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FILM ROOM: Do the Jaguars have the best defensive line in the NFL?

NFL: International Series-Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

What makes a top defensive line in the NFL and could it be the Jacksonville Jaguars Can they be if they can’t stop the run?

At their current pace the Jaguars have a chance to break the record set by the Chicago Bears in 1984 who had a whopping 72 sacks that season. That’s pretty eye-popping. They certainly have the best pass rush but they cannot be considered the best defensive line if they can’t stop the run.

For instance, the Philadelphia Eagles defensive line is considered to have the best front four and although the Eagles don’t have as many sacks, you can’t run on them, so this forces teams to call a one-dimensional game. This certainly makes the Eagles a contender for the best defense overall even with a secondary with less talent than the Jaguars.

But, really, how good is our pass defense?

The Jaguars pass defense allows only 9.7 yards per pass completion which is lowest in the NFL, along with four passing touchdowns allowed. The Bills and Steelers are close behind allowing only six each. They are also at the top of the league in allowing only 161.7 total pass yards per game.

On top of leading the league in sacks with 33 (the Panthers are in second with 27 sacks) the Jaguars are the only team to obtain over seven sacks in more than one game with two 10-sack performances.

Let’s start with Yannick Ngakoue who right now has 6.5 sacks all within three games coupled with three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and 11 tackles. Last year he had a total of 8.0 sacks, which he should surpass this upcoming week against the Bengals.

On the below play, you can see Ngakoue is about three yards away from the nearest offensive lineman. This gives him an extra step to gain more speed which gives him more force when contacted. (We’re all familiar with Isaac Newton’s “force equals mass times acceleration” bit, right?)

The only Colts receiver open on this play was Jacoby Brisset’s fourth read, and with the Jaguars pass rush, the quarterback never had time. Here is a compilation showing Ngakoue’s speed off the defensive line.

Here is a compilation of Ngakoue’s sacks and force fumbles this year.

Dante Fowler who has 5.5 sacks spread out within five games also seems to be a consistent force on the defensive line. Currently with 12 tackles, two forced fumbles, two recoveries, and one of those resulting in a 53-yard touchdown, he is undoubtedly the fastest player on the line.

Dante stated back in January that he is more comfortable in two-point stance instead of a three-point; he generally likes to stand, instead of one hand in the dirt. Despite his discomfort, he has been able to adjust quite well in his second year. Fowler also usually lines up a yard off the line of scrimmage to gain speed and uses his strength to bull rush the offensive lineman.

In this next clip the tight end goes out for a route leaving more room for Fowler to gain momentum, the key to penetration for the defensive lineman is getting low, and here he uses his hips and slides right by offensive lineman.

Moving onto one of the biggest free agency pickups in Jaguars history (a list that includes Keenan McCardell, Leon Searcy, and Mike Peterson) we can go ahead and add Calais Campbell to the list.

His veteran leadership has been more than apparent as we approach 2017 mid-way point. Calais was just awarded Defensive player of the year so far with 10 sacks on the season. He switched from 3-4 to 4-3 and if anything, it’s opened his game to another level. He creates better matchups on the line for other guys like Fowler, Ngakoue, and Malik Jackson, because he is double teamed almost every snap. With Marcell Dareus as the newest addition to this defensive line the rushing defense should no longer be an issue.

Here in Week 3, Campbell is double-teamed forcing Flacco to slide in the pocket and somehow he manages to get through and gets the sack.

This is where Calais’s experience and veteran leadership comes into play. He notices trips to the right with Le’Veon Bell on the outside. Calais does his homework and knows a quick screen is developing, leaves his zone and makes the tackle.

Campbell in this last play just bullies the right tackle here. He shoves him to the right, falls to the ground and still manages to grab the quarterback’s jersey. This is all it takes to get the sack which is impressive in itself because Brissett is 6’4” and 230 pounds and Calais is still able to bring him down with one arm.

One thing that has been concerning is the rush defense. We are last in the NFL when it comes to rush yard per carry with allowing 5.2 yards and yards gained per game with 138.0. That’s worst in the league with the Los Angeles Chargers right behind us with 135.1 yards per game.

Below you will see Bryant motion to uncover Jaguars defense in man-to-man. This forces Telvin Smith to shift to the strong side which is the opposite side of where the play is going. Since the Jaguars have been in Nickel on most defensive snaps the Pittsburgh Steelers wanted to expose the run game early by forcing Aaron Colvin to make the tackles.

The linebackers here should have audibled to a zone but those mid-game adjustments will come in time. Everyone knows Le’Veon Bell is not an easy guy to bring down and double teaming our least effective defensive lineman Abry Jones.

A similar thing happens in this play, Tashaun Gipson is moved into the gap and Telvin gets moved weakside.

Our newest addition, a Pro Bowl interior defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, should be a big help against the rush. The Bills are currently third in yards per attempt and second overall in yards given up. Marcell Dareus only played eight games last season and five games this season nursing an ankle injury but provides the depth and leadership the Jaguars need to continue to be a top defense in the National Football League.

And for your viewing pleasure here are all 10 sacks from Week 7 against the Indianapolis Colts.