With the San Diego Chargers scheduled to begin training camp on Thursday, we take a closer look at the team’s opponents for the 2014 regular season.
Fourth up: Jacksonville Jaguars
When: For the third time in four seasons the Chargers face the Jaguars. San Diego will host Jacksonville at Qualcomm Stadium on Sept. 28.
Last season: Under first-year coach Gus Bradley Jacksonville struggled early, but finished 4-4 down the backstretch of the season, posting a 4-12 record in 2013.
All-time series vs. Chargers: San Diego holds a 4-2 edge all time over the Jaguars, and has never lost to them at Qualcomm Stadium.
Last meeting vs. Chargers: San Diego defeated the Jaguars 24-6 on Oct. 20 last year in Jacksonville.
Super Bowl odds: 250-1
Key offseason additions: The migration of players from Seattle to Jacksonville familiar with Bradley’s defensive philosophies continued in 2014, with the Jaguars signing ex-Seahawks defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant in free agency. Jacksonville also signed former Broncos offensive lineman Zane Beadles to beef up the interior offensive line, former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Ziggy Hood and Toby Gerhart from the Minnesota Vikings to serve as the team’s every-down running back. In the draft, Jacksonville’s surprise selection, No. 3 overall pick quarterback Blake Bortles, likely will not see the field if starter Chad Henne plays well. But receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson are expected to make an impact in their rookie seasons.
Key offseason losses: The face of the franchise, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, left in free agency to play for his hometown Oakland Raiders. His backup, Justin Forsett, signed with the Baltimore Ravens. Starting offensive guard Will Rackley also signed with the Ravens in free agency. But the most talented player possibly not returning is receiver Justin Blackmon. The Oklahoma State product continues to deal with off-the-field issues and has been suspended indefinitely for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Blackmon’s availability for 2014 is uncertain.
The skinny: The Jaguars continue the second year of a rebuilding process that appears headed in the right direction. Jacksonville should be better on the defensive side of the ball with the addition of Clemons and Bryant, particularly at stopping the run. Jacksonville allowed 132 rushing yards a contest last season, No. 29 in the NFL.
But for Jacksonville to compete for a playoff spot in the AFC, the offense has to drastically improve. The Jaguars finished last in scoring last season, averaging just 15.4 points a contest. The Chargers dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in last season’s win at Jacksonville. And although the Jaguars are improved, San Diego should handle this team up front again as long as they don’t overlook the Jaguars.