Judging a team defense is very hard to do from a statistical standpoint. While team ranks often are based on total yards allowed per game, often that statistic alone can be very misleading.This is especially true to the whole philosophy of a "bend but don't break" defense. Others may stress points allowed or points allowed per game as a key factor of a good defense. That logic is also not without flaws as it doesn't consider field position, a terrible offense or turnovers that directly lead to points. As we all know time of possession isn't a guaranteed recipe for success, as often the 2011 Jaguars won that statistic and still managed to lose 11 games. So how do we judge a defense outside of the realm of the eye test?
While the eye test would have worked versus the Ravens and the utter domination displayed (or as the Ravens seemed to believe it was their utter lack of execution) I believe the best way to judge a defense is to dissect the play of the opposing quarterback. Since this is a passer friendly league, basing the play of the opposite qb should give an adequate example of the overall performance of a team defense. If a defensive is disrupting an offense it should directly impact completion percentage, yards and cause interceptions which are all factors that influence passer rating. The 2010 Jaguars defense (not them again) gave up a whopping 262.1 yards per game in the air, and an astounding average qb rating of 98.5! For frame of reference, only Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Tony Romo had better qb ratings than 98.5 this year. Think about that for a second, under that logic EVERY qb we played had success around a level comparable to a top 5 qb! Contrast that to this past season's squad and their much more manageable average rating of 83.7 and you can see the drastic change. What makes this drastic improvement even more impressive is the amount of injuries that were dealt to the unit. The 2011 Jaguars defense was much better at applying pressure, causing turnovers and less apt to give up the big play.
While our linebacker play was very solid, I think this mass improvement has to be directly related to two factors; Mel Tucker taking control, and the improvement of the secondary. The contributions of Dwight Lowery, Dawan Landry and Drew Coleman cannot be overlooked.
While there are concerns going forward, especially at the Cornerback position, there has to be a lot to get excited about regarding the continued improvement of this young unit.