3 Things To Watch – Jacksonville

141023-Dalton-Andy_rushing (AP)

The Bengals are still searching for their first win of the season and head coach Zac Taylor knows more than anybody that everyone, not just one or two people, need to pick up the pace and show improvement on a daily basis.

It's why Taylor is encouraged with how his veteran leaders have responded and kept the positivity up in the locker room after a tough start.

"Some of those veteran leaders might be described as quiet guys that have stepped up and said some things that needed to be said," Taylor said on Monday. "That's been really encouraging. That's when you know this team is still going in the right direction. It's frustrating not having any wins to show for it, but if you could be in the locker room with us — after a game, and the week leading up to a game — then you'd see the things that I see. There's a reason to keep fighting, and things are going to get turned around."

The next opportunity for the Bengals to turn their season around takes place on Sunday hosting rookie sensation Gardner Minshew II and the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

Here are the three things to watch.

1. Minshew Mania – "Minshew Mania" has become a popular phenomenon in Jacksonville because of the quarterback's distinctive appearance - a mustache and long hair flowing out beyond the headband. Minshew is more than a character, he's been dazzling on the field. 

Minshew, since taking over for an injured Nick Foles, has thrown for 1,442 yards with nine touchdowns and ranks second on his team with 125 yards rushing. His 63.9 percent completion percentage is better this year than Aaron Rodgers, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and Matthew Stafford. 

However, Minshew struggled last week at home against a New Orleans Saints defense that made him into strictly a pocket passer. Some of Minshew's best plays this season are on extended plays inside of the pocket or when breaking outside and throwing on the move. Knowing that, the Saints did a great job of containment and held Minshew to just 163 yards passing and one rushing yard.

2. The Joe Mixon Breakout Game – Jacksonville is 0-4 this season when allowing 100 yards or more rushing. That should be good news for the Bengals' rushing attack and running back Joe Mixon, who are due for a breakout performance. 

After rushing for over 100 yards in a game four times last year, he's yet to reach that mark in 2019. He's also yet to carry the ball 20 times in any contest this year. The good news is Jacksonville's defense has struggled defending the run. They rank 25th in the NFL in rushing defense allowing 131.2 yards per game.

Volume will be the key indicator to the rushing attack's success. The Bengals are 6-1 since Mixon's rookie season of 2017 when he gets at least 20 carries, with the lone outlier being a loss at the L.A. Chargers late last year after the Bengals had lost quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green for the season due to injuries.

3. Red Zone Success – Surprisingly, the Jaguars and Bengals are two of the worst red zone scoring teams in the NFL. Jacksonville ranks 29th in red zone efficiency rate at 38.89 percent, while the Bengals are last at 32.25 percent. It's surprising the two teams are so low given they each feature powerful running backs in Mixon and the Jaguars' Leonard Fournette.

The Bengals have been good in a lot of areas on offense early this year without Green all year, but have to continue to find ways to be better in the red zone. It helped that last week against Baltimore, Taylor and company showed signs of improvement getting a rushing touchdown from Dalton and a field goal in the two red zone attempts. Against a Jacksonville front seven that can get after the quarterback, taking advantage of scoring opportunities will be a big key for the Bengals.

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.

Television: The game will air on CBS. In the Bengals' home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Rich Gannon (analyst) and Jay Feely (sideline reporter).

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).