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Reports of the defense’s demise are greatly exaggerated

NFL: International Series-Philadelphia Eagles at Jacksonville Jaguars Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Right now the Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t a good football team, sitting at 3-5 and headed into an AFC South showdown against the Indianapolis Colts in a game that could either keep their season alive or put an end to it. One aspect of the Jaguars that is still actually good however, is the defense.

It’s a group that has taken a lot of heat this season for not being as good as last season, which is simultaneously true and false. The 2017 defense played at a historically unsustainable level, which was questions mid-season on if it would hold up. Surprisingly it did, but as we’ve seen this year, the 20 sacks in two games and an absurd number of turnovers and points off turnovers just aren’t there. The defense this year is just as good in some areas, but those flash plays just aren’t there right now.

I wrote about it earlier in the year when the defense was being questioned, but the point made then still stands now. The defense is still good and it’s going to be good through the rest of the season just for the sheer amount of talent it has assembled.

The Jaguars defense is allowing 21 points per game, which is a five-point increase from last season, but the offense this season is averaging only 16.8 points per game, which is a near full 10 points less than what they averaged last season. The uptick in points scored and down tick in turnovers and sacks is impacted in large part because of the ineffectiveness of the offense.

The Jaguars still put the most pressure on the opposing team’s quarterback on a per snap basis.

There are various contributions as to why the pressure is there and the actual sacks aren’t. Teams are doing a lot more quick passing against the Jaguars, the Jaguars playing more off-coverage and quarters than usual and quite simply just not playing Tom Savage and Jacoby Brissett.

There’s another factor as well with both the sacks and the turnovers in that teams are not being forced into being one dimensional against the Jaguars defense like they were last season. Last year the Jaguars offense took care of the football and scored points. This year they turn the ball over a ton and struggle to score points. That means teams aren’t playing catch-up like they were last year and aren’t playing into the teeth of the Jaguars defense. The defense after all is built to get pressure with the front-four and cover with seven. Right now, teams are able to stay balanced in their offense because they’re not playing catch-up and it limits the Jaguars defense’s ability because of how they’re built to play.

Even with all the offensive struggles, the Jaguars defensively have only allowed 16 touchdowns on the season, which is the second least in the NFL. They’ve only allowed a team to score touchdowns in the first quarter twice all season, against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys. They’ve allowed a combined six points in the first quarter in the last two games, both of which the Jaguars lost. They’ve allowed a total of two touchdowns and five field goals on the season in the first quarter through eight games, so the notion that they offense is put in a hole as well doesn’t really hold up outside of two games.

They’ve done all this with one of the worst offenses in the NFL backing them up, an offense that also turns the ball over a ton and puts the opposing team in striking distance for points, and operating with some of the worst starting field position (as a defense) in the NFL. They’re still in the top half of the NFL in third down stop percentage while being on pace to face the most third downs. They’re near the bottom of the league in time of possession (how often they’re on the field) and still manage to have one of the better statistical defenses in the league.

This isn’t to say the defense hasn’t had their faults this year or are blameless for being 3-5 so far this season, they have. They’ve dropped interceptions and missed tackles. They leave a lot to be desired against the run when an offense can stay balanced, but that’s also not really what they’re built for. Some players like Telvin Smith and A.J. Bouye are having up and down seasons, but collectively as a unit the defense is still really good.

The Jaguars defense is still really good, overall have been good this year. The Jaguars offense on the other hand has been a total disaster outside of two games and that’s put even more stress on the defense to carry the team. I understand the expectations are for the defense to carry the offense, to a degree, but the amount they’re being expected to this season is unrealistic.

In order to see the Jaguars defense we saw last year, flying all over the place and forcing turnovers, the offense is going to have to find a way to get out of reverse.

The demise of the Jaguars defense has been greatly exaggerated.