Two more teams have made the trip across the pond to take part in the NFL International Series at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday to play in front of a packed-out crowd full of passionate football fans. This game is extra special because it involves possibly the two most supported franchises in the UK, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Miami Dolphins. Both teams are in absolute desperation mode however and look poor with a tonne of inexperienced players making up the roster, but that doesn’t matter to the average UK fan as any chance to watch the game live over here is a godsend.
There are a few interesting stories to look out for, one being the two exciting young quarterbacks on show. The last time they fought it out was in the 2018 National Championship game at Levi’s Stadium. Trevor Lawrence’s Clemson came out victorious over Tua Tagovailoa’s Alabama that day, his Jaguars will be looking to do the same to the Dolphins on Sunday afternoon. We’ll also see exciting speedsters in Laviska Shenault and Jaylen Waddle who can also extend a play impressively with great run after catch ability.
Tua’s return versus his college rival
The most intriguing players on these two teams are their two young quarterbacks. Tua Tagovailoa has had a difficult start to his NFL career, being benched and injured twice in eleven games, but has the leadership qualities, timing, and accuracy to succeed in the league. But right now, that’s it. Trevor Lawrence on the other hand was Jacksonville’s number 1 overall pick this year, he’s looking to finally be the guy the Jags have been looking for to transform the franchise. The ex-Clemson Tiger has been the opposite to Tua in his young career, a bit too aggressive, it’ll be interesting to see how the two styles compare on Sunday.
The Dolphins welcome back Tagovailoa this week after missing practically 4 games due to fracturing his ribs in the 1st quarter against Buffalo in Week 2. They’ve missed him big time and haven’t won since. The Miami offense is based around the RPO, something their backup Jacoby Brissett isn’t an expert of. Because of that, the Fins have been a mess on O, not least because of the three voices in the QB’s ear, but also due to the limited playbook that Jacoby was running. Tua’s return should open the game plan up a bit more and hopefully get the likes of Mike Gesicki and Myles Gaskin involved. These next few games are vital for Tua to prove he can be a guy, as he’s shown flashes, but not enough for my liking.
Trevor Lawrence is your typical NFL quarterback, strong arm, accurate, and tall. The ideal combination to succeed in the NFL. He’s had a rough start, throwing 8 interceptions in 5 games, but that’s just what rookies do. He’s shown that he’s got what it takes to have a great career in the NFL, and is getting better every game. Once the game slows down I’m sure he’ll be up there with the likes of Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes. The only problem is the fact he’s in one of the most dysfunctional organisations in the NFL and has Urban Meyer as a head coach. More on him later.
Miami has big issues
It’s no secret that these two teams suck. Both have pieces, but nothing worthy of making a playoff run at this moment in time. Last season the Dolphins won ugly, a lot, and got a turnover in every single game, relying on them to score points. This year they’ve been kind of found out and haven’t changed their approach. Because of that, they’re 1-4. Coming into the year Miami had a tonne of ambition after posting a winning record last season (10-6) but failed to address two of their biggest issues. This team cannot stop the run whatsoever and hasn’t been able to at all under the Flores/Grier regime. They also cannot pass block for their life.
These two issues are contributing to the failure of the rest of the team. In fact they got rid of two leaders in those units in the offseason (Ereck Flowers and Kyle Van Noy) for practically nothing. Admittedly the skill players are good, but the offense cannot get going without an at least average line. There’s not enough time to get the ball in the playmakers hands, and because of that the team rank 30th in passing yards. Luckily for Miami a lot of their rookies are playing big roles already. Jaelan Phillips was a standout player against Tampa Bay, whilst Liam Eichenberg could be the team’s best lineman. Jevon Holland and Jaylen Waddle have got crucial roles already too. Another bright spark is the defensive line play, Zach Sieler and Raekwon Davis are studs, whilst Emmanuel Ogbah and Christian Wilkins are 7th and 8th ranked in their positions by PFF.
Urban Meyer’s Jags are a mess
Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer seems to be struggling to adapt to the NFL, which is hardly surprising because of how different college is to the NFL. There’s so much more to being an NFL HC than a college HC, which is why many fail to make the transition. But Meyer’s effort is looking much worse than others. According to FOX News the former Ohio State and Florida boss has never had the support of the locker room. However true that is, he certainly doesn’t have it now. It’s totally irresponsible for someone with that power and responsibility to be caught on camera doing what he was doing, let alone not travel back with the team after a game. I’m sure Meyer’s glad he’s no longer the #1 news story in the league after the Jon Gruden email saga came to light. Now it’s all about gaining back trust, however unlikely it seems.
One bright spark for Jacksonville is their superstar running back James Robinson. The second-year back is averaging 5.8 yards per carry, which puts him joint 3rd with Nick Chubb (for players with more than 50 attempts). So far this year Robinson has totalled 387 yards on the ground, and 4 TDs. Laviska Shenault is starting to make plays more consistently in his second year too. He leads the team with 252 yards. Dan Arnold has already developed some chemistry with Lawrence after their trade with Carolina, he’s a big addition to a weak offense. Defensively, the Jaguars will be without former All-Pro linebacker Myles Jack, who will be a big miss as he leads the team in tackles.
This game could be a shootout, both teams are down key defensive players in Xavien Howard and Myles Jack, so their replacements will be targeted often. One battle I’m intrigued to look out for is the matchup between one of the worst defensive lines in the league (JAX) against the Dolphins dreadful offensive line. Last week I predicted Zach Wilson to become the first rookie quarterback to win a game in London, and that didn’t happen. I’m not doing that again, I’m picking the Dolphins to win. but not by much.
Miami 28, Jacksonville 25