HAS THE JAGUARS' DEFENSE TURNED A CORNER?
The Jaguars' defense has been an enigma in 2019. As talented as any unit in football, Jacksonville's defense should be among the league's best. But the Jaguars' defense has struggled with consistency in 2019.
In five out of the seven games they've played this season, the Jaguars' defense has done enough to win the game. They gave up 13 points in a week two loss to the Texans, seven points in a win over the Titans, 24 points in a win at Mile High, 13 points in a crushing home loss to the Saints, and 17 points last week in a win at Cincinnati. In those games, the defense surrendered an average of just 14.8 points per game.
But in the other two games . . . my word. The Jaguars gave up 40 points to the Chiefs in week one. Okay, they should get a bit of a pass for that. But seriously, they didn't even put up a fight against Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs. The most disappointing effort, however, was against the Panthers in week five. The Jags gave up 34 points to Carolina, but more infuriating was how those points were achieved. Duval's run defense was atrocious against Christian McCaffery and company. The Panthers rushed for 285 yards on 27 carries! That's an average of over 10 yards per carry. And it wasn't just CMC doing all the work: Reggie Bonafon carried the ball five times for 80 freaking yards. I know, the Panthers have been excellent since Kyle Allen took over at QB, but if the Jaguars hope to make the playoffs, they'll need to avoid performances like that.
A playmaking defense is supposed to be the Jaguars' calling card. But until the floodgates opened in the second half against the Bengals last week, the Jaguars had forced just two turnovers all year.
Still, even with the two demoralizing performances on the defensive side of the ball this season, the Jaguars have allowed an average of just 21.8 points per game. While that's not quite elite, it does place the Jaguars at 12th in the NFL.
So, will the real Jaguars' defense please stand up?
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The defense may have turned a corner. It's possible. But I'm not yet convinced. Over the last two weeks, the defense has surrendered an average of only 15 points per game. They did so against the Saints, who are one of the best teams in football, and the Bengals, who are perhaps the worst.
This defense needs to have sustained success. And to do so, they'll need to create pressure and force turnovers, just like they did against the Bengals last week.
The good news is that Jacksonville's next opponent, the New York Jets, have a penchant for allowing pressure and turning the ball over. The Jets' offensive line has allowed the second-most sacks in football this season. And these Jets have turned the ball over 13 times, tied for the fourth-most in football. Yes, New York is ripe for the taking.
But the real test, assuming the Jaguars do, in fact, slow down the lowly Jets, will come in the weeks to follow. The Jaguars play each of their divisional opponents over the following four weeks. In week nine, they travel to London to take on the Texans. Then, after a bye week, the Jaguars take on the Colts in Indy and then the Titans in Tennessee. That stretch of games will likely determine the Jaguars' fate in 2019. If the defense can do what everyone expected them to do entering the season, then the Jags could have a late-season playoff run ahead of them.
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