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Jaguars defense playing at historic, unsustainable level

The Jaguars defense is doing historic numbers, but they’re also doing unsustainable ones in key areas.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars defense through five games has been pretty phenomenal. They’re not as good against the run, as you would prefer, but I tend to believe by season’s end that will even itself out.

But the pass defense.

Woooooo buddy the pass defense.

The Jaguars’ pass defense has shown the ability to just completely suffocate teams and shut down quarterbacks. The team leads the NFL in sacks, interceptions, fourth in total passing yards, and first in opposing quarterback rating.

Simply put, if you have to pass against the Jaguars to win, you’re not going to.

As mnkman pointed out in a FanPost the other day looking at Football Outsider’s DVOA and the historical pace the defense is on, it’s already doing things that haven’t been done in over 30 years.

The cynic in me has to ask: Is this sustainable?

I think the answer is simultaneously yes and no. The Jaguars defense, I have no doubt, will be elite against the pass all season barring injury. I think they’ll also be the reason they win the majority of their games, as they have been in the first five games. The Jaguars have somehow found a way to drag their offense to victories by making other teams one-dimensional — causing turnovers in bunches and setting the offense up for easy scoring drives.

Through the first five weeks of the season the Jaguars have generated 15 total turnovers, putting the team at a +10 turnover margin. From those 15 turnovers the defense itself has scored four touchdowns. Beyond those four touchdowns, the Jaguars have scored an additional six touchdowns and two field goals off turnovers, plus another missed field goal.

The team has generated an eye popping 74 total points directly from turnovers, which accounts for 55 percent of the team’s 139 point total on the season. Without the offense even touching the ball, the Jaguars’ defense is responsible for 20 percent of the team’s scoring on the season.

The average scoring drive for the Jaguars offense after a turnover is just 36 yards, meaning they’re essentially setup in field goal range.

This isn’t meant to be a wet blanket or anything on the team — as I said I expect the defense to continue to be very good, but it was more of seeing something mind boggling and looking into it. The amount of points that the defense, more or less, has generated for the team in the first five weeks is staggering. When you look at how they came as well, it’s been when teams are trailing and trying to catch up to the Jaguars, which plays right into the defense’s hands. That is the unsustainable part — the scoring the defense generates. It’s going to need the offense to set them up, and we’ve already see that in the Jaguars’ two losses.

The real key going forward isn’t really going to be the defense, it’s going to be if the offense can get the team an early lead and force a team to play into the teeth of the Jaguars defense. That’s what the Jaguars did against the Texans, it’s what they did against the Ravens, and it’s what they did against the Steelers. They won those games.

The games the team has lost so far they didn’t win the turnover battle by a significant margin and the games were close enough where the teams could keep themselves balanced on offense, and not be one dimensional playing into the Jaguars hands. In the two losses, the Jaguars scored 20 points or less, the defense scoring a touchdown in one of those games.

In the three wins, the Jaguars score 30 or more, so it’s clear that the extra drives and short fields that get setup when a team is forced to pass makes a huge difference.

It’s a defense built to play with a lead and completely shut down another team, and when the game is close and teams can keep that balance, they’re not nearly as good. They’re still good, but when a team is trying to catch up, it’s a totally different level.

The defense will drag the offense to wins this season, but that can only work so many times. To keep the defense playing at the crazy unsustainable level, the offense is going to need to figure out how to score and sustain some drives, else you end up with games like the Jets and Titans.