We're five games into the 2021 regular season and the Jaguars, under the guidance of first-year head coach Urban Meyer, are 0-5. While the Jacksonville offense is taking steps in the right direction, the defense is hemorrhaging points regularly with no signs of improvement. The run defense has been one of the best in football, but against the pass, the Big Cats aren't getting the job done. That's probably (definitely) a massive understatement.
But after their last butt whooping at the hands of the Titans, I have a few observations and changes that I would make if I were calling the shots for the Jaguars' defense. Would they dramatically change the outcome? I'm not sure, but I think these ideas are worth a try.
Insert Andre Cisco Into the Starting Lineup
Based on several of the decisions made by this regime, I'm not sure roster awareness is a strong suit from the top down. While the Jaguars' coaching staff regularly has nice things to say about starting safety Andrew Wingard, his actual play on the field has fallen off a cliff. When playing the deep middle, Wingard doesn't have the speed or the instincts to get to the boundary. When rolling downhill or in pursuit, again, Wingard's athleticism is lacking. And at the tackle point, he's been one of the worst safeties in the league. Among safeties who have played at least 50% of their team's defensive snaps, Wingard has the second-most missed tackles.
Again, I don't care what the front office or coaching staff thinks about Andrew Wingard vs Andre Cisco. Cisco is more talented, and your defense is trash right now anyways. Put the rookie in. He has legit 4.4 speed, excellent explosiveness, and a big 216-pound frame. Cisco was inconsistent in pursuit in college, but he at least plays with enough strength and leverage to take on ball carriers. By the way, the Jaguars are desperate for turnovers. All Cisco did in 24 college games was produce 14 of them. It's really not that hard. Sure, there will be some rookie mistakes, but I'd wager that Cisco's talent level and growth would immediately enable him to play more effective ball on the back end than Andrew Wingard.
And Nevin Lawson
I know Nevin Lawson only got here three weeks ago, but his past play suggests that he could be more effective than any Jaguars' cornerback not named Shaquill Griffin. Whether it's Tyson Campbell, Chris Claybrooks, or Tre Herndon, the Jaguars' cornerbacks are getting toasted. That trio has combined to allow 44 completions on 51 targets in primary coverage. That's almost unheard of. Truly astounding stuff.
Insert Nevin Lawson. He didn't get his first snaps with the Jaguars until the second half of week five. But in his eight coverage snaps, he showed physicality on the outside, the ability to track shallow crossers, and good overall awareness. Lawson wasn't targeted in the contest, and for good reason: he was locking up his opponents. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting Lawson is going to come in and be a shutdown cornerback for the Jaguars. But could he bring some experience and know-how on the outside? Yeah, I think he could. His career completion percentage allowed in primary coverage is 64.7. If he can produce anywhere close to that level of play, he'll exponentially improve the Jaguars' ability to cover opposing receivers.
Attack on Third Down
The Jaguars' defense has been relatively passive on third down in recent weeks. They've sent three or four rushers, dropping seven to eight defenders more often than not over the last two contests. And I'm not a huge fan of how the rushers are being deployed. Oftentimes, the Jaguars will send Myles Jack up the middle to take on an interior offensive linemen heads up. And then one of the on-ball linebackers, namely Josh Allen, will drop into a shallow zone. While Allen is effective in these shallow zones, Myles Jack has proven ineffective when trying to take on the burly brutes in the middle, at least from a pass rush standpoint. I'd switch this up and try to get Jack in a spot where he can succeed more often. If Jack is going to rush up the middle, he needs help. You've got to send more than four rushers for Jack to be an effective rusher in that capacity.
The reason Joe Cullen is in Duval is to emulate the Ravens' defense. Of course, the Jaguars don't have that level of talent, but they need to send more numbers at the pass rush in key situations. Having extra defenders in coverage isn't helping their cause. Send the blitz, Joe.
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