The Jacksonville Jaguars are set to travel out west to take on the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on Sunday for the team's Week 3 matchup. The game is set to take place at 4:05 p.m., airing on CBS.
Jacksonville (1-1) is entering this week on a positive note, still feeling good about their previous victory against the Indianapolis Colts. The team pitched a shutout, winning 24-0. The Chargers (1-1), on the other hand, are coming off of a tough loss against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night Football.
Traveling to the West Coast, the Jaguars have won just 3 out of 18 total contests against the Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders, Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers.
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Their three victories have come against the Raiders, including their most recent West Coast win in 2019, the final game in Oakland.
Now, the team is set to face its toughest challenge of the season against one of the AFC's top teams. The Chargers entered the year as a potential Super Bowl contender, and for good reason after barely missing the playoffs in 2021 when the team finished 9-8 after starting 4-1 on the year.
Sunday could be a benchmark game for the Jaguars, to find out if they're legitimate or still a ways from reaching the top.
Jaguars operating with a 'so what, now what?' mentality
The Jaguars made a statement last week in their first bout within the AFC South by shutting out the Colts. But just because the team had a productive day and victory doesn't mean that they are satisfied. That's part of the team's mentality under head coach Doug Pederson.
“It’s that ‘So what, now what?’ mentality," Pederson said on Monday when asked about the team's ability to not just win, but to keep winning.
#Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson says that DL Arden Key stood up after the win on Sunday and reeled in players, making sure they know it’s a 24-hour rule. He said:
“We’ll enjoy this win 24 hours as a team and … but on Monday it’s onto the next.” pic.twitter.com/eAeFMuVBTh
— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) September 21, 2022
"We don’t really care. Wins are great, and they’re hard to come by in this league, and we like them, but again, it’s my job to make sure that the goals and ambitions and things we’re trying to get done stay in front of the football team. Keep pushing the team to get better."
That mantra is part of Pederson's challenge to the team to continue getting better, his challenge to himself and the coaches to find ways to improve. It's a long season, he said. "It’s just one game, but we’ve got a long way to go.”
Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence was asked about the mentality on Wednesday, reiterating what Pederson mentioned in the days prior. He understands, even in his second year, that it's a long season and they have plenty of games in front of them.
#Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence was asked about the team’s “so what, now what?” Mentality in Wednesday.
“By lunchtime on Monday, you’re past it and you’re moving onto the next week.”
It’s a very week-by-week approach in Jacksonville this season. pic.twitter.com/xXj3GsMu7e
— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) September 24, 2022
"You take a lot of confidence from how we played," Lawrence said. "That’s the goal, but at the end of the day, we’ve got another game coming up this week, and by lunchtime on Monday, you’re past it, and you’re moving on to the next week. That’s how we approach it.”
That sort of mentality was carried into the Jaguars' locker room this week. During media access following practice, multiple Jaguars players wanted to move on, not even talk about the team's victory from the prior Sunday. The little things are what separate good teams from bad, and Jacksonville is looking to get ahead as they press forward to Los Angeles this weekend.
Opportunity awaits in AFC South
It's far too early to make late-season predictions about where the Jaguars' division will fall. The Tennessee Titans (0-2), Houston Texans (0-1-1) and Indianapolis Colts (0-1-1) all sit winless, while the Jaguars already hold an advantage within the division by virtue of being 1-0 in AFC South play.
This weekend's opponents for the rest of the division don't look promising for the team's rivals, either. The Titans will play host to the hungry Las Vegas Raiders (0-2), while the Texans will travel to Chicago to take on the Bears (1-1) and the Colts take on the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) at home.
If the matchups come out as Vegas odds currently have them set, with all three AFC South teams as underdogs, Jacksonville has a chance to be two games ahead in the division, with some much-needed breathing room heading into the second quarter of the season.
Justin Herbert, Shaq Griffin injuries loom
Though he was injured over a week ago, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert's injury was the talk of the media throughout the week leading up to the team's matchup on Sunday. That's because of the QBs hip cartilage fracture suffered against the Chiefs.
Herbert practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday while being held out of practice entirely on Friday leading to his questionable status as of the end of this week. Afterward, Herbert told reporters that it will likely be a game-time decision of whether or not he will play.
“I don’t know,” Herbert told reporters on Friday when asked if he would be playing. “That’s a decision we’ve got a couple of days left to make. We don’t play today, and so we play on Sunday. Whatever the plan is, I know our team is going to be prepared and do everything we can. That decision will be made on Sunday. Haven’t ruled anything out.”
If Herbert is out, 14-year veteran QB Chase Daniel will start in his place. Daniel received a large sum of the team's first-team reps, according to reports, throughout the week with Herbert partially or completely sidelined.
Daniel has played just one snap against the Jaguars in his career. It came on a victory-formation play against Jacksonville in 2013 when the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Jaguars 28-2. Daniel was the team's backup QB that season.
Remaining Chargers injuries:
WR Keenan Allen (hamstring) — questionable
TE Doland Parham Jr. (hamstring) — questionable
RT Trey Pipkins III (foot) — questionable
CB J.C. Jackson (ankle) — doubtful
C Corey Linsley (knee) — doubtful
For the Jaguars, the team entered the week as the healthiest in the league with no injuries to report since the team's loss against the Washington Commanders.
On Friday, though, the team listed cornerback Shaq Griffin as questionable due to a hip injury. Griffin practiced on a limited basis Friday and it is unknown if he will suit up on Sunday.
Jaguars defensive line could be an x-factor against Chargers, Ekeler
There's no question that the Jaguars invested heavily in its defensive line this year.
The team selected outside linebacker Travon Walker with the first-overall pick signed defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi to a major deal in March and made sure to reinforce its line by bringing in pass-rusher Arden Key and bringing back veteran Adam Gotsis to go along with the players already there.
Through two weeks, the defensive line appears to be one of the team's strongest groups on the team, something that will pay dividends against the Chargers, especially if they're without some of their key players, including two starters on the offensive line.
Gotsis, who re-signed with the team earlier this spring, is one of the more experienced players on the team's d-line. He's started 46 games in his career, including 18 in Jacksonville over the past three seasons.
On Sunday against the Colts, Gotsis was one of the team's most-efficient players. He posted a sack and three quarterback hits in just 12 defensive snaps.
"I think in our room, everyone in our room can start on the d-line in the league if they haven't [already] before," Gotsis told the Times-Union after practice on Wednesday.
"So you know, to be able to have that depth and everyone be at that level where there's no drop-off... if Roy [Robertson-Harris] comes out the game and [Dawaune] Smoot goes in if I come in the game and Foley [Fatukasi] or D-Ham (DaVon Hamilton) is out ... whoever we're putting in, there's just no a drop-off, whether it's affecting the quarterback or stopping on the run.
"So that's what we're trying to build here."
Though Herbert's status is unknown, the Jaguars will have to be able to handle stopping the run against Chargers running back Austin Ekeler. Though he hasn't had much success thus far this season, Ekeler is one of the more dangerous dual-threat backs in the league.
In his career, he averaged 4.5 yards per carry and 9.5 yards per reception since 2017.
“It’s a challenge. You’ve got to stay disciplined, within the scheme, and really, when you can tackle him, tackle him and get him down. He’s a little slippery. He’s physical and strong and he can break some arm tackles ," Pederson said when asked about Ekeler on Friday.
"Guys like that can be hard because you can also throw them the ball, screen to them. It makes it a challenge, but I think it’s a great opportunity for our young linebackers really to go against a good back like this.”
Lawrence has an opportunity to match up with Peyton Manning, in perhaps one of the most interesting ways possible. Since being selected, Lawrence has lost nine straight away games, including the team's Week 1 loss to the Washington Commanders.
Interesting note from @NFLResearch
Trevor Lawrence is 0-9 on the road. He will try to get his first road win Sunday against the Chargers.
The only QB to lose his first 9 road starts and win his 10th? Peyton Manning, who beat the #Chargers in Week 3 of his 2nd season.
— Bridget Condon (@BridgetCondon_) September 21, 2022
Discovered by NFL Network's Bridget Condon via the NFL Research team, Lawrence's matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers will mirror that of Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning's career. In Week 3 of Manning's second season, he also faced off against the Chargers. Manning entered that week having lost nine straight away games.
He earned his first victory against the Chargers, perhaps Lawrence will do.
Jaguars vs. Chargers
Time: 4:05 p.m.
Where: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, Calif.
Radio: 1010XL, 92.5 FM
Demetrius Harvey is the Jacksonville Jaguars reporter for the Florida Times-Union. You can follow him on Twitter at @Demetrius82.
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Previewing the Jaguars' matchup against Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday