We are officially a quarter of the way through the season and while we didn’t think this Jacksonville Jaguars team would be very good... we thought they’d be better than 1-3 through arguably their easiest four-game stretch of the season.
I had them pegged at 3-1 before the season started. We were always going to lose to the Tennessee Titans, but I thought we could take the Indianapolis Colts by surprise in Week 1 and that we’d beat an inferior Miami Dolphins roster and a rookie Joe Burrow.
Oh, how wrong I was.
We’re playing well enough to win on offense most of the time but we’re making mistakes at key times. The points are there for the most part but there’s still something missing.
As far as defense, that’s a lot easier to evaluate. The Jaguars are flat out bad on defense.
So, how can this team turn it around? How can they shake this feeling that a 3-13 season is the best they can hope for?
The secondary has to hold out just a little longer
Right now the Jaguars are near the bottom of the league in quarterback hits (19) and sacks (4). But they are near the top of the league in quarterback knockdowns (15) and percentage of plays where the opposing quarterback is knocked down (11.9%). They’re above average in pressures (23.2%) as well.
They also lead the league in completion percentage given up (77.0%).
That tells me that the secondary is incredibly weak and that is having a noticeable effect on the defensive line’s ability to get to the quarterback. The secondary and defensive line play off one another — if the secondary could hold another second longer, those knockdowns and pressures would turn into sacks. And sacking the quarterback would go a long way towards cutting down on the 8.0 yards per attempt (second in the league) that they’re giving up. Fewer third downs converted. Fewer drives getting near the red zone. Fewer points allowed.
Todd Wash has to blitz
But it’s not all on the secondary. The defensive line needs to pull their weight too and right now they aren’t getting to the quarterback with their base packages.
The Jaguars are blitzing on just 21.0% of defensive plays, good for 27th most in the NFL. If they’re not going to get sacks with their front four, they need to start manufacturing pressures and blitzes. And that starts with defensive coordinator Todd Wash being more aggressive on passing downs.
Lean on the run on early downs
I know, I know... this seems counterproductive to developing a good offense in 2020. But James Robinson has proven he is a starting caliber running back. I can see getting away from the run in a blowout Week 3 loss when we were down 14-0 early and never really stood a chance. But why is he finishing games with 17 carries or fewer in Week 2 and Week 4 when the game was far closer and more competitive.
Back in the early days of the AFC South, Peyton Manning of old would tear us apart if we didn’t win the game of possession. The only way to beat him? Keep him on the sidelines. Unfortunately, with our secondary, just about every quarterback is going to look like Peyton Manning. And the only way to beat them will be to keep them on the sideline and throw off their rhythm.
Keep it up in the red zone, but improve accuracy
The Jaguars are scoring a touchdown on an astounding 71.4% of trips to the red zone. Compare that with 40.4% last season and on the surface it looks like there’s very little work to be done.
But Gardner Minshew is completing just 47.8% of his passes in the red zone, near the bottom of the league and just a hair better than the likes of Mitch Trubisky and Daniel Jones. Even with a high touchdown percentage there is still a lot of room for improvement.
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