The Jacksonville Jaguars have the opportunity to have a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2017 and their first 3-1 start since 2018 when they take on the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) in the team's Week 4 matchup on Sunday.
The game is set for 1 p.m. and will be televised on CBS and locally on WJXL 1010AM/92.5 FM on the radio.
Last week, the Jaguars (2-1) exorcised some demons, defeating a West Coast team not named the Raiders for the first time in franchise history when they beat the Los Angeles Chargers 38-10.
The Jaguars also won an away game for the first time in 17 contests, and now they'll have a chance to erase yet another losing streak — defeating an NFC opponent for the first time since 2018 (17 games vs. NFC opponents).
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But, this week won't be about the Jaguars of the past, but rather the Jaguars of the present who are attempting to ride on their success from the previous two weeks where they've outscored their opponents 62-10.
"I mean they're undefeated, they're playing extremely well in all three phases. We're going to have to be disciplined in our jobs and our assignments," Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson said on Friday when asked about the opportunity his team has in front of them against the Eagles.
"It'll really see where we're at as a football team and how we respond after having a little bit of success these past couple of weeks."
Jaguars respond well to change of schedule, prep for hostile environment
Due to the inclement weather caused by Hurricane Ian this week, the Jaguars were forced to operate at an accelerated schedule on Thursday, able to get players coaches and staff back to their families early prior to any potential damages caused by the storm.
Pederson thought the team ultimately responded positively to the changes, even though it was a bit unconventional for their final two days of practice this week.
“I think the guys have responded well to this week. We had a little change in the schedule yesterday because of the weather and you have to make sure number one that players' and families' safety comes first and make sure that they were protected from the storm," Pederson said.
"Other than that, the guys have been engaged, they've been focused, trying to just work off the momentum these last couple of weeks, and get ready for another football game. It's been a good week that way and I think the guys are ready to go."
On Sunday, Jacksonville will enter a hostile environment at Lincoln Financial Field. It'll likely be the team's toughest test as far as crowd noise goes. Because of that, Pederson and his staff simulated crowd noise during practice this week, working inside due to the weather on Thursday.
"Obviously, it starts with me getting the plays into Trevor [Lawrence] and then Trevor communicating that with the huddle, and the same on defense," Pederson said. "It's usually not as loud on defense when you're on the road, but there still has to be great communication amongst the players and felt like yesterday was a good day for that."
'Big Ham' will play a vital role against Eagles
The Jaguars' defense has been the best in the league this season at stopping the run, something the team has taken pride in. They've allowed just 55 yards per game through three contests thus far this season.
Part of why Jacksonville has been so stout against the run is the dominate play by third-year defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton. Though he doesn't always show up in the stat books, Hamilton has played a vital role in the team's back-to-back victories.
"Big Ham (DT Davon Hamilton), he’s one of the pieces that doesn’t get a lot of mention that is so important to us," Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell told reporters on Friday when asked about Hamilton.
According to Pro Football Focus, Hamilton is ranked as the No. 12 defensive tackle in the NFL. Hs currently has positive marks across the board, totaling five pressures and three "stops." Though the stats don't demonstrate it, he has become one of the key cogs of the Jacksonville defense this year.
DaVon Hamilton vs. first-round RG Zion Johnson pic.twitter.com/hK5NyWsF82
— John Shipley (@_John_Shipley) September 29, 2022
"He pushes and controls the middle, and his value inside is just really unique," Caldwell said. "He’s able to disrupt a lot of things and keep players free, actually.”
Hamilton will be especially important this week as the Eagles currently rank No. 7 in the NFL in rushing yards per game with 150.3 YPG on the ground through three weeks. Their ground game is led by running back Miles Sanders, who is averaging 4.9 yards per carry, rushing for 222 yards on 45 carries this season. He has one touchdown on the ground.
"Facing this running attack, they have running backs that really are slashers that can hit creases, and we just have to make sure we do our best at squeezing those creases off, because they’re guys that, if you give them six inches of daylight, they’re able to get through," Caldwell added.
Sunday is another test for the Jacksonville run defense, an opportunity to yet again prove themselves.
Injury bug hits Jags for first time this season; Eagles rule out two players
Through the first few weeks of the season, the Jaguars seldom had anyone on the injury report. That was the case against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 2 when the team went into the contest with a rare, completely clean bill of health.
Against the Los Angeles Chargers last week, Jacksonville had just one player that missed the contest, cornerback Shaq Griffin, who was a late addition to the report, missing the game due to a hip injury.
This week, though, Jacksonville has four players listed as questionable on its injury report, including Griffin (hip), wide receiver Zay Jones (ankle), offensive lineman Cole Van Lanen (hamstring) and outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson (ankle).
Full #Jaguars and Eagles injury/status report heading into Sunday:
Eagles ruled out their starting nickel DB, while the Jaguars have four players listed as questionable, including starting WR Zay Jones and starting CB Shaq Griffin: pic.twitter.com/N2zdA0GhIn
— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) September 30, 2022
Jones first appeared on the injury report on Thursday after injuring his ankle this week in practice. Chaisson is the latest addition. All four players practiced on a limited basis on Friday.
Asked about Jones on Friday, Pederson didn't divulge too much information, only indicating that the team wanted to make sure that he was 100 percent. If Jones is unable to suit up on Sunday, the Jaguars will likely look to second-year receiver Tim Jones.
"He's a very capable backup that is going to have to play. If Zay [Jones] can't go, then he's the next man up and that's been our mentality," Pederson said. "He also plays a couple of special teams units as well. He's done a nice job of preparing himself and staying within himself and getting himself in a position to help us on offense."
As for Philadelphia, though the team began the week with an extensive injury report, they listed only two players as being out due to bumps and bruises, running back Boston Scott (ribs) and cornerback Avonte Maddox (ankle).
Maddox currently plays as the team's starting nickel defensive back, while Scott plays as a change-of-pace back.
Former Jaguars nickel DB Josiah Scott is listed as Maddox's immediate backup, something Jacksonville will want to take advantage of this weekend.
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: Preview: Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at 1 p.m.