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FILM ROOM Pt. 2: First glimpses of defense gives optimism

The young secondary played very well, and Joe Cullen gave insights into what this defense will be

Syndication: Florida Times-Union Bob Self/Florida Times-Union via Imagn Content Services, LLC

“Wait, a Part 2 for the Film Room?”

Darn tootin’, Vladimir Putin! We are back for another film room breaking down what I saw from the Jaguars first team defense in their first preseason action under new Defensive Coordinator Joe Cullen. Cullen mentioned in the offseason that the Jaguars defense would be “multiple and aggressive,” and I think we saw bits and pieces of what the Jaguars will be in 2021. Mind you, they are playing Cleveland’s backups, so a lot of this is against players who might not see the field. However the schematics and philosophies of the Cullen-led defense could be seen in TIAA Bank Field on Saturday, which I found rather exciting!

Let’s not waste any time, the Film Room is back open for Part 2: Electric Boogaloo!

OBSERVATION ONE: This Run Defense is going to be NASTY

When the Jaguars added Malcolm Brown, Roy Robertson-Harris, Jihad Ward and drafted Jay Tufele to go along with Doug Costin, Josh Allen and co., the expectation was that they weren’t going to be these 8-sack season guys. They’re kick butt in the run game and chew bubblegum. Against Cleveland, they were all out of bubblegum. This is the second play from scrimmage against the Browns, and it goes nowhere.

Upon first look, this looks like a traditional 3-4 front, with Davon Hamilton playing the nose, and Malcolm Brown and Roy Robertson-Harris playing as the 3 and 4 techniques along the front, respectively. What catches my eye is Malcolm Brown possibly being “tilted” before the play starts. Which means he’s turning his body towards the gap he’s attacking. This is used when you want your linemen to get into the gap and cause havoc in a hurry. The Browns run an inside zone play, but the Jaguars front resets the line of scrimmage, and Malcolm Brown destroys the play without making the tackle, causing the back to cut back across the line into Rayshawn Jenkins, who is walked up as a linebacker. This is what was missing from the Jaguars defense last year. They lacked the play strength and disposition to own the line of scrimmage against the run, and if the early returns against Cleveland say anything, it’s that this has changed drastically.

Take a look at this play by Adam Gotsis, who was on the team last year:

This is a great play against an outside zone run the Browns love to use. Gotsis is a lot like a boxer who uses his jab to create contact while dictating the rep. Twitter user @chalkbored mentions it here:

By creating this contact, Gotsis can dictate the flow of the block, while being able to defend any cutback, which he does here. This is a testament to the emphasis on the run game the Jaguars have placed going into 2021. The players have bought in and it’s paying dividends so far.

OBSERVATION TWO: Don’t Freak Out about the Pass Defense...Yet

On the surface, Case Keenum’s 12 for 17, 115 yard performance against the Jaguars starters looks...unpleasant. However, I would counter that by saying the longest pass was an 18-yard screen pass. Outside of screen passes, it was a 15 yard slant on the first play of the game. Keenum’s yards per attempt was a whopping...6.8 yards. Not exactly testing the team downfield.

This is what I assume a trade off of the Jaguars defensive scheme is under Cullen. They’re going to play aggressive, in your face defense, bringing pressure and havoc with the defense. To counter blitzing and aggressive defense, teams are going to just dump the ball off quickly-when I timed it, Keenum’s snap-to-throw time was about an average of 2.3 seconds, which would’ve been tied for the quickest in the NFL last year. If teams want to throw the ball quickly for three yards a pass, then I’ll take that as long as the Jaguars make tackles. The Jaguars haven’t been able to defend screen passes since the H.W. Bush administration, but that’s going to be a counter to a team who blitzes and plays so aggressively. They have to rally to the ball on these screens, especially at the second level.

OBSERVATION THREE: Third Down is when Cullen will get creative, but the Jaguars have to get off the field

If the Jaguars are going to play so well against the run and allow the quick passing game due to their aggression, third down has to be the money down. This was really the only true concern I had for the Jaguars defense on Saturday. For the game, the Browns were 10-17 on third down, and against the Jacksonville starters the Browns were 3-6. From what I saw, Cullen got crazy with his blitz packages on third down, taking a DT off the field(either Brown, Hamilton, or both), and would substitute them with a DB(Tyson Campbell or Sidney Jones were the first two off the sideline). It looks like Cullen learned from his time in Baltimore with Don “Wink” Martindale with the looks he showed in the first preseason game. This is from the first third down of the game:

Davon Hamilton comes off the field, and in comes Tre Herndon, who plays in the slot. Myles Jack is lined up in SUPER WIDE 9 technique, on the outside of the second TE. On the snap, MIKE LB Damien Wilson blitzes into the backside A gap. Jack and the DBs all play man coverage, and Jihad Ward drops into coverage. This blitz is picked up well by the Browns, but it’s just a taste of what the Jaguars are going to try and do on third down.

Another example of this is on another 3rd and 4. Although the pass is completed, it’s another example of how the Jaguars will turn up the heat on obvious passing downs.

Both linebackers are “mugging up” the line of scrimmage-meaning they’re standing in both gaps directly next to the center, and Rayshawn Jenkins starts out at the line of scrimmage. Look at how many people are at or nearby the line of scrimmage. This is meant to cause confusion and make the offense guess wrong. On the snap, LB Damien Wilson blitzes, as does DB Tre Herndon. Jenkins goes from being near the LOS to being the free safety as the back end rotates towards the blitz. Josh Allen drops into coverage, picking up the running back in the flat. This blitz almost works, but WR Donovan Peoples-Jones makes a great catch(and possibly gets away with a push off but that’s neither here nor there).

Cullen is going to try and create mismatches on third down, but it’s pivotal for the Jaguars to get off the field on this critical down.

Overall, I’m rather pleased with the performance of the defense. The run defense was outstanding, and the young DBs flashed. CJ Henderson was arguably the best player on the field, and Andre Cisco might have been right behind him. However, the Jaguars have to start getting sacks off of their pressure, especially on the critical downs, or the defensive back’s job will be a lot harder.

Next week the Jaguars travel to New Orleans, where the defense will be tested, especially the defensive line. New Orleans has one of the best offensive lines in the league, and although stars Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas may not play, the Saints will come in looking to improve on their performance from Week One where they turned the ball over six times. The Jaguars should be looking to capitalize on this, and expect them to get their hands on a few passes.