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Todd Wash, Jaguars defenders, address run-defense issues

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Defensive coordinator Todd Wash knows it falls on him to get the defense running again

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Jacksonville at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last two games of the season, the Jaguars have given up a staggering 480 yards on the ground against the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts. Now, entering week 12, the team will face a Tennessee Titans team led by one of the most bruising backs in the league in Derrick Henry.

The team knows just how important it will be to stay within themselves and play good, sound, assignment-football when facing a team with an offensive line as powerful as the Titans’.

While the team has done a fantastic job of rushing the passer thus far this season, their opportunities have been few and far between. Jaguars’ defensive lineman Calais Campbell said yesterday, the team must stop the run in order to have the ability to rush the passer.

“We gotta stop the run, that starts with the (defensive line) ,” Campbell said. “We definitely haven’t played up to our standard -- not even close. So we gotta play up to our standard. When we do stop the run and get them into third and long situations we got a lot of guys that can who can get the passer, so we gotta make it happen.”

The Jaguars have not had a dominant run-defense since late in the 2017 season when the team traded for Marcell Dareus — adding him to an already-good front with Malik Jackson, Yannick Ngakoue, and Calais Campbell. The team was able to effortlessly take on blocks and attack the ball-carrier. Now, without Dareus and Jackson, the Jaguars have struggled mightily.

The Jaguars play an attack front — meaning they do not sit back and attempt to cover opposing team’s offensive linemen in an effort to allow their linebackers to free flow to the football, defensive coordinator Todd Wash said. The emphasis in the Jaguars’ system is to get off blocks — something the team hasn’t been successful at thus far this season.

“In our system, we’re an attack front so it’s not like we sit and try to cover up linemen and keep them off the second level so within our system that’s not what we do, some systems they do. But for us, we’re attack system and then when you get on a block you gotta get off a block is basically the way our system is built.”

The Jaguars cannot allow their linebackers to simply get “downhill.” As Wash explains, if the team plays that way, they’ll get killed in the passing game.

“It is just the way we play our system. It is the way Gus (Bradley) plays it, it is the way (Robert) Saleh plays it, it is the way they play it in Seattle. Your linebackers can’t just get downhill. A lot of people don’t understand that; a lot of people don’t understand football, to be honest with you. So our scheme allows them to go east and west but when he does see it, we need to see our linebackers getting downhill better than we have.”

So while the team does not play as aggressively with their linebackers, their issue has been getting off of blocks and playing aggressive when they need to. Something the team was good at in 2017, and have not been as consistent with it thus far this season.

Wash said while the lack of execution on defense in the run game is frustrating, it’s not like the team hasn’t been successful in the past. Consistency will be key moving forward thus-far this season. The defensive coordinator made sure to note that it does start with him, getting players in better angles

“First of all, I think you have to obviously put it on myself. I have to make sure that I get them in better positions to make some plays and create better angles for us defensively,” Wash said. “It’s kind of not the same style of runs, but these misdirection things that are giving us some issues and that’s a big point of emphasis this week going into Tennessee.”

The issues, Wash says, has not come due to the Jaguars’ attempting to do too much, however it’s more so to do their jobs.

“I think when the team starts having success, I think a player naturally are gonna say ‘I’m gonna take my gap and I’m gonna fall back’ and then all of a sudden the back bounces. So we talked about -- hey just do your job, trust that the other guys are gonna do their job and hopefully, we can get it stopped then.”

Jaguars’ defensive tackle Abry Jones feels the Jaguars issues come from within, and need to be addressed by simply doing their job. Not attempting to do too much, and to play sounds, assignment-football.

“If you got a foot on yesterday and a foot on tomorrow you’re gonna piss on today,” Jones said in the locker room shortly after practice on Wednesday. The Jaguars have been playing out of their gaps which has allowed for offensive linemen to create massive holes for opposing running backs. In week three, the Jaguars allowed only 44 yards to Henry, but Jones says the Jaguars cannot get complacent this week.

“It’s want-to. I feel like Tennessee is not a team that you just go in there and you stop a couple plays and they just gonna stop running the ball,” Jones said when asked how the team can rally around and stop Herny this week. “They got a great workhorse back there that deserves to get the ball down-in and down-out. It’s a mentality to make sure that we gonna take away the run game from them. To do that you gotta execute, you gotta be in your gaps and you gotta be assignment sound.”

The Jaguars are not playing consistent defense against the run, and it is not for lack of effort, rather doing things they do not necessarily have to do.

“We can’t have people out there trying to do extra and trying to save the day, because trying to save the day is getting us out of our gap.”

The Jaguars will have a lot of work to do this week, and figuring our their issues on defense will be the priority.