The Jaguars haven't exactly uncovered a winning formula yet, but by now they should at least be able to rule out fifty pass attempts per game as part of the equation.
In the team's most recent loss to the San Diego Chargers, second-year quarterback Blake Bortles launched the ball 49 times -- one pass attempt shy of his season high.
Meanwhile, rookie feature-back T. J. Yeldon absorbed just nine rushing attempts -- his lowest total of the season. If the Jaguars were searching for offensive balance last Sunday, they were sure as hell looking in all the wrong places.
As the team now prepares to face a divisional opponent they met just two weeks ago, familiarity could go a long way in helping the Jags sink back into a more balanced attack.
The Jaguars found a way to beat the Titans less than 16 days ago. The Jags' offense wasn't exactly firing on all cylinders that night, but an established ground attack gifted the young core with enough opportunities to take advantage of the Titans' defense. Yeldon finished with just 54 rushing yards, but broke off several big runs that lifted the pressure off of Bortles' arm and placed it on the Titans' defense.
Much of Yeldon's success arrived behind an offensive line that found a way to get into a groove. When the line functioned in harmony underneath offensive coordinator Greg Olson's play calls, the offense was able to push the ball down the field with ease. This is simply how offenses are supposed to function in the NFL. When each player is fulfilling their individual obligations and hitting their marks, an offense can drive down the field like a well-oiled machine.
Against the Titans, the Jaguars' offensive engine was built using components of the running game that worked consistently. Early in the game, Greg Olson uncovered a sequence that unraveled the Titans' defense and came back to it several more times throughout the 60-minute match-up. The play is built into a simple three-tight end formation that the Jaguars offense likes to operate out of near midfield.
The play is just one of several schemes that helped the offense drive against the Titans, but I think it's also one of the most important sequences that the Jaguars can go back to as they prepare to face their divisional rivals once again on Sunday. Building off of the formation and play itself might just help the Jaguars' offense grab another gear against a familiar opponent, bringing home another win in the process.
In an effort to explain all of the moving parts in the play and the movement the Jaguars' offense was able to create, I have marked up the still frames below with a pretty heavy hand.
As the play unfolds, you can see how the entire offense is able to come together to win the ground battle.
Pre-snap, tight end Julius Thomas (red) is set in motion. The Titans cornerback assigned to him (also red) follows Thomas across the formation. At the snap, left guard Zane Beadles (yellow) and tight end Clay Harbor (also yellow) are going to stand up and pull to the right side. Marcedes Lewis, lined up to the right of Harbor, is going to hold his ground in order to sell the next component of the play.
At the snap, Bortles fakes the direction of the exchange. This freezes linebacker Avery Williamson (orange) momentarily. You can see Zane Beadles and Clay Harbor making their way over to the right.
Beadles arrives at his mark first, setting a wall for Yeldon as Yeldon receives the hand-off. Yeldon (red) is now matched up solely against Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard (also red), who is filling his assigned gap. You can vaguely see Clay Harbor, right on schedule, making his way to his mark.
With perfect timing, Harbor hits Woodyard right in the chin. This frees Yeldon, who is now staring at a lot of open real estate in front of him.
After a gain of twenty, Greg Olson most likely put a mental check mark next to his successful play call. Two quarters later, in a similar situation, the Jaguars' offense came right back to it.
The set-up and personnel is the same. Thomas is motion while Beadles and Harbor are ready to pull. The Titans' defense should recognize the situation and pull closer, but the safety remains in the same spot as before and Williamson is about to get sucked into the fake exchange once again.
Bortles employs the misdirection, Williamson steps to the left, and Beadles and Harbor slide behind the line.
Once again, T.J. Yeldon looks to be on an island with Woodyard...
...until Clay Harbor blows him up. Now, it's just Yeldon vs. the charging safety.
In this situation, Yeldon is able to break the safety's tackle and ram his way for a few more yards. Extra-yard opportunities are the kind of things that can arise when an offense can win a play consistently.
On Sunday, the Jaguars have an opportunity to build off of successful sequences such as this one. Having played each other barely two weeks ago, the Jaguars and Titans should be playing less cautiously and more confidently. This means, for the Jaguars offense to be successful, they need to build off of situations like the one above. The Titans' defense may just get caught trying to contain situations that they got beat on two weeks ago, opening up opportunities for the Jaguars offense to exploit other areas of the field.
It's a simple idea, of course, but is without a doubt a huge storyline as both teams continue to prepare for each other. Are the Jaguars adaptive enough to build off of what they did well last time, climbing closer to a balanced offensive attack in the process? Or can the Titans' defense adjust and force the Jaguars to throw 50 times like other opponents have been able to?
The Jaguars found success, at times, on the ground against the Titans in their first meeting of the season. If the Jags can find success in the same situations, but do it more consistently, they have a legitimate shot at sweeping the Titans this season.