Jaguars at Bengals: 5 storylines to watch in Sunday’s game

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 30: Joe Mixon #28 of the Cincinnati Bengals is wrapped up for a tackle by Devin Bush #55 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first quarter during the game at Heinz Field on September 30, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 30: Joe Mixon #28 of the Cincinnati Bengals is wrapped up for a tackle by Devin Bush #55 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first quarter during the game at Heinz Field on September 30, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

The Cincinnati Bengals are one of two teams in the NFL without a win heading into Week 7, and they’ll try to remove themselves from that distinction Sunday when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jacksonville (2-4) is coming off a 13-6 loss at home against the New Orleans Saints, while the Bengals lost 23-17 at Baltimore last week – one of their four losses by a touchdown or less.

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The Jaguars lead the all-time series 12-9, but the Bengals have won four of the last five meetings, including the most recent one in Cincinnati during the 2014 season. Jacksonville has not won at Paul Brown Stadium since 2002 and the Bengals are 6-4 against the Jaguars at home.

Here are five storylines to watch:

1. No Jalen Ramsey … this week

The Bengals won’t have to face Jalen Ramsey this week, thanks to the Jaguars’ trade that sent him to the L.A. Rams on Tuesday; however, they won’t totally escape him. They will face the All-Pro cornerback when they meet the Rams next weekend in London.

Ramsey had been inactive the last three games because of a back injury and had been requesting a trade since Week 2. He was a full participant in practice Friday in L.A.

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Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton need be more concerned about the Jaguars’ defensive line, which recorded nine sacks in a Week 3 win over the Titans. Jacksonville hasn’t led enough this season to rush the passer effectively every game but when the Jaguars do get opportunities, they have the ability to get pressure on the quarterback.

Jacksonville only has one takeaway this season and no interceptions. Jaguars defensive tackle Calais Campbell was a limited participant in practice Thursday but was full-go Friday and is expected to play.

2. Minshew surprising

Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew has been better than expected as Nick Foles’ backup after he was selected in the sixth round of the April draft, but the Saints showed how to stop him and the Jaguars offense, as they limited Minshew to 163 yards passing and an interception last week.

New Orleans double-teamed second-year wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr. and forced Minshew to work the middle of the field while also containing his mobility with a disciplined pass rush. Minshew had thrown for 374 yards and two touchdowns the week before in a 34-27 loss to Carolina.

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“He was a winner at Washington State,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said when asked how he evaluated Minshew heading into the draft. “That’s important. He’s certainly brought some juice to that team right now, and brought some juice to that fan base. You hear about it all the time, whether you want to or not. It’s all over the place. You need to be weary of those guys. They make plays and they keep things alive. You watch that Carolina game – he really drives them down there and they had three shots at the end zone somehow. All sorts of crazy stuff happened. You think he’s going to make it work at some point. He’s played well. He’s a backup that’s gotten an opportunity, and he’s played well.”

Wide receiver Dede Westbrook is questionable with a shoulder injury.

3. Next man up

The Bengals will be without both starting cornerbacks, as Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) and Will Jackson (shoulder) are both out because of injuries suffered at Baltimore. Fortunately, safety Shawn Williams was a full participant in practice Friday after being limited by a thigh injury the last two weeks, and Darqueze Dennard returned from the Physically Unable to Perform list and was added to the active roster Friday.

Dennard typically plays in the slot but could be used on the outside, which could help prevent big runs on the perimeter that have hurt the Bengals in recent games.

Taylor said he was looking forward to seeing Dennard this week in practices for the first time since he missed all of training camp with a knee injury. Tony McRae likely will see increased playing time as well to help fill the holes at cornerback.

“Lots of teams deal with injuries,” Taylor said. “We’re going to take a great approach to this. I’m really excited to see how some guys step up and respond to that unit and help us there. That’ll be a good opportunity for those guys.”

Defensive end Carlos Dunlap also is doubtful after missing last week’s game with a knee injury, while defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow is back to full-go from a thigh injury.

4. Stopping the run

The Bengals still are the worst team in the league against the run, and Jacksonville boasts a top 11 rushing offense that averages 127.5 yards per game.

Leonard Fournette has 584 yards rushing, and Minshew is capable of moving the ball on the ground when needed.

5. Fast start

The Bengals need a quick start, as they’ve been playing from behind most of the season. That still means getting the running game going as Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard combined for just 14 yards on 12 carries last week.

Cincinnati hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown in the first half since Week 2 against the 49ers, and the offensive line continues to be a mess with injuries and now Cordy Glenn suspended for the game after finally getting back to a full practice for the first time since before the Aug. 15 preseason game when he suffered a concussion.

Jacksonville ranks 25th against the run, allowing 131.2 rushing yards per game, but is tied for 15th with the Bengals for passing defense. The Jaguars give up 21.8 points per game, which is 12th best in the league.


SUNDAY’S GAME

Jaguars at Bengals, 1 p.m., WHIO-TV Ch. 7, Ch. 12; 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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