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The Jacksonville Jaguars defense was No. 6 in the NFL in 2011, but in 2012 they've been terrible, especially against the run. So, what's the problem?
The Jacksonville Jaguars defense has gone from the No. 6 defense in the 2011 season, and really the only bright spot outside of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, to one of the worst defense in the NFL in just one offseason. The Jaguars didn't really add much to the defense, outside of signing cornerback Aaron Ross in free agency and drafting Andre Branch in the second-round, but there seems to be massive failures all over the place.
Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith, arguably the best player on the defense, has missed the first four games of the season and his absence is felt, but it can't just be one player missing that has sent everything into disarray right?
Like on offense, the failures on the Jaguars defense are collective. It's a combination of guys not being to win their one-on-one match ups, players being out of position, and players just failing to execute their responsibilities on a player.
First, let's look at guys not being able to win their one-on-one match ups. Outside the long fake punt, the Jaguars actually did an OK job against the run against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, but a few plays stood out as failures, such as this BenJarvus Green-Ellis run early in the game.
Former third-round pick D'Anthony Smith is lined up between the Bengals right guard and right tackle on the play. At the snap, he gets into the guard and is immediately locked up and turned completely out of the play. He tries to rip out, but just can't get away. The guard's ability to turn Smith out of the play opens up the running lane for Green-Ellis to run through. Thankfully, middle linebacker Paul Posluszny is able to shed off the center's block and stop the run from being an even larger gain.
Also on the play, you can see
Terrance Knighton C.J. Mosley neutralized by the guard and center, with the center peeling off the initial block to get to the second level with the left guard handling Mosley afterwards. Andre Branch is completely shut out on the play by tight end Jermaine Gresham while Andre Smith gets to the second level and flattens Russell Allen.
The next play we're going to look at is a play-action pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham, who easily gets behind the Jaguars linebackers and picks up an easy first down.
On the play-fake, all three linebackers and defensive end Jeremy Mincey bite hard, putting themselves out of position on the play. The fake sucks the three linebackers towards the line of scrimmage, making it easy for Gresham to run his route and get wide open on the play. Mincey also bites hard inside as the defensive end, rather than playing containment on the play-fake roll out, essentially taking himself out of the play and making the block by the offense not necessary. If just one linebacker plays their assignment and Mincey plays contain, Dalton is probably forced to make a contested throw. Instead, he gets an easy first down.
The next play we're going to look at is one of the many where Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis is incorrectly blamed with being "burned" by Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. On the play, Mathis is matched up one-on-one with Green in man coverage, as the safety on the left side is walked up near the "box" of the defense.
As you can see on the play, Green runs a simple 9-route and Dalton just throws it up for him to make a play on the ball. The biggest problem on this play isn't the coverage by Mathis, it's the basic scheme of the defensive play call. Dwight Lowery, the safety who is circled, appears to be playing center field but takes a false step towards the sideline before trying to scramble for Green's side of the field. It's doubtful that Lowery would have made it without the false step, but he needed to be shaded more towards the middle of the field pre-snap to even have a chance. Dalton places the ball on the backside of Green, where Mathis can't even attempt a play on the ball. It's good coverage by Mathis, but a simple easy pass and catch because of ball placement by Dalton.
The final play we'll look at is one of the most frustrating things to watch, because it seems to happen at least once a game despite the limited amount of snaps that Chris Prosinski plays on defense. At times, Mel Tucker will run a "heavy nickel" formation which is basically a 4-2-5 alignment.
On the play, you can see Prosinski is playing as the deep safety. The Jaguars bring five rushers on the play, blitzing cornerback Aaron Ross out of the slot. It's timed well and pressure is generated with Ross coming unblocked, but Dalton correctly dumps the ball to his hot-read, Andrew Hawkins, for a massive gain on the play. As you can see, Prosinski isn't even looking at the offense when the ball is snapped and is caught off guard, sprinting towards what appears to be his assignment on the play. Prosinski closes quickly on Hawkins looking like he's going to blow the play up for either a loss or no gain, but completely whiffs.
I'm not sure if Prosinski was hoping he'd be able to land a big hit or what, but whatever he does he takes a bad angle, leaves his feet, and just completely misses allowing for a 30+ yard gain on the play.
These are the breakdowns the team seems to be having on each play. Guys just are making too many mistakes on all levels and the team doesn't have the play makers to recover from them. Until one emerges or the players play more disciplined, help is not on the way.