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Jaguars defense must focus on run-game, linebacker play this weekend

Todd Wash understands the urgency for a better run defense, solid linebacker play

New Orleans Saints v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

While the Jaguars defense has played admirably thus far this season, their shortfall comes in an area which was assumed to be addressed two seasons ago. Now, with the loss of Marcell Dareus and new personnel in the secondary along with the linebacker group, Jacksonville has regressed against the run — especially in preventing explosive plays.

Thus far this season the Jaguars have allowed 4.9 yards per carry which ranks 29th in the NFL. Ranking 22nd in the NFL in rushing yards per game allowed with 120.2, the Jaguars will be focused on this area throughout the final seven games of the season. Defensive coordinator Todd Wash understands the team has a long ways to go, however his focus falls on the amount of explosive plays the team has given up.

“It’s going to be big,” Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said on Thursday when asked about the importance of consistency in the run game. “In the off week, we go back and we look at things, where we’re at statistically on things, what tendencies that I’ve developed throughout the first nine games. But that was the biggest thing we came out of, is not only consistently stopping the run, which if you take nine snaps away, we’re pretty good. Well, as Monte Kiffin said, ‘If you take those away, we’re pretty good.’ Well shit, they still had nine.”

Over the course of the season, the Jaguars have given up 26 explosive runs — runs of 10 or more yards — for 220 yards which ranks 21st in the NFL according to SharpFootballStats. The Jaguars have never had this many explosive runs allowed at this point in the season, Wash remarked.

“We’ve always been top five in explosives [plays given up], and now we’ve given up more explosives so far this year then we ever have. So, those are the two biggest things that we have to be able to make sure that we get better at in the second half.”

Communication has been one of the biggest issues for the Jaguars thus far this season. At linebacker, the Jaguars have undergone a lot of turnover this season. After being forced to start a rookie at weak side linebacker, the Jaguars have not been in the same page for much of the season. Now with a veteran linebacker in Najee Goode taking over, Wash feels the team has a chance to get more consistency out of the position group.

“I think they’re solid. Obviously, [Linebackers Coach] Mark [Collins] and I talked just the other day, we have to be more consistent in the run game,” Wash said when asked about the linebacker play as a whole on Thursday.

Wash, however doesn’t feel the linebackers are the only group to blame. “It’s everybody. Every one of our safeties are down in the box, our corners are down there on the nub sides, but what we see is they’re playing well versus the pass.”

Against the Indianapolis Colts, the Jaguars will be faced with covering two solid tight ends in Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle. According to Wash, the strong suit of the linebacker corps has been their ability to run and cover the tight ends and running backs out of the backfield.

“So, I like how we match up versus tight ends and running backs. I think as a whole, we all have to get more consistent, that’s the biggest theme that we have going into the second half of the season here, but I think they’ve been solid.”

Myles Jack has been one of the most heavily scrutinized players on the Jaguars defense thus far this season, but with no longer having to cover for a rookie weak side linebacker, his play has picked up and should continue to do so. Goode has provided “stability” in the Jaguars offense, Wash says and “Myles [Jack] has done a really nice job of being our quarterback in our system.”

On Sunday, the team will have their hands full with Colts running back Marlon Mack. Mack has accumulated 753 yards on 178 rushes along with three touchdowns thus far this season. With a healthy arsenal of players, the Jaguars should improve in all areas of the defense, especially against the run.