The Jaguars have one of the worst defenses in football this year. Over the last three weeks, they've allowed 32.3 points per game. Opposing QBs have been shredding the Jaguars' secondary, averaging a completion percentage of 77, the worst mark in football. The pass rush? What pass rush? The Jaguars are the worst team in football when it comes to applying pressure on opposing passers, and they've registered just a single sack in each contest so far this season.
Another concerning trend? The Jaguars' defense was playing stout football against the run over the first three weeks, but the Bengals ran all over the Jaguars in week four to the tune of 205 rushing yards on six yards per carry.
With Todd Wash still entrenched as the Jaguars' defensive coordinator, it doesn't seem likely that drastic changes to the scheme are anywhere in sight. No, this defense is generally going to try to rush the passer with four down linemen and try to keep everything in front of them on the back end. Wash may attempt to add more blitz packages to the play-calling rotation, but he's not suddenly going to become someone he's not.
So, can this defense get things turned around?
Getting some positive news on the injury front would certainly help. Jarrod Wilson, the team's starting free safety and defensive captain, has been on IR since week one with a hamstring injury. He's now eligible to return from IR, but I have no clue if his hamstring is healed up and ready to go yet. Should he be able to return to the lineup soon, he'd been a significant boon in run-stopping efforts and against the pass.
Then there's CJ Henderson, Myles Jack, and DJ Hayden, who all left the contest against the Bengals with injuries.
Henderson played on just the first drive of the game before exiting with a shoulder injury. He's by far the Jaguars' best outside cornerback and has shown excellent man coverage ability. He's been stellar against the run as well.
Myles Jack is arguably the best football player on the team. Like Henderson, he's valuable on all three downs. He left early in the third quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. The Jaguars can ill afford to be without Jack, who's been a model of consistency for the defense in 2020, and has also been an elite playmaker.
DJ Hayden, the team's top nickel cornerback, suffered a hamstring injury late against the Bengals. If Hayden missed any amount of time, the Jaguars would likely be forced to turn to rookie cornerback Josiah Scott, who has yet to see the field in 2020.
If the Jaguars hope to have any sort of defensive turnaround, they'll need to get their stars back on the field.
Just as concerning as the injuries has been the lack of pass rush. Can the Jaguars' pass rush improve without a major overhaul? The short answer is yes. Three of the four primary pass rushers for the Jaguars, defensive ends Josh Allen and K'Lavon Chaisson, and interior lineman DaVon Hamilton, are incredibly young. Allen is in just his second year, while Chaisson and Hamilton are rookies. The other main ingredient up front, Taven Bryan, has disappointed in his expanded role this season. Bryan has been impressive for the Jaguars against the run, but his impact as a pocket pusher hasn't been felt. He's tallied just four total pressures on 97 pass-rush snaps. Bryan has got to improve for this defense to get where they want to be.
These guys didn't have a preseason to hone their craft. They have the natural ability but haven't been able to show it consistently yet. If these young defensive linemen can make more of an impact as the season moves forward, the Jaguars' pass rush could find life. While the sack numbers haven't gotten any better through the first four weeks, the pressures have improved from weeks 1-2 to weeks 3-4. In the first two games, the Jaguars registered a combined 16 QB pressures, but in the last two contests, they've compiled 23 pressures.
I'm not going to sit here and try to convince you that this pass rush is magically going to come to life and all will be well in Sacksonville. But is it possible that as these young players get more comfortable in their respective roles that we start to see better results down the stretch? Absolutely.
The two main components here and health and inexperience: The Jaguars need to get healthy on the defensive side of the ball, and they need their young, talented players to step up and become professionals sooner rather than later. If they can do that, this defense will be able to get off the field more often than they have throughout the first month of the regular season. If not, it's going to a long 12 games for fans of the Big Cats.
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