Despite playing just over a dozen snaps in the preseason, Kelvin Beachum will line up at left tackle for the Jaguars and protect Blake Bortles' blindside when the team hosts the Green Bay Packers in Week 1.
Bortles has been sacked more than any other quarterback in the NFL over the last two seasons. Determining Beachum's stability - following major knee surgery - will be key in making sure Bortles gets more time to throw and takes less hits in Year 3.
The Packers and Jaguars can both put up points and in a game that is likely to be a shootout, Bortles can't be worried about his blindside.
Beachum will face a heavy task on Sunday as he will battle Pro Bowl edge rusher Clay Matthews in his Jaguars regular season debut. Matthews can attack from anywhere on field but the Packers will likely test Beachum's surgically-repaired knee early on.
The rehabilitation of Beachum's knee kept him out of parts of training camp and the first two preseason games. Returning from ACL surgery is never a simple endeavor, but Beachum performed admirably against another top pass rusher - Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap - in the team's dress rehearsal in Week 3 of the exhibition season.
However, Matthews is a different animal than Dunlap. While the Bengals have a formidable 4-3 front, the Packers rush Matthews and his tag team partner Julius Pepper from a two-point stance in Green Bay's 3-4 defense. Matthews has the ability to pickup speed and adjust his angles accordingly as an outside linebacker, attacking opposing offensive linemen with a host of tricks.
Beachum was a solid starting-caliber left tackle in Pittsburgh before suffering an ACL tear, but he may have some rust after playing less than a quarter of actual football since his surgery. He also has a first time left guard to work with in Luke Joeckel.
Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers will likely use Matthews and Peppers early and often against Beachum to test his rust. If the left tackle isn't on his game, it may be a long day for Bortles, who is no stranger to seeing pressure in the pocket.
The idea of bringing Beachum in to replace Joeckel at left tackle was to provide stability on the blindside. An early test by Matthews could determine whether or not that move made sense in the short-term.
It will be a tough assignment, but if Beachum can keep Bortles clean, the Jaguars should be able to connect on downfield strikes and stay even with (if not above) the Packers' high-powered attack.