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Jaguars must exploit Raiders secondary

The Jaguars’ offense needs to take a big step in order for the team to keep winning, and the Raiders defense provides an opportunity for them to do so.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Chicago Bears Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

After analyzing some of the Raiders’ film, it’s very obvious that this team has some big holes in their passing defense — holes that need to be exploited. I would have full confidence in the Jaguars 2015 offense to have a field day with this defense. As of right now, I have little-to-none in the Jaguars 2016 offense to do so.

And, if the Jaguars are to win against Oakland on Sunday and mark the second three game win streak of the Gus Bradley era (the last one was in 2013), they need to prove me and my lack of confidence wrong.

They need to blow the Raiders defense out of the water.

In my opinion, as well as many other analysts, fans, etc., the Jaguars vs. Raiders game is the most important game of the season to date. The team sits at 2-3 with the chance of hitting .500 with a win, and with just as big of a chance of sitting at 2-4 and seeming incapable of beating mediocre teams, let alone good teams.

But, if the Jaguars want to win this game, they have to get things going offensively, which fellow BCC writer Jimmy Siettmann hit on Wednesday.

The Raiders can be exposed in the run game, as they ranked 29th in rush yards allowed per game with 132.2, as pointed out by Jimmy. However, the run game has been such a disaster for the Jaguars this year, nothing will change until the team does something about it — no matter bow bad of a rush defense they play.

The Jaguars pass game, however, has had it’s moments this year, and I believe that the Oakland game is the game that the passing offense can bounce back.

It starts against exposing the Raiders pass rush... or, well, lack their of.

The Raiders’ have a premier pass rusher in Khalil Mack, but he’s been far from that in 2016. This year, he has a total of two sacks and five total hurries through six games— that’s not the Khalil Mack that took the league by storm last year with 15 sacks and 34 hurries, averaging almost a sack a game and over two hurries* per game.

The Raiders’ also signed Bruce Irvin in the 2016 offseason (a guy who I thought could have thrived in Jacksonville) to contribute to the pass rush and flats coverage. So far, he’s been a decent flats coverage guy, but even less effective than Mack in terms of pass rush -- two sacks and two hurries.

Big names aside, Jihad Ward, the defensive end opposite of Mack, who also gets time inside at 3-tech when the team runs its hybrid 3-4 defense, is terrible at pass rushing as well. I won’t just use stats (zero sacks and three pressures) to show how bad he’s playing, but some GIFs from my pal and Raiders fan Robert Ortiz (@DraftOrtiz).

Like, it’s almost bewildering that a starting defensive end in the NFL doesn’t know how to pass rush like Ward (#95). Here he is being used as an interior rusher in an obvious passing situation:

This kind of rush is set up where Ward needs to target the inside to both create pressure and widen Mack’s lane to get to Titans QB Marcus Mariota. Instead, he immediately steps outside, cutting off Mack’s lane and not applying any pressure.

Here’s another interior rush. Ward refuses to even attempt shedding his blocker to get in to the open lane and get in Mariota’s face. He stays locked on and actually turns both his and his blockers’ bodies towards the sidelines, and it’s pretty gross:

So yeah, the Jaguars are facing what’s been a very bad pass rush in this Raiders’ defense. With the lack of pressure they will most likely face on Sunday, the pass game needs to be electric.

The Raiders secondary has been both up and down this year. Both starting cornerbacks — David Amerson and Sean Smith — rank in the top 12 for plays on the ball this year — Amerson at fifth overall with 10 plays on the ball* (one interception and nine defended passes), and Smith at 12th (two interceptions and six defended passes).

However, as stats aren’t everything, it needs to be noted that both guys, especially Smith, have been prone to giving up chunk plays this year, which is something both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are great at, both points also pointed out by Jimmy. The team has allowed 28 passes of 20 yards or more in six games — averaging almost five a game.

I’m at the point in which I should say: If the Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe can score a passing touchdown against the Raiders’ defense, the Jaguars offense for what we know it’s capable of should go off on Sunday. They need to go back to what they were last year.

For Jacksonville’s passing offense, this needs to be a statement game.

Forget sweeping — it’s time to turn the corner.

Thanks to for in-depth stats.