Now that the curtains have closed on the first quarter of the 2018 regular season, I wanted to take a moment and compare how the team is statistically trending through their first four games in comparison to their very successful 2017.
The 2018 Jacksonville Jaguars offense may not be scoring as many points per game as last season largely thanks to their six-point stinker against the Tennessee Titans, but as a whole, they are substantially more efficient than they were last year.
In the passing attack, Bortles is completing over 10 percent more of his passes in 2018 than he was at this time last year.
In addition to this increase in accuracy, the Jaguars are averaging seven more pass attempts per game without Leonard Fournette as the fulcrum of the offense. The coaching staff can sell us how not having Leonard doesn’t change their offensive philosophy and play-calling much, but the numbers tell a very different story. In regards to pass blocking, the Jaguars have allowed twice as many sacks so far in 2018 despite investing a top-market contract in free agent guard Andrew Norwell. Some can blame injuries and a higher volume of pass attempts on this, but watching the film, Josh Wells has played soundly in his replacement of Cam Robinson thus far.
On the ground, leading rusher T.J. Yeldon is averaging 4.2 yards per carry in 2018, which is 0.7 more than leading 2017 rusher Leonard Fournette. The Jaguars’ decision to pass to open up the run this season versus the other way around has afforded the same yards per carry average (4.3) on 33 less carries. Really, the only thing missing with Fournette’s absence is that hammer who can pick up the first down on third-and-short and red zone situations.
This year’s Jaguars offense has three more giveaways, but Bortles is only responsible for three of the seven giveaways, with D.J. Chark, Donte Moncrief, Dede Westbrook, T.J. Yeldon contributing four lost fumbles.
The Jaguars defense currently ranks in first place in points allowed per game and passing yards allowed per game. Surely they are way ahead of schedule from last year?
Well, yes and no.
The 2018 defense is allowing 4.5 points per game and only a couple passing yards per game less than last year. Perhaps more importantly, they have cut down explosive plays of 40+ yards in half and have kept the ball in front of them with lots of soft zone coverages, and this could also explain the increased completion percentage allowed. But has this “bend don’t’ break” approach taken away the unit’s aggressiveness and proclivity for turnovers?
“Sacksonville” has taken down the quarterback 10 times so far this year, good enough for a tie for 12th place in 2018. The Jaguars had 10 sacks after the first game last year and 18 after the quarter mark, which would have them tied for first place with the Chicago Bears this year. A similar story goes for takeaways with over three times as many fumbles and interceptions as they’ve had so far this year. The Jaguars only have one interception on the season, but easily could have had three more just last week were it not for penalties and concentration drops.
While there is a stark contrast in the sack and takeaway numbers, there is no bigger disparity than the rush defense numbers. Remember how the passing yards allowed per game were almost identical thus far? Well, the 2018 Jaguars defense is allowing over 70 yards per game less on average. The 2017 crew was allowing over 160 rushing yards and 5.6 yards per carry, and those numbers have greatly waned to under 100 yards and 4.0 yards per carry courtesy of nose tackle Marcell Dareus.
To summarize, last year’s defense may have been more fun to watch with more splash plays and physical press-man coverage, but this year’s unit is much more organized and disciplined. The exciting thing about this is that the takeaways and sacks come in bunches; last year they just happened to bunch out of the gate.
Record: 3-1 (2018) vs. 2-2 (2017)
Stats be damned, this is the only category that matters. Go Jaguars, tbh.