The Jacksonville Jaguars defense cannot afford to have lapses in communications this season. After years of confusion, freelancing and overall sloppy play, the team appears to turning a page, perhaps due to the new faces on defense this year.
This offseason, the Jaguars set out to find a new quarterback of the defense, signing middle linebacker Joe Schobert to a five-year, $54M contract as an unrestricted free agent. This move was the beginning to a dramatic change on the team’s defensive front seven and back five this year - simply the first domino.
According to Sharp Football Stats, the Jaguars ranked 29th in allowed explosive runs (10 yards or more) allowed percentage (14%) and 26th in explosive pass plays (15 yards or more) percentage (11%). Much of those lapses in defense were allowed simply due to the team not communicating properly, and filling their games, both areas the team has made a point of emphasis to correct this season.
“I think the back end has really [taken] it and put it on their shoulders, especially those safeties with the communication to the linebackers to know where we’re at within everything. It was a big point of emphasis. When we had breakdowns and stuff in the past, a lot of it was communication,” Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash told members of the media earlier this month.
“They know the wrath if they don’t (communicate) now, let’s just put it that way. And I think they’ve done a really nice job, Jarrod [Wilson] does a nice job. Even those younger safeties understand the importance of communicating where they’re at on the field, so everybody can adjust.”
The Jaguars will be fielding two new players within their secondary this season, rookie cornerback CJ Henderson and safety Josh Jones. Jones beat out former Jaguars third-round pick Ronnie Harrison in a competition this summer, and really impressed the Jaguars’ coaches. As a result, Harrison was traded to the Cleveland Browns for a fifth-round pick next year.
Part of why the Jaguars and Wash feel as though this season will be different is due to the communication the team has shown over the summer. Some of that has to do with the players they’ve brought in, some of that, Wash admits, has to do with better coaching.
“I think, to be honest with you, I think we’ve done a better job of coaching,” Wash told the media this week. “In the past we kind of assumed some things would get taken care of and they didn’t. And that’s all on me. But, we’re seeing them do exactly what we need them to do they understand the importance of stopping the run and earning the right to hopefully get them in third-and-medium, third-and-long situations so we can rush the passer.”
With communication and focus becoming an emphasis, Schobert has excelled with the team. In Celveland, the Jaguars’ linebacker went through three different defensive coordinators in four years. Because of that, he says, communication was a major issue, never truly able to get used to a system. In Jacksonville, the majority of the players on defense have been in the system for a while, something Schobert has seen help in their communication.
“Myles [Jack] before every play is talking, just our little checks that we have as a back or as a safety. Communication’s been great and it’s just nice to be able to hear it loud and clear,” Schobert said this month when asked about the team’s communication success over the summer. “That allows us to make less mistakes because we’re all on the same page. Even if we’re all wrong, even if we have the wrong call and you make it loud, you’re going to be alright because everybody’s on the same page.”
Against the Indianapolis Colts this week, the Jaguars will need to stay on their Ps and Qs as they face off against one of the most deadly passers in the league in Phillip Rivers. It all starts up front, and it all starts with the team’s communication, mental errors will need to be at a minimum.