Lost in the 51-16 blowout victory against the Indianapolis Colts was the performance of the Jacksonville Jaguars defense. A group that has been much maligned the past few weeks was able to keep the Jaguars in the game long enough for the offense to finally get their bearings. Not only that, but it was a defensive play by Andre Branch, of all people, that swung the momentum in the Jaguars favor right before halftime.
In reality, the Jaguars defense held the Colts offense to just nine points, which seemed unfathomable after giving up 74 points in the previous two games, both to bad offenses.
The Jaguars were forced into making a few changes with their defensive personnel, as well as changes schematically. One of the choices was forced on the Jaguars, as Paul Posluszny was out with an injury, but linebacker Jordan Tripp stepped in his place and there really was not a noticeable difference between the two. Tripp was a half-step slow to react to some running plays, but that’s to be expected when he hasn’t played much outside of special teams and some heavy formations most of the season. Not only did Tripp step in with his play on the field, but he also wore the defensive headset and was responsible for lining players up pre-snap and making sure the play was set correctly, something that the team struggled with the last time Poz was hurt against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Some of the other changes were the coaches finally relenting on some other players. A birdie told me before the game that Nick Marshall would be getting the snaps at outside corner in nickel downs instead of Dwayne Gratz, which made sense with Demetrius McCray being a healthy scratch. Marshall, all things considered, I thought did a great job with the increased play time at corner. He gave up a big play early on, but he had great positioning and coverage on the play, he just mistimed the ball and probably could have had an interception. I’d expect to see Marshall log a lot of snaps in the remaining three games.
Then Chris Smith was given a lot of snaps on passing downs, playing both inside and out, but really didn’t show out much with the increased snaps. Even so, credit to the coaching staff for finally rolling it out there and giving it a shot.
Personnel wasn’t the only thing the Jaguars changed though, as they also made some schematic changes. A week after Gus Bradley sounded as if he had no ideas on how to fix the Jaguars defense in season, he made changes. All week I was told there was literally nothing the Jaguars could do schematically to alleviate some of the issues on defense, they did.
Credit to them.
The team knew they were facing a banged up 40-year-old quarterback and they blitzed him a ton. They sent pressure from all over the place, be it with stunts, linebackers, safeties and corners. Not only that, but the Jaguars switched up what they did in coverage quite a bit by playing a lot more straight man rather than a Cover-3 shell.
I don’t expect a performance like this from the Jaguars the rest of the season, but I think the offense has started to show they can do enough to warrant gambling more on defense, because that’s what the Jaguars have to do.