The Jaguars are on the verge of accomplishing something they haven’t done since 2009. That is, have a .500 record by week 7 of a regular season. To most NFL franchises this wouldn’t exactly deserve praise but considering we started off the season 0-3, we should be grateful.
Bortles needs to start hot. The Raiders defense is ranked 30th in run-defense and 32nd in pass-defense. If Bortles struggles early against this defense, we may need to start thinking about our future at quarterback. I know he had a good year last year, but he was also tops in the league in interceptions. He needs to start having consecutive good games, not piling up bad-ones.
Commit to the power-run game. The Jaguars need to play with more urgency in the run-game. Right now, Greg Olsen seems wholly committed to a disguised, slow-developing run game, full of play-action draws, read-options and shotgun sweeps. We need to make a change to more downhill running and attack defenses without letting them read our play. We have two powerful, one-cut running backs that don’t have the quickness to evade linebackers sprinting through open holes because we’re asking Jeremy Parnell and company to block for extended periods of time. The Jaguars are quickly becoming one of the worst running teams in the league and this fact doesn’t help Blake Bortles or the receiving core if the opposing defenses always know when we’re going to pass.
Bump-and-run coverage. The difference in our defenses play from the first and second half of the Bears game last Sunday can partially be attributed to the switch to almost exclusively bump-and-run coverage on the outside with Jalen Ramsey and Prince Amukamara. When Ramsey was at Florida State, he operated mostly in man-coverage and this brand of coverage allows corners to really show their athleticism. Zone-coverage requires more mastery of the mental side of the game, where-as man-coverage requires corners to do what Jalen Ramsey does best, use their athletic abilities. However, this coverage only works if you can get to the quarterback, which brings me to my next point.
Blitz on third down. On three separate occasions the Jaguars blitzed either one or two linebackers on third down against the Bears in the second half. All three were third down stops. If we sit back in zone coverage and rush the quarterback with only four guys, even if we do break down the Raiders pocket, we allow him to throw to the open spot on the field. This is when the mismatches that opposing teams prepare for start to hurt us. How many times have we seen an opposing quarterback about to get sacked, and he throws a lob to the flat or to the sideline and the other team gets a first down? Every week, I personally guarantee that the oppositions’ offensive coordinators are sitting their quarterbacks down and saying, “If you seen 55 or 51 (Skuta or Poz) on the field on third down and you’re feeling pressure, throw to their assignment.” This is a simple fix, disguise safety coverage on the tight-end and blitz the linebacker. If we are in man-coverage we at least force the quarterback to make an accurate throw and require the receivers to make a tough catch. We have good pass-rushers on our defensive line and they just need A LITTLE help. Our linebackers aren’t any good in coverage anyways, so Gus, stop sending four on third down. Please, keep blitzing.
No turnovers. Yes, Allen Robinson did drop an open pass that ended in an interception. No, it wasn’t entirely Bortles fault. The fumble late in the game certainly was though. If not for a lights-out performance from our defense in the second half, Bortles may have lost another game for the Jaguars. We need to find a way to play a clean game or we will continue to be an unsuccessful football team.
Continue to be creative with the defensive line. Todd Wash has done fantastic things with a young defense that didn’t have much experience with each other at the beginning of the season. In Sundays game against the Bears, Chicago was double teaming Malik Jackson and Sen’ Derrick Marks in the first half of football and that helped keep the pocket stay nice and clean for Brian Hoyer. In the second half, Wash made a fantastic adjustment. When the guard and center for the Bears would double-team Jackson or Marks, Wash called a play that would have Fowler or Ngakoue stunt around our defensive tackle and go partially unblocked into the center of the pocket. We had a lot more pressure on Hoyer in the second half due to adjustments on defense. Keep it up, Todd Wash.
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