TIAA Bank Field (Jacksonville, FL)
- TV: FOX - Dick Stockton (play-by-play), Mark Schlereth (analyst) and Jennifer Hale (sideline)
- Radio (English): KFI-AM 640 - Matt "Money" Smith (play-by-play), Daniel Jeremiah (analyst) and Shannon Farren (sideline)
- Radio (Spanish): KFWB-AM 980 - Mario Solis (play-by-play) and Jorge Villanueva (analyst)
- APP: Chargers Mobile (iOS), Yahoo Sports (Android)
For more information on how to watch the game including the mobile app and live streaming, click here.
Chargers Watch Parties
This week, the official Bolts Watch Party will be at Paragon Bar and Grill in Northridge! Doors open at 12:00 pm ahead of the 1:05 pm kickoff. For more information on this watch party, along with the others that will be held across Southern California, click here.