The Jacksonville Jaguars pass rush has been something interesting to watch this year because it has been improved, but at the same time it really hasn’t. The Jaguars injected fresh pass rushers into the defensive line with Yannick Ngakoue, Malik Jackson, Sheldon Day and the return of Dante Fowler, Jr.
For the most part the players have done well, especially Ngakoue picking up four sacks in the past four games and despite not getting the sacks, Jackson has been disruptive in the backfield. Something is still missing however, even though the Jaguars total sack numbers project that it’s further along than it really is.
So far through five games the Jaguars as a team have 13 sacks, which ranks in the middle of the pack for the NFL. That’s respectable and certainly a significant improvement over what the team had last season, but there is a bit of fuzzy math going on there. Six of those 13 sacks came against the Indianapolis Colts in London, so in reality the Jaguars have had seven sacks in four games. Again, that’s not awful, but that’s below mediocre and mediocre is right where they’re sitting currently.
The other thing is sacks are one of the most misleading stats in football. Though, I want to be clear that sacks are great and they end drives, but consistent pressure on the quarterback overall is more effective than picking up a sack per game on average. The latter part has been the problem for the Jaguars and it reminds me so far of what the team went through in the 2014 season, where the team had a good number of sacks at the end of the season, but ended dead last in the NFL in total quarterback pressures.
Like in 2014, the Jaguars pass rush in 2016 is an efficient pass rush. The Jaguars get home when they do apply pressure, but the issue is they’re not able to apply the pressure consistently enough to really snowball the game. The defense overall is much improved because they’ve added a lot more speed to the back seven, but on the defensive line it’s still an issue of quarterbacks having all day to throw, for the most part. If the Jaguars can get their young players to mature and be more consistent rushing the passer, then the defense can finally push itself over that hill. The unfortunate thing is that with Ngakoue being a rookie and your best edge rusher, there is the likelihood that he hits the rookie wall at some point down the stretch of this season. That overall pressure switch, valve, whatever you want to call it may not get flipped this season but the pieces are there.
Getting the quarterback to the ground is still the most important thing, but if you can consistently apply pressure and move the quarterback from his spot it can make up for the lack of sacks, because that in turn is going to actually create more sacks. At the end of the day, sacks are the ideal, but you also have to be able to create those sacks.