clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Is Chris Ivory the red zone running back the Jaguars need?

New, comments

Jaguars running backs scored just four touchdowns all last season. Chris Ivory is going to change that.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars were hilariously ineffective running the ball in the red zone last year. In all, running backs scored a total of four touchdowns last year, with just three of them on the ground. Here they are, in case you don't hate yourself enough.

Week 5: T.J. Yeldon 4-yard catch vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 7: T.J. Yeldon 28-yard run vs. Buffalo Bills

Week 13: T.J. Yeldon 1-yard run vs. Tennessee Titans

Week 14: Denard Robinson 1-yard run vs. Indianapolis Colts

If not for a blowout win against the Colts where Denard scored in the final minutes of a 51-16 victory, the Jaguars would have had just one rushing touchdown in the red zone last year. And in all, the team had just three total touchdowns from the red zone last year. That's one less than the four times Toby Gerhart missed from the one-yard line in London. (Side note: Gerhart didn't get a single red zone touch after this.)

Red zone touches in 2015

Rush Yards TDs Pass Yards TDs
Chris Ivory 38 93 6 5 46 1
T.J. Yeldon 22 63 1 3 16 1
Denard Robinson 13 39 1 3 26 0
Toby Gerhart 7 5 0 1 8 0
Bernard Pierce 1 0 0 0 0 0
Jonas Gray 1 0 0 0 0 0

So, what did Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell do to fix it? Well, Chris Ivory's signing is an obvious upgrade. And he got rid of the least effective red zone running back in Toby Gerhart and decided that Denard Robinson was worth at least another year due to similar numbers as T.J. Yeldon.

He also brought in a number of free agent offensive linemen. Newly signed left tackle Kelvin Beachum and left guard Mackenzy Bernadeau will likely be the starters in 2016 and there's no reason to think they won't be an upgrade over Luke Joeckel and Zane Beadles. Brandon Linder will fill in for Stefen Wisniewski who was a subpar run blocker.

But he also went and signed Chris Ivory, a move few expected. But after the dust of free agency settled, it was a move that made a lot of sense. Ivory scored seven of his eight touchdowns last season from the red zone, with the longest one coming from 10 yards out.

Week 1: Chris Ivory 10-yard run vs. Cleveland Browns

Week 1: Chris Ivory 3-yard run vs. Cleveland Browns

Week 4: Chris Ivory 3-yard run vs. Miami Dolphins

Week 6: Chris Ivory 1-yard run vs. Washington

Week 7: Chris Ivory 9-yard catch vs. New England Patriots

Week 9: Chris Ivory 1-yard run vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Week 9: Chris Ivory 1-yard run vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Week 12: Chris Ivory 31-yard run vs. Miami Dolphins

So, how exactly will Chris Ivory help the Jaguars in the red zone?

Goal-line carries

Toby Gerhart lacked the vision to know which hole to hit, the acceleration to hit it quickly, the strength to move defenders, or the speed to get to the sideline and take advantage of a defense that was loading the center of the box. This seven-second short film entitled "La Fin Du Toby" from perfectly demonstrates all of that and (sadly) more.

Now let's look at Ivory's speed to exploit a crowded Browns defensive line...

...or when he was stronger than Paul Posluszny to get the score against the Jaguars.

Night, Paul.

Ivory is a faster, stronger version of Gerhart and the Jaguars now have a proven weapon in the goal-line game. Whether they want to employ Chris Ivory's speed or strength is completely up to them.

Breaking tackles in space

If there's a game where you can point to and say, "If we had any semblance of a red zone offense, we'd have won that game!" it's against the San Diego Chargers. Yeldon didn't have a single carry in the red zone. Gus Bradley said after the game that "you need to run the ball in the red zone" and, well, he's right.

Red zone failures contributed to aaa

Let's back the ball up from the goal line and see how Ivory is doing.

Yup, he's still got agility, speed, and enough strength to break tackles on the way to the end zone.

Denard Robinson has agility and speed, but how does he do at shedding tackles?

And while the interior offensive line has their fair share of blame, the type of play below happened dozens of times last year. Instead of hitting a hole and trying to make one guy miss, Yeldon looks like he doesn't know what to do as the Jaguars get closer to the end zone and teams crowd the box.

The fact is, Robinson and Yeldon tend to lean on their ability to make guys miss rather than shedding tackles. This works in the middle of the field where they have more green to work with (well, it works with Yeldon, at least) but it breaks down in the red zone when it matters most.

When the Jaguars get close to the end zone and the field shrinks, there is just less green and more bodies. And it could be why Greg Olson is reticent to sprinkle run plays in the red zone, or why Blake Bortles is quick to call pass in run-pass combo play calls near the end zone.

But, let's not let Olson off the hook so easily. The majority of red zone plays were run under center in a non-spread formation. With Ivory, let's hope he moves to shotgun and spreads the field out. That will only help Ivory and running backs like Yeldon and Robinson.

Ivory has a speed and strength combination not present in any Jaguars running back. He's going to give Olson and Bortles a lot more confidence in 2016 to close out drives with running plays and he's going to reward that faith with a lot more than three touchdowns on the ground next year.

Read more about Chris Ivory and how he fits the Jaguars offense here.