The Jacksonville Jaguars have now played four games in the 2020 season, and the team currently sits with just a 1-3 record. Now that the first quarter of the season has been played and some of the things we’re seeing on the field could be considered more of a pattern and less than an anomaly, I wanted to take a look at some general formations, play-calling frequencies and personnel groupings the Jaguars have used thus far.
Thanks to Sharp Football Stats, I am able to access a lot of this information I was looking for. Here is what I discovered:
Shotgun versus Under Center (and run versus pass play calls)
One thing that caught my eye about Jacksonville’s offense, but was not really that surprising, is that the Jaguars are passing the ball a lot with Gardner Minshew II. Minshew has thrown the ball at least 40 times in each of the past three games (and has been incredibly accurate, completing 72.1 percent of passes this season). Some of that may have to do with game script with Jacksonville often playing from behind, but when you break it down, what is also interesting is that the Jaguars are almost guaranteed to pass it out of the shotgun alignment. Take a look at the chart below.
Jacksonville is passing it 84 percent of the time out of the shotgun formation — the sixth-highest rate in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Jaguars rush it 70 percent of the time under center. Perhaps the team is a bit predictable based on whether the quarterback is under center or a couple yards behind the center in shotgun. With that said, the Jaguars have thrown it 19 times from under center (30 percent) and ran it 27 times from the shotgun (16 percent). Still, at that kind of rate, the Jacksonville offense may be showing its hand to the defense a bit, in terms of if the ball is going to stay on the ground or travel through the air.
Overall, Jacksonville is in shotgun 67 percent of the time — roughly 166 out of a total 247 plays. That means the other 33 percent of plays, or about 82 plays in total are coming under center. According to Pro Football Reference, the Jaguars have recorded 147 passing attempts, 87 rushing attempts and have been sacked 13 times (again, 247 offensive plays in total).
For comparison, Jacksonville’s opponent this week, the Houston Texans, actually operates out of the shotgun more frequently than the Jaguars at 81 percent of the time. Similarly, though, when the Texans are under center, it is more than likely a run play (73 percent of the time), while the defense should expect a pass more often than not when Houston lines up in the shotgun (75 percent of plays).
The Jaguars use a ton of 11 personnel, which is one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers. Again, this is not all that surprising, but the roughly 70 percent rate is dominant (171 plays). This is common practice in the NFL, though. In fact, the Philadelphia Eagles are currently the only team that does not use 11 personnel most frequently.
Of those 171 plays out of 11 personnel, the Jaguars have a “successful play rate” (see paragraph directly below for definition) of 60 percent. Minshew has completed 117 out of 126 passes (74.3) percent with six touchdowns, four interceptions, and a passer rating of 100.5 He is also averaging 8.1 yards per attempt, and has been sacked nine times, out of 11 personnel. The Jaguars have run the ball 45 times, averaging 5.5 yards per carry (60 percent “successful run” rate) and scoring two touchdowns with this single-back set.
“Success rates” is defined by Sharp Football Stats as:
“A play is successful when it gains at least 40 percent of yards-to-go on first down, 60 percent of yards-to-go on second down and 100 percent of yards-to-go on third or fourth down.”
The next most common personnel grouping is nowhere near as frequent for the Jaguars, as 12 personnel — one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers — has been used, interestingly enough, 12 percent of the time (29 plays). Meanwhile, 21 personnel (two running backs, one tight end and two wide receivers) comes in at six percent (14 plays). Jacksonville has also used 13 personnel 13 times this season (five percent of total plays). Four-wide receiver sets (four plays) and empty running back sets (six plays) have been used minimally.
Jacksonville’s offense has been successful
One other thing I found interesting and wanted to note is that the Jaguars have actually had more success than not on offense, with “success” as defined above.
Jacksonville has a successful play rate of 59 percent on all pass plays, which ranks second in the NFL, ever-so-slightly behind the Seattle Seahawks. The Jaguars have a 52 percent success rate on run plays (15th) and 56 percent success rate overall (fourth).
The Jaguars are also really good on first down. The successful run rate jumps up to 55 percent, which ranks sixth in the league, and the passing game is still strong at 65 percent (fourth). Overall on first down, Jacksonville ranks third in the league with a 61 percent success rate.
Unsurprisingly, third down is a little bit more of a struggle, however, the Jags may fare better here than perceived. The successful run rate falls to just 50 percent (which ranks 20th), but the Jaguars are still faring pretty well compared to the rest of the teams on passing plays at 44 percent, which ranks ninth. At 45 percent, Jacksonville ranks a really respectable 12th overall on third down success rate — which again means gaining 100 percent of the yards-to-go. So, honestly better than I thought.
My takeaways are that, offensively, the Jaguars are actually doing pretty well. The defense has been the biggest issue on this team. And while Minshew and the passing game has had success, I wouldn’t mind the Jaguars giving the ball to James Robinson a little bit more. Adding up the 147 passing attempts and 13 sacks (160 drop backs). The Jaguars are calling passing plays about 65 percent of the time, and 40 times per game. Comparably, the Jaguars are calling less than 22 runs per game, and perhaps even less, with quarterback scrambles likely being counted in that metric. Again, that could have to do with playing from behind, and I think the data above justifies passing more, but I also feel Robinson has proven himself to be a capable lead running back, and his carries should increase.