The Jaguars defensive performance was atrocious in the first half of their week 11 loss to the Colts. Miscommunications and "brain farts", in the words of Tashaun Gipson, plagued the secondary and linebackers, while the interior defensive line got mauled by the Colts offensive interior. Still, in the second half the defense came to life and pitched a shut out. Unfortunately for the Jaguars it was too little too late.
Let's take a look at three ways the Jaguars can get back on track as they prepare to take on the Steelers at home in week 11.
1. Get pressure on Big Ben.
The Jaguars pass rush was not nearly effective enough against the Colts in their loss last week. They registered just seven pressures, two quarterback hits, and ZERO sacks. The Colts offensive line, which has been heavily invested in in recent years, won the day with ease. Outside of Yannick Ngakoue, who had four pressures and one hit on Andrew Luck, the pass rush was non-existent. Against the Steelers the Jaguars will need to find their pass rush early an often. The problem is the Steelers offensive line has been nearly as dominant as the Colts in terms of not allowing sacks and pressures. They've surrendered just 12 sacks in 2018, good for third best in all of football. But the Jaguars showed in 2017, with nearly the exact same group of players, that they can pressure Ben Roethlisberger. They hit him seven times in their 30-9 regular season win, and eight times in their playoff victory in the divisional round. The Jaguars pass rush needs to get its head on straight. Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue each have registered five sacks in 2018, but they need some help. Malik Jackson, who recorded a career high eight sacks in 2017, has only taken down an opposing QB once this season - he's got to do more. If the Jaguars can pressure on Roethlisberger, things could improve in a big way for the Jaguars defense.
2. Get AJ Bouye back.
Without AJ Bouye the Jaguars secondary was lost. I'm not sure that, even if AJ Bouye was able to play in week 10, the Jaguars would have slowed down the Colts in the first half. But having Bouye on the field and healthy makes things much easier for the rest of the Jaguars secondary. In the two games he's missed with a calf injury the Jaguars have surrendered 285 yards and three touchdowns through the air to the Colts and 286 passing yards and three touchdowns to the Eagles. They've got to get AJ Bouye back on the field. We'll find out more Wednesday about where Bouye is at with his injury.
3. Start Ronnie Harrison over Barry Church.
As many Jaguars writers have begun to suggest, the Jaguars do in fact need to bench Barry Church. Church is consistently lost in coverage and has surrendered a QB rating of 104 what targeted this season. His decline has been most evident in pass coverage, but he's also become a liability as a run defender in recent weeks. Against the Colts the defense was gashed due to some horrendous run fits by Barry Church (and others). Harrison on the other hand, when given the opportunity, has looked like a playmaker. He hasn't been perfect as a rookie, but what rookie is? Still, he's shown the ability to blow runners up and the ability to, at the very least, look adept in coverage. His passer rating allowed in coverage has been one of the best on the team at 73.6. I didn't anticipate Barry Church looking like a shell of his former self in 2018, but that's exactly what has happened. The Jaguars shouldn't wait until 2019 to let the Ronnie Harrison era begin at strong safety. Put the kid in the game.
Slowing down the potent Steelers offense will be tough this week, even with LeVeon Bell deciding not to report. But his replacement, James Conner, is in the concussion protocol this week. Be sure to keep an eye on his status as the week moves forward. If the Jaguars can make the Steelers offense one dimensional it'll greatly help their odds.
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