Last season, the Jacksonville Jaguars defense was a dumpster fire. I think that's putting it lightly, too. In the offseason, general manager Gene Smith went on a mission to improve the defense as quick as possible, through free agency. Smith quickly snapped up Paul Posluszny, Clint Session, Dawan Landry, Drew Coleman, Matt Roth, and swung a trade for Dwight Lowery. That's six new "starters" on a defensive unit that was one of the worst in the NFL last year. It's paid dividends, fast.
Through three games, the Jaguars have yet to allow a team to amass 300 yards of total offense. That's a big step up from this point last year, when the Jaguars gave up a total of nearly 1,300 total yards for an average of over 400 yards a game. In all three games, opposing team's passers all threw for at least 290 yards. This year, the Jaguars have allowed only one passer over 250 yards and held the other two to sub 170 yards in the air. Matt Hasselbeck, the quarterback that threw for 263 yards in the opener, had 80 of that on one fluke play. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was asked to make the defense simpler, and he's done that. Quite well.
None of the quarterbacks they've faced are as good as Drew Brees, though.
The last time the Jaguars played Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints was during the 2007 season, while David Garrard was out with an injury and the team was lead by then back up quarterback Quinn Gray. The Jaguars put up massive yardage and points, but that still wasn't good enough to beat Brees. Brees completed 71.4% of his passes for 445 yards and 3 touchdowns. That was in 2007, the last time the Jaguars had a defense that was respectable.
This year, Brees knows it's not the same team he faced in 2007. "I thinkt he scheme has changed quite a bit," Brees told the media in a conference call on Wednesday. "It's very much just a zone defense. I think if you look at the statistics, they pressure the least amount of any defense in the NFL." Brees continued on the Jaguars defensive scheme saying, "So if you look at the stats, you say they're great against the run, they don't allow big plays, therefore you have to be very patient, you have to be consistent, you have to execute very well and just march down the field. They're kind of waiting for you to make a mistake, so you've got to be very disciplined with what you're doing."
Brees mentioned the Jaguars don't give up big plays, and he's absolutely correct. Currently, the Jacksonville Jaguars defense lead the NFL in big plays allowed. Lead, as in the least. The Jaguars defense has given up only 7 plays of 20 yards or more so far in three games. Compared to last year, I'd bet they had 7 in a single game... routinely. The difference is, last year's defense was inexperienced especially on the back end. The Jaguars defense this year is filled more with veteran players who know their assignments. They know where they should be and they're there.