Editor's Note: Dan Turner spent some time at training camp in Oxnard this past summer and has been a guest on "Talkin' Cowboys" to share his stories and opinions from London. Dan (@dtsturner) has been contributing to DallasCowboys.com this week while the Cowboys are in London to play Jacksonville Sunday Wembley Stadium (Noon, CST).
LONDON- The Jaguars are 1-8, the Cowboys are 6-3.
Sen'Derrick Marks is the best Jacksonville player. The Cowboys have at least 10 players who are better than him.
The Jaguars have given up a home game to come to Wembley, and yet, it's the Cowboys who are attracting all the attention over here.
Don't count these Jags out though.
The Jaguars are a young team. They have already started eight different rookies on offense alone so far this season, and Telvin Smith on defense looks like the biggest steal of the 2014 draft. Gus Bradley knows he'll be the Jaguars head coach for the foreseeable future, so he's trying to build a team. He has his young franchise quarterback in Blake Bortles, young weapons for Bortles to grow up with, and a young offensive line.
What you will see from the Jaguars is mass inconsistency, bad decisions, and drops from the receivers. What you will also see is significant play-making ability, energy, and elusive receivers and running backs.
From what I've seen in practice this week so far, the Cowboys are playing a lot of 'Cover 1', with a single high safety. They seemingly want Bortles to take shots downfield and increase on the league high 13 interceptions of his.
This is a risky move though, as Dallas have been susceptible to giving up big plays this season so far. If these fast Jaguars receivers can get some separation against our cornerbacks, the only safety blanket you have then is JJ Wilcox or Barry Church. I can understand why the Cowboys are doing this, as they're a turnover driven defense, but Bortles has the arm and the confidence to beat our defense. He's so good at progressing through his reads, that if a guy is open, he'll see him. Bortles is a poor man's Andrew Lucks, but I don't mean that in a derogatory way at all.
The Jaguars rushing attack could also pose issues. The Cowboys have struggled a little against speed backs this season so far. Andre Ellington ran the ball easily last week, and even Dexter McCluster put the Cowboys defense on skates in week 2. Denard Robinson is faster than both of them. For a smaller back, Robinson has no fear of running up the middle. This is likely a reason why the Cowboys want to play 'Cover 1', as they want either Church or Wilcox to stop the run. Rolando McClain has struggled against shiftier backs, so it may be a blessing in disguise that he will likely miss the game on Sunday.
Even the Jaguars offensive line is improving. They had serious issues to start of the year, epitomised by allowing 10 sacks to Washington. Again though, they are a young group. On the interior, Zane Beadles performs at a high level, and it's likely his experience that has helped improve rookies Brandon Linder and Luke Bowanko so much. Luke Joeckel has had a tough start to his career after being drafted 2nd overall last year, but his last few weeks have shown hints of his potential. Right tackle Austin Pasztor is the weak link. Look for the Cowboys to attack him with a mix of Anthony Spencer, George Selvie and DeMarcus Lawrence.
The Jacksonville defense isn't good, but they do have one trait that can really harm the Cowboys. Pass rush. 13 players for them have recorded sacks, and as a team, they have the 3rd most sacks in the NFL with 27 (Cowboys have 11).
The Dallas wide receivers are good enough to torch their cornerbacks, and DeMarco Murray will be able to run through them, but you will still need to give the ball to the quarterback at some point. If that quarterback is Tony Romo, his back will be at the mercy of his offensive line. This should be much improved due to the re-insertion of Doug Free and Ron Leary, but the Jaguars haven't yet recorded less than 2 sacks in a game so far this season.
Even in terms of atmosphere, the Jaguars may edge it. Here in the UK, pretty much everyone who follows the NFL likes the Jacksonville Jaguars. This is partly because they graciously give up a home game every year to come over to our London. This is also because they are considered an underdog, and every Brit loves an underdog.
I have been asked numerous times over the past few months whether the stadium will be majority Cowboys. It's a hard question to answer. I can almost guarantee that there will be more Cowboys fans there than Jaguars. However, the neutrals will generally support the Jaguars.
This article wasn't meant to say that the Cowboys will lose on Sunday, or even that the Jaguars are a good team. It was meant to explain that these young Jaguars cubs are rapidly improving. Don't underestimate them.