JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 02: Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Jacksonville Jaguars passes during a game against the New Orleans Saints at EverBank Field on October 2, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
On Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, the Jacksonville Jaguars threw the ball 42 times. That's the most pass attempts a quarterback has had since October 26, 2008 when David Garrard attempted 42 passes against the Cleveland Browns. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew ran the ball only 11 times, touched the ball just 12 times.
The Jaguars went from one end of the play calling pendulum against the Carolina Panthers all the way to the other this past weekend. This weekend though, I didn't really have much issue with the play calling. The run/pass ratio to me wasn't really a problem.
Did the Jaguars pass the ball way too much, just like they ran the ball way too much last week? Yeah, probably. As I said last week however, the pass/rush attempts at the end of the game isn't the issue. It's when and how they come. Running the ball 10 times in a row and 22 out of 24 plays is bad play calling. Passing the ball 11 straight times can also be called bad play calling.
On Sunday against the Saints, I don't necessarily think Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter called a poor game. I do think that some of the packaging however, was an issue. Frankly, the Saints forced the Jaguars to pass the football. They played essentially man coverage, stacked the line bringing the safeties up, and dared them to throw the football. Koetter and rookie Blaine Gabbert obliged. "We knew what they were doing," Gabbert said. "We saw everything. Of course, they're a high-blitz team. Gregg Williams blitzes quarterbacks and that's his philosophy on defense. That leaves one-on-one match ups on the outside; we've got to capitalize on those opportunities." In fact, Gregg Williams told Dirk Koetter after the game that he blitzed Gabbert as much as he'd blitzed any quarterback he faced.
The ultimate failure of the Jaguars offensive game plan was lack of execution. There were some things in the play calls that could have changed, as far as packaging. The Jaguars seemed to get too cute.
For example, Maurice Jones-Drew lined up in the slot and out wide multiple times and we saw back up running back Deji Karim lined up in the backfield. To me, that's an obvious tell to the defense that you're 100% throwing. You're not going to run the ball while Jones-Drew is on the field at wide receiver. If you're going to run that package, run it with Jones-Drew in the backfield and Karim out in space. It gives you the ability to run the ball out of the formation and will require the defense to play it honest. This package was run multiple times and everytime it was a pass play. If you're only going to run the football a limited about of times, all of those carries should go to Maurice Jones-Drew, not Karim. Also, the lining up Brock Bolen out wide... y'all gotta cut that out man.
A lot of fans have complained about the lack of rush attempts for Jones-Drew, because he averaged 7.6 yards a carry. I agree he didn't touch the ball enough, but I don't necessarily agree they didn't run the ball enough. The Saints defense dictated the Jaguars to pass the football, especially in the first half of the game. On Jones-Drew first carry of the game, he fumbled the hand off and lost 4 yards. If he'd have held the hand off, Saints defenders were in the backfield anyway. Jones-Drew ran the ball two more times in the first half for 2 and 0 yards, respectively. Gabbert on the other hand, was moving the offense. In the first half, the Jaguars passed the ball 25 times for nearly 150 yards and scored 10 points.
Oddly enough in the second half, through the Jaguars first four drives of the second half they run the ball 9 times and passed the ball 8 times. They scored no points and gained just 50 yards, 41 of it on Jones-Drew's first carry of the half. Once the there was about 6-minutes left in the game, the Jaguars passed the ball 11 times and ran it once on two drives for a total of 50 yards, including a 19-yard run by Jones-Drew. The Jaguars went more of a balanced attack to start the second half instead of taking what the Saints defense gave them, and bogged down offensively.
In my opinion, the play calling "balance" wasn't a determining factor. More so, the offensive packaging and flat out execution was what killed the Jaguars. In the first half, the receivers caught the passes. The offensive line picked up their blocks. Gabbert made the right reads. The offense clicked and hummed and scored. In the second half, no one could catch or seemingly run proper routes. The offensive line seemingly couldn't hold their blocks. Gabbert got fooled by an initial man-look that dropped to zone coverage right before the snap and threw an interception. That's what rookies do.
Jones-Drew certainly needed more touches, in more than just rushing the ball. While I'm not saying they should throw the ball 50-times a game, the Jaguars are trying to "modernize" their offense, if you will. Look for more of the same going forward, with Gabbert throwing the ball 30-35 times a game. Jones-Drew's carries might dip, but his touches shouldn't.
"We had a combination of drops and misfires and errors that keep us from doing some more damage - in particular in the second half. I definitely saw things that were encouraging, things that we can build and grow on," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said after the game.
It wasn't play calling this time. It was execution.