The Jaguars pass defense last year was well, not so good. The Jaguars ranked 24th in the NFL giving up 224 yard per game. Even more concerning, the Jaguars ranked 30th in yards per completion, giving up 8.1 yards per completion. The only other two teams to give up 8+ YPC in 2008? The Rams and the Lions. The Jaguars gave up 55 pass plays of 20 + yards and 17 plays of 40 plus yards, ranking 31st and 32nd in those respective categories. Translation: The Jaguars gave up alot of big plays through the air. Not the news you want to hear in a conference defined by big game quarterbacks.
I singled out those measurements because I felt those gave the best indication of how poor the Jaguars pass defense was last year. As I mentioned last night on the radio show, the two stats that jumped out to me the most were the number of 20+ and 40+ yard passing plays the Jaguars allowed last year. The Jaguars gave up between three to four big plays through the air a game, with one of those going for 40+ yards. The 40+ yard statistic was especially troublesome. The Jaguars were dead last in that category by a long shot. Detriot, New England, and San Francisco were tied for 31st, but only gave up 11 plays.
How does the Jaguars pass defense compare across the board to last year's? The only category they are worse in is yards per game. The unit is now surrendering 262 yards per game compared to 224 last year. The unit has improved across the board everywhere else. They have cut the YPC down to 7.4, bringing their ranking up to 19th in that category. More importantly, they've only given up 15 plays of 20+ yards (Down from 3.5 a game in 2008 to 2.5 a game), with only two going for 40+ yards.
So the question becomes, is the Jaguars pass defense worse or better than it was a year ago?
I would say it is better, despite the increase in yards per game. The Jaguars have faced the Colts, Cardinals, Texans, Rams, and Seahawks in their first six games this season. All of those teams lean heavily on the pass and are going to get their yards one way or the other. The Jaguars certainly surrendered yards, allowing over 300 yards in their first three games in a row.
However, they have managed to keep everything in front of them, and limited the big plays that were suck a back breaker last season.
The emergence of Derek Cox as a legitimate #2 corner has been a major factor for this defensive secondary. Cox has been targeted frequently by opposing teams, and coupled with inconsistent safety play over the top, was largely responsible for many of the big plays teams had against the secondary. However, Cox has been steadily improving and is showing why the Jaguars invested the 2010 2nd round pick in him.
The safety position is the area of most concern in the unit though. Gerald Alexander has been inconsistent, though has shown flashes from the strong saftey position. He'll need to become more consistent over the next ten games though if he wants some job security.
Reggie Nelson has been another enigma for this team. After an excellent rookie year, Nelson has been stuck in neutral. While some of that can be blamed on his role in Gregg Williams' defense a year ago, why is he still making bad reads and being caught out of position as much as he? Granted, he played very well against the Rams, which has me hoping he's improving and will finish the season strong.
What do the statistics tell you BCC? Is this a young secondary that is now turning the corner, or a medicore unit that somehow managed to get out of dead last?