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Big key to Jaguars success is scoring early

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NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been a lot more competent on the offensive side of the football than many fans and experts expected before the season started. Despite the fact that the Jaguars offense overall ranks top-five in the NFL, I’d hesitate to actually say they’re “good”.

The Jaguars pass offense is ranked 24th in the NFL, wedged between the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos, but they do have the best rushing attack in the NFL. That’s more-so from volume than outright effectiveness, but the latter has been getting better as the weeks go on. The team is good at sticking to running the football and wearing teams down once they have a lead, though.

And the key there is having a lead. A big boost for the Jaguars under head coach Doug Marrone has been their ability to score points on their opening drives. So far on the 2017 season, the Jaguars have scored on six of seven of their opening drives and in the one game they didn’t, they scored a touchdown on the second drive of the game.

In fact, the last three games opening drives have all resulted in touchdowns and they’re 2-1 in those games, the lone loss being in overtime to the Jets. The first three games of the season the team had opening drive field goals, but none the less those scripted early drives have been a major factor in the team’s success.

“I think when you go through the week you have a sense of what you would like or think that the players can do well and what you want to do in those situations,” Marrone said on Monday when asked about the team’s scripted drives. “During the course of the week you’re going to practice those plays. You’re probably practicing them pretty much in the order that you would probably want to call them. That’s why in practice you’re always talking about situations. First and ten, second and six, second and long, second and short. At the end of the day you look at those plays during the week of practice and if they are settled in that way then you can actually call them that way in the game. If they are not, if it’s something you didn’t do well in practice, then the next time you practice that situation you’re going to change it. I really think if you are really focused in and really paying attention to what we’re doing during the week then you are going to know exactly what we’re going to be able to call on Sunday.”

Operating with a play script early in the game is fairly common in the NFL, even though for the past four or five years it seemed to be a foreign concept to the Jaguars.

With Marrone, especially in 2017, it’s been interesting to watch. Most games you can tell the stark difference between the team’s play script and then when that script has run its course. I jokingly tweeting during Sunday’s 27-0 drubbing of the Colts when the Jaguars scored a touchdown on their opening drive that the script was successful, so let’s pray the rest of the way goes smoothly.

We’ve seen too many times where they get stuffed on a few early runs, a holding call happens or Blake Bortles over shoots someone on a simple pass and the drive just go to waste. The team has seemed to find things they do well on offense, an… identity some would say, which is a drastic change from the past few seasons where everything seemed so discombobulated.

We’ve discussed in the past that if the Jaguars get a two score lead, with the way their defense is constructed they’ll be hard to beat. We saw that on Sunday when the Jaguars quickly went up 14-0, you could sense it was almost instantly game over and the defense would absolutely suffocate the opposing team… which they did. A big part of that is that the Jaguars were able to execute their early game plan with success with back-to-back touchdown drives.

I don’t think the Jaguars offense, overall, is going to be some kind of juggernaut during the 2017 season outside of playing some truly awful teams like the Colts, but the success of their early drives has been a driving force in some of their wins. They immediately put the other team on their heels and the Jaguars defense turns rabid when they smell blood. If the offense can continue the fast starts after the bye week, they won’t even need to be a juggernaut. They’ll just need to be an efficient team that scores points early. Slow starts seem to thankfully be a thing of the past.

A deep dark past that we don’t need to talk about.

Don’t do it.

Shush.

Bury it deep inside and never let it out.