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Jaguars defense ranks in top 5, but how good are they?

Baltimore Ravens v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

One of the few bright spots of the Jacksonville Jaguars abysmal 2016 season has been their defense, overall. It doesn’t do anything flash, but it’s been able to grind teams down and keep the Jaguars in games, though they ultimately end up breaking later in the game and still lose. The big question is, how good really is the Jaguars defense? Currently it’s ranked among the top five teams for total defense and outside of one game has been great against the run. It’s hard to see how a team entering Week 14 could have a Top 5 defense and be 2-10, as it’s exceedingly rare, so if they’re that good why do they keep losing games? Is the offense hamstringing them that much?

Yes and no.

In reality, the Jaguars defense isn’t as good as it’s ranking, but that’s not to say it’s bad. It is a good defense, it’s just not as good as people seem to think that it is. They’ve had a good stretch over the past five games or so, where they’ve been in most of the games, but they’ve also faced a long run of bad quarterbacks.

By my count, the Jaguars defense has faced about seven quarterbacks I think we can classify as being “good” at this point: Aaron Rodgers, Phillip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Andrew Luck, Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota and Matthew Stafford. Combined, those seven quarterbacks against the Jaguars have completed 68.1 percent of their passes for 1,602 yards with 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

That’s an average of 229 passing yards per game, which is a little over 30 yards more per game than season average, but it’s an 80 yard difference compared to the “bad” quarterbacked teams. Outside of those seven games they’ve allowed just four other touchdown passes, so they’re shutting down the bad quarterbacks they’re facing.

That’s good. You should be dominating guys like Brian Hoyer (who actually threw for a ton of yards), Paxton Lynch, Nick Foles, Tyrod Taylor, etc... They’ve shut down those guys giving up just 149 yards per game and four touchdowns.

Against the good quarterbacks you’re still getting beat in large part because the Jaguars still aren’t very good at rushing the quarterback. Through 12 games the Jaguars have 26 sacks, which isn’t bad, but you also have to remember that they picked up 11 (42%) of those 26 sacks in just two games, against the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills, both teams that have quarterbacks who have a tendency to run themselves into sacks trying to make a play.

The Jaguars 2016 defense reminds me a lot of the 2012 defense where it’s good enough to keep you in games, good enough to not lose you games, but your offense is so bad that a lot of teams you’re facing go very conservative on offense once they’re up two scores, because they know the Jaguars won’t be able to come back and overtake the game. I’m not saying teams are squatting on leads and just running the ball in lieu of passing, but the Jaguars have faced the second least pass attempts this season so far.

So yes, the Jaguars defense is significantly improved from last season, but we need to slow down on declaring the defense set and not needing improvement. There are still major areas of concern on the defense that need to be upgraded going into the offseason, namely the pass rush. It’s a good defense against the run that can keep you in the game by not getting gutted, more often than not, but if the games are actually in threat where teams are more open and passing the ball with more urgency and risk, then they can still get things done against them.