The biggest area of concern for the Jacksonville Jaguars aside from the safety position is it's pass rush. The Jaguars managed only 14 sacks total all of last season, which is an embarrassingly low number.
Last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Jaguars pass defense was ripped to shreds by Kevin Kolb and the Eagles receivers. There was some pass rush from defensive end Derrick Harvey, but the game left a lot to be desired.
Fast forward to Saturday, and the two newest additions to the Jaguars defensive line that were absent in the first pre-season game and what happens? A sack on the first play by the defense... split by the two new guys. I bet Wayne Weaver cracked a smile and followed it with a fist pump.
When asked about his goal this season, rookie defensive end Austen Lane said "I don't have a goal for sacks, but I have a goal for putting people in the hospital."
"Who wouldn't like that kind of attitude?" Lane said when asked if Cullen liked him thinking that way.
I admire the grit, but realistically the Jaguars defensive line has work to do. Already the unit that was woeful last season has registered 8 sacks in it's first two pre-season games, nearly equaling the number from last season's total. While it is pre-season and stats don't really matter all that much, the fact that the Jaguars are getting that close to the QB and guys like Derrick Harvey, Tyson Alualu, and Aaron Kampman are getting sacks is something to look forward to.
"Some guys I’ve seen get a sack in a game and the guy will just shake it off and say ‘oh I got a sack in the game’ well, no. Try to get three, four. That’s kind of the kicker. Every rush, you have an opportunity to get a sack and I think that’s the mentality that we’re going to have," Aaron Kampman said when asked about the team's goals for sacks.
When Kampman and Alualu were in the game and made the Jaguars starting defensive line complete, the team was able to generate pressure and got a sack on it's first play thanks to a veteran move by Kampman and the non-stop motor of Alualu. When both players left however, the pressure fell off and the Dolphins offense hummed along.
There were some younger players like Leger Douzable, who's continued to catch the coaching staffs eye, and undrafted rookie Aaron Morgan showing their skills late in the game, but the drop off was hard to ignore. Larry Hart and Austen Lane both played and looked decent, most noticeably his hustle.
To me, the actual number of sacks isn't important. Sacks are great, but a lot of the time that statistic gets over inflated, much like quarterback rating. For instance, the best defense in the NFL last season, the New York Jets, only had 32 sacks, which was below average in the NFL. The Jets generated lots of quarterback pressure, however. They made the quarterback uncomfortable, made them move, and forced them to throw the football before they were ready. That's why the Jets were the best team against the pass last season yet had a low sack total.
When you're watching the defense on Saturday don't necessarily look for sacks. Look for pressure and hits on the quarterback. We should get a good sample size of it, as the starters are expected to play into the third quarter against the Bucs. Mind you, it's doubtful Aaron Kampman plays that long, but I'm curious to see how long Alualu goes. By all accounts he's been fine since the game and practiced every day.