Bills anticipate physical game with Jaguars

Posted Jan 2, 2018

The first playoff game in 17 years for the Bills will be special in and of itself. But the matchup with the Jaguars is one that pits two teams with a physical style against one another.

Just like the stakes in a playoff game are higher, the intensity of the play will go up a notch Sunday when the Bills take on the Jaguars in their Wild Card playoff game. In a matchup of two teams with similar philosophies, here are the early impressions of Jacksonville from Buffalo’s players and coaches.

The side of the ball that gets the headlines for the Jaguars is the defense. Ranked second in the league, first against the pass, second in sacks, fourth in third down defense and second in points allowed, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison knows the challenge that lies ahead.

“They’re very talented. Obviously, we had Marcell [Dareus] here. Malik [Jackson] was in Denver with me for one year and we played him last year when I was in Denver so I know they’re a very talented defense. They all run and they can put a lot of pressure on the quarterback.

“The corners are good, real good football players. It’s certainly a big challenge, but I think our guys will take to the challenge and we’ll try and find our creases, do what we can, make some first downs and get some points on the board.”

Eric Wood knows Marcell Dareus all too well, having blocked him for the better part of the last six seasons in practice.

“He’s a great player. It’s going to be a tough matchup inside for us and he’ll be going hard given the circumstances,” Wood said. “Their whole defense is good when you look at them. We’ll have our hands full doing all we can blocking them up front.”

As for the Jaguars top-rated pass defense, Dennison sees a group that likes to press outside.

“They’ll match up in man,” he said. “It’s more zone than anything but they’ll match up outside, as far as I’ve seen. I’m not done studying or anything but they’re all very talented. I think their team speed is the thing that’s pretty impressive. There’s a lot of guys around the ball.”

As for their offense, all one needs to know is Jacksonville has the number one rushing offense in football. They roll up more than 140 yards on the ground per game. Leonard Fournette has been the featured back, but he’s a bit nicked up heading into the postseason.

Buffalo defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier calls the Jaguars almost stubborn when it comes to their commitment to running the ball.

“They are persistent in trying to run the football; they’re not going to let you deter them by putting eight guys in the box to discourage them from running the football,” Frazier said. “They’re going to continue to give Leonard Fournette the football and they’ve got some good offensive lineman, good wide receivers as well, but their whole deal is, ‘We’re going to run the football, you know we’re going to run it, now you stop it.’

“We’ve got to find a way to slow them down. That’s really the strength of their offense without question. It’s a good run game obviously and we’ll have our hands full trying to get them stopped.”

Stopping rookie RB Leonard Fournette has proven to be difficult for a lot of teams this season.

“His ability to be able to break tackles, you know, it’s rare that one guy brings him down,” Frazier said. “When you come to tackle him, you better come ready to tackle him, because he will deliver a blow himself. That combination of speed and power, it makes you buckle your chinstrap up and be ready to play.”

That run game has helped Jaguars QB Blake Bortles. It’s taken the pressure off him to deliver on every single play. The Bills just have to hope they can force him into a couple of mistakes.

“You can see [that] he’s making better decisions, he’s showing a little more poise in the pocket and that run game has really helped him as a quarterback. He’s a little but more well-rounded; he’s always been a really good scrambler, has a strong arm, good mobility. His decision making is much better and what they’ve done with the run game has really made their offense a whole lot better.”

Buffalo is currently an eight to nine-point underdog at Jacksonville this weekend, but it doesn’t bother the Bills in the least.

“We’ve been dogs all year. It doesn’t matter at all what Vegas has us at or what the reporters have us at,” said Lorenzo Alexander. “We believe in ourselves and it’s going to be a great matchup. Two great defenses I think. It’s going to be a battle down in Florida this week.”